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No Spare Parts

No Spare Parts

Guest Blogger Contribution.

For much of human's history of biological knowledge, the appendix has been considered an organ without a purpose. If you Google, "Appendix Function", the first explanation is, "The function of the appendix is unknown." It is deemed a vestigial structure. There are, however, numerous theories.

One theory, that actually fits testing, is that the appendix is an incubator for gut bacteria, or gut flora, specifically for breaking down plant based foods ("good bacteria"). Further evidence is that the only animals that possess an appendix are herbivores. The theory then assumes that early human ancestors, along with chimpanzees, gorillas, etc., were herbivores, but the human's appendix function was lost as they evolved to eat meat leaving the appendix a useless relic. From the scientific data, however along with personal experience, I have a different perspective: humans are still anatomical herbivores with a still functional appendix, but most people's appendix simply suffers a bad case of atrophy. The data does show this, however, it is traditionally interpreted through a carnism filter.

During a meal at a family gathering, it was pointed out, to me, that humans cannot digest corn. Apparently, this was in response to the large serving of whole kernel corn on my plate. It was pointed out that corn exits the body, intact, just as it was when eaten. I eat a large serving of whole kernel corn every day and I never see any evidence of those kernels again. I believe this is because my appendix is working and I have a healthy cellulose digesting gut flora. With this curiosity, I have asked other whole food plant based vegans if they ever see whole kernel corn exit, and their answer is that they do not.

This leads me to conclude that just like any other body part, the appendix is subject to atrophy if never or insufficiently used. Eating meat introduces a very different gut flora which is not compliant with the human appendix function, thus atrophy sets in, leaving the medical, and scientific community to conclude that it has no anatomical purpose.

Please understand that I am not a medical professional in any capacity. This writing is only to share my experience and what I have learned from it.

Nothing in life is more inhibiting, failing or debilitating than the belief; "I Can't."
Nothing in life is more freeing, enabling or successful than the belief; "I Can."

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I love the theory. You may be on to something here!


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I like the theory, however,as a 30 year plant-based eater, I do see undigested kernels pass. And I do possess an appendix. Either you are correct or I have a malfunctioning appendix.

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There was somebody else who commented on Facebook that she thought the other issue might be that some of us don't chew our corn enough. I have to say I am often guilty as charged. :-)

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Indeed, I do believe that the appendix is not the source provider of cellulose digesting bacteria. I believe it provides bacterial storage, but the bacteria has to be there before it can be stored or incubated. With that thought, I'm not sure how any particular type of bacteria is acquired, but I suspect it comes with the food? (I tend to eat a lot of intact cellulose foods.)
Another interesting point I found in my searching is that only herbivores have an appendix and the more cellulose the animal eats, the larger it's appendix. For example, the Koala bear, who eats eucalypt leaves (having a very dense cellulose structure), has the largest known (per body size) appendix. A horse's appendix (called a cecum) is huge - four feet long and holds 8 gallons of material! (http://hglanham.tripod.com/Horses/horses36.html)
Just a fun and interesting exercise in connecting-the-dots!

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I also suspect that a diet abundant in whole plants provides the healthy bacteria that is stored for times of illness and is the initial source.


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Thanks Chris for coming back to share some more thoughts on this. I happen to know that Ken is away on a McDougall excursion in Hawaii and is probably not going to pay attention to his email for awhile. But, he will get back here eventually...

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Yes, Sean, I'm back!! Had a great time on our McDougall Adventure!

Thanks Chris. Yes, I believe the gut flora does, indeed, originate from the food. I also believe that some of the bacteria comes from the environment that the food is grown in. For example, B12 bacteria (and I suspect many other beneficial bacteria) grows in the soil that the food is grown in. Did I mention that I'm not very good at washing my veggies?

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Welcome back Ken,

We are eager to hear how your week with the McDougalls in Hawaii went. I suspect you are really geared up to hear him again in Marshall Texas at the end of March!


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