The stomach is optional.
The human body is incredibly resilient. When you donate a pint of blood, you lose about 3.5 trillion red blood cells, but your body quickly replaces them. You can even lose large chunks of vital organs and live.
For example, people can live relatively normal lives with just half a brain. Other organs can be removed in their entirety without having too much impact on your life. Here are some of the “non-vital organs”.
This organ sits on the left side of the abdomen, towards the back under the ribs. It is most commonly removed as a result of injury. Because it sits close the ribs, it is vulnerable to abdominal trauma.
You can comfortably live without a spleen. This is because the liver plays a role in recycling red blood cells and their components. Similarly, other lymphoid tissues in the body help with the immune function of the spleen.
The stomach performs four main functions: mechanical digestion by contracting to smash up food, chemical digestion by releasing acid to help chemically break up food, and then absorption and secretion.
The primary reproductive organs in the male and female are the testes and ovaries, respectively. These structures are paired and people can still have children with only one functioning.
In females, the uterus (womb) may also be removed. This procedure (hysterectomy) stops women from having children and also halts the menstrual cycle in pre-menopausal women.
Research suggests that women who have their ovaries removed do not have a reduced life expectancy. Interestingly, in some male populations, removal of both testicles may lead to an increase in life expectancy.
The colon (or large intestine) is a tube that is about six-feet in length and has four named parts: ascending, transverse, descending and sigmoid. The primary functions are to resorb water and prepare faeces by compacting it together.
The presence of cancer or other diseases can result in the need to remove some or all of the colon.
The gallbladder sits under the liver on the upper-right side of the abdomen, just under the ribs. It stores something called bile.
Bile is constantly produced by the liver to help break down fats, but when not needed in digestion, it is stored in the gallbladder.
When the intestines detect fats, a hormone is released causing the gallbladder to contract, forcing bile into the intestines to help digest fat. However, excess cholesterol in bile can form gallstones, which can block the tiny pipes that move bile around.
The appendix is a small blind-ended worm-like structure at the junction of the large and the small bowel.
Initially thought to be vestigial, it is now believed to be involved in being a “safe-house” for the good bacteria of the bowel, enabling them to repopulate when needed.
Due to the blind-ended nature of the appendix, when intestinal contents enter it, it can be difficult for them to escape and so it becomes inflamed.
A word of warning though: just because you’ve had your appendix out, doesn’t mean it can’t come back and cause you pain again.
There are some cases where the stump of the appendix might not be fully removed, and this can become inflamed again, causing “stumpitis“. People who have had their appendix removed notice no difference to their life.
It does this by acting like a sieve, using a variety of processes to hold onto the useful things, such as proteins, cells and nutrients that the body needs. More importantly, it gets rid of many things we don’t need, letting them pass through the sieve to leave the kidneys as urine.
The first uses a machine containing dextrose solution to clean the blood, the other uses a special catheter inserted into the abdomen to allow dextrose solution to be passed in and out manually. Both methods draw waste out of the body.