- Every organ in the human body has a specific function and purpose.
- Not all organs, however, are needed for survival.
- Some people have organs removed because of diseases or injuries
- From the liver gallbladder, spleen, and ovaries, here are 12 organs you can get by without.
The human body is a marvellous machine. With more than 600 muscles, approximately 206 bones, and thousands of tendons, there are a lot of moving parts that go into keeping a person alive. Our organs are at the center of all this action. Each one is a part of a larger system and has a specific purpose that allows our bodies to perform many of life’s basic functions.
But did you know that the body is capable of carrying on without some of them?
It turns out that you don’t actually need all of your organs to live.
Due to a combination of evolution and medical advancements, countless humans have lived and are currently living without several organs that were once thought of as vital.
Here’s a list of the organs you could get by without.
The gallbladder isn’t completely necessary for digestion
The gallbladder is a small sac-shaped organ whose main gig involves storing and concentrating bile(aka the yellowish enzymes that help the body digest fatty foods like cheese sandwiches).Although the presence of a gallbladder is key for optimising digestion, you don’t actually need a one for your intestines to do their thing. And sometimes solid deposits of digestive fluid called gallstones can form in the gallbladder, which can cause people to feel a lot of discomfort. If the stones become too large and too frequent, a person may have their entire gallbladder surgically removed.The only concern a person without a gallbladder needs to be wary of is their diet and possibly avoiding those high-fat foods. It won’t hurt them, but they could experience digestive issues since the level of bile in their intestines will be far less concentrated.
The body can carry without the spleen
One of the spleen’s primary jobs is producing blood and defence cells in developing fetuses. But after a baby is born, the spleen’s function shifts to storing blood platelets, making antibodies, and destroying abnormal cells in the blood.Since there’s a lot of blood passing through the spleen at any given moment, any injuries that occur to it can be potentially fatal. Often times it is a wiser decision for a person to remove their spleen entirely before it bursts and causes internal bleeding.Although you’re more likely to develop certain infections when you don’t have a spleen, you could technically carry on without ever replacing it.
Many people don’t have an appendix and are doing just fine
According to John Hopkins Medicine, doctors still aren’t 100% certain why we need appendixes in the first place. So far they know the appendix produces immunoglobulins, which are proteins that help the immune system fight infection. However there are other organs in the body that produce lymphatic tissue for a similar reason, so the appendix isn’t completely necessary for survival.In fact, a high number of adults and children have their appendix removed due to appendicitis. This is dangerous infection that can cause someone’s appendix to burst if it isn’t removed, almost like a ticking time bomb.
Dialysis can keep you alive if you lose your kidneys
The kidneys are a pair of distinctly shaped organs in the urinary system. They play a critical role in filtering toxins out of the bloodstream and producing hormones to regulate blood pressure, which means if you lose both of them, your chance of survival is very slim.
However the same is not true if you were to lose only one. This is why it’s possible to donate a kidney while you’re still alive.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, one of the only concerns associated with only having a single kidney center around the possibility of something going wrong with it later in life, because you wouldn’t have a backup.Moreover, it is possible to live with no kidneys, but it can be challenging since it requires a person to go on dialysis. This is a form of medical treatment that substitutes the job of the kidneys by filtering out toxins and excess water from the body. A person without functional kidneys needs to remain on dialysis indefinitely, or until they can get kidney donation.
This is one reason why people who are born with certain conditions that affect the kidneys, like polycystic kidney disease, seek a kidney donation.
Currently, there are thousands of people on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
One lung is enough to keep you breathing
Our lungs deserve full credit for keeping every cell in the body alive. Essentially, their main job is to take the oxygen we inhale and transfer it to the bloodstream, as well as expel the carbon dioxide waste gas from the body. While both lungs take part in this 24/7 process, each individual lung is equipped with all the parts needed to function without the other. This is why you can survive with only one of them. Many people do.In fact, Pope Francis has lived without one lung since he was a teenager.
Reproductive organs aren’t vital for survival
Although you won’t be able to naturally conceive a child without some key reproductive organs, you can totally live just fine without them. For some people, getting rid of them might be beneficial for other health reasons.For instance, people with uteruses have hysterectomies (surgery to remove the uterus) to treat underlying conditions like endometriosis or uterine fibroids. They could also have an oophorectomy, which is the removal of one or more ovaries. Some people call this surgical menopause because a lack of ovaries means a person will no longer experience a menstrual cycle. Likewise, a person could have their testicles removed due to testicular cancer. The primary concern with the loss of either reproductive organs is a dramatic decrease in sex hormones, like estrogen and testosterone. This is because their presence influences a lot of things that happen to the body.For example, according to Mayo Clinic in people with female sex hormones, estrogen helps maintain bone density, regulate hot flashes, and reduce vaginal dryness.By the same token, in people with male sex hormones, testosterone helps maintain bone strength, muscle tone, and hair growth, among other things.However, both testosterone and estrogen replacement therapies are available for people who need them.
The colon is a piece of the digestive system that you could lose
After your food makes the journey from the mouth to the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine, it enters the large intestine (also known as the colon). By the time your food reaches this point, nearly all of the nutrients have been absorbed and all that’s left are usually salts and undigestable fibres. The colon helps to form and push along solid waste that can be passed in the form of what we will politely refer to as “number two.” In effect, this makes it a very important organ. But thanks to numerous advances in medical technology and surgery, it is possible for a person to live without part or even all of their colon. In fact, colectomies (surgery to remove part or all of the colon) are fairly common. According to Medscape, this procedure accounts for approximately 10% of all surgeries performed in the US. The UCSF Center for Colorectal Surgery says people may remove their colon to treat diverticulitis, cancer, ulcerative colitis, polyps, Crohn’s disease, as well as bowel perforations and obstructions.Generally, a surgeon will make an opening in the small intestine (called an ileostomy) and attach it to a bag outside the body, so the person can continue to remove waste without their colon.
You don’t need your bladder to get rid of waste
You might assume it’s impossible for a person to survive without a bladder, which serves as a major organ in the urinary tract. After all, everyone needs to urinate to expel waste from the body, right? It turns out, like many other organs on this list, the bladder is often (safely) removed from the body when it presents (a serious risk of) cancer or inflammatory disorders in a person.According to Mayo Clinic, when a person has their bladder removed, they may need to wear a special bag attached to the outside of their abdomen in order to remove their urine. This procedure is called a urostomy, and it works by allowing urine to drain constantly from the body.In some cases, a doctor may be able to create a pouch using tissue from the intestine that can hold urine after it passes through the kidneys. This urine can then be drained from the body via catheter without having to pass through an actual bladder.
You can still eat regular food without a stomach
You may be surprised to learn that a person can survive without a stomach, but it is very possible. Certain cancers and genetic disorders may leave a person with no choice but to remove their stomach. And some people who are predisposed to certain diseases can have their stomach removed as a preventative measure.When a patient has a full gastrectomy (removal of their stomach) they connect esophagus directly to the small intestine. Since this shortens the length of the overall digestive path, most people who undergo the procedure usually have to make changes to their diet. But in general, people without stomachs are perfectly capable of eating and digesting solid food.
You probably wouldn’t notice if your tonsils were gone
Like other organs in the lymphatic system, their main job is to support immune functions that keep you from getting sick.They work by catching germs that enter the body through the mouth and alerting the body to produce white blood cells. But since they aren’t the only defender the body has, they can easily be removed without causing a person to experience any health issues. In addition, Mayo Clinic notes that tonsils slow down performing those immune system functions in adulthood anyway, so it’s really not a big loss if you have to let them go.
You can live without a thyroid if you take certain medications
Nearly every other organ in the body depends on the thyroid (aka the butterfly-shaped neck gland) to function. The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism (or tell the cells how to use energy.) Since the thyroid plays such a key role in the body’s metabolism, one might assume there’s no way they could live without it. But thanks to modern medicine, this is not the case. According to Mayo Clinic, a person can take synthetic hormones that replicate the same ones the thyroid makes.
You don’t need eyes to survive
Many of us take our eyes for granted, thinking of them as a given. However, they are not essential for human existence.Some people may lose an eye due to an injury or have one removed because of cancer. In rare cases, a person could be born without them. While a lack of eyes can create many challenges for a person, they technically aren’t a vital organ for survival. Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
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