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Why Do Some People Say "Death Begins in the Colon"?

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Dec 30, 2022

    Why Do Some People Say "Death Begins in the Colon"?

    Death begins in the colon. If you’ve heard of this quote before, you probably also wondered: “What’s unique about the colon or large intestine?” Interestingly, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once said that all diseases start in the gut. In this article, we’ll cover some reasons why people believe death begins in the colon.

    1. The Colon is a Huge Part of Our Immune System

    Did you know that the colon doesn’t just play a role in digestion? It also holds a significant part of the immune system.

    Reports say the colon is home to many bacteria that potentially contribute to health promotion and disease prevention. The gut microbiome provides essential nutrients, aids in digestion, and even promotes angiogenesis or the formation of blood vessels. 

    Generally, the microbes protect the intestine from unwanted colonization of pathogens or harmful microorganisms. However, the microbiota in the colon can also be dangerous if they experience changes that trigger an imbalance.

    2. Toxins Can Enter the Bloodstream via the Lining of the Colon

    One of the potential reasons some people say death begins in the colon is increased gut permeability, which may result in endotoxemia.  

    Increased gut permeability occurs when bacteria and other toxins “leak” through the intestinal walls into the bloodstream (endotoxemia). People also call this condition “leaky gut syndrome,” but many healthcare professionals do not consider this an actual medical diagnosis.

    Still, one report said endotoxemia contributes to insulin resistance and chronic low-grade inflammatory status in metabolic syndrome, a collection of conditions that increase a person’s risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart diseases.

    Finally, according to reports, when toxins leak into the blood, it may trigger chronic inflammation.

    3. The Colon is Associated with a Multitude of Diseases

    Finally, many researchers have identified connections between the large intestine and some diseases, including

    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Obesity
    • Diabetes
    • Liver diseases
    • Chronic heart disease
    • HIV

    How to Keep the Colon Healthy

    It may not be possible to identify the exact reasons why some people believe that death begins in the colon; however, experts have provided us with some steps to ensure our large intestine’s health.

    If you’re looking for ways to improve and maintain your colon’s health, the following might help:

    More on Fruits and Veggies, Less on Meat

    Experts say people who eat a high fiber diet are less likely to develop colon cancer. They also recommend cutting back on fried foods and meat, mainly processed meat. Also, don’t forget about healthy fats found in salmon, olive oil, nuts, and avocados.

    Get Moving and Maintaining a Healthy Weight

    Did you know that excess weight can contribute to the development of colon cancer? Overweight and obesity may also increase the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women and cancers of the esophagus, kidney, pancreas, and rectum.

    In most cases, having a balanced diet and regular exercise help maintain a healthy weight, but if you need help shedding some pounds, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.

    Don’t Smoke and Limit Alcohol Intake

    Smoking is associated with many forms of cancer, including colon cancer, so it’s best to quit the habit. Likewise, if you want to drink alcohol, don’t forget to do so in moderation because alcohol intake is also associated with rectal cancer.

    If you need help in stopping smoking or excessive alcohol intake, get in touch with your doctor.

    Don’t Miss Out on Screening Procedures

    Depending on your age, physical condition, and overall colon risk, the doctor may advise you to undergo some screening procedures, such as colonoscopy, to see if you’re at risk of colon cancer.

    Don’t skip on the recommended colonoscopy procedure. It can detect precancerous changes (polyps), thereby preventing cancer development.

    Learn more about Digestive Health here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Dec 30, 2022

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