Joyce Comments: This post is not to embarrass Elvis Presley or his family, it is only intended to help those in a similar situation.
Elvis Presley: Killed by Inflammation
Elvis Presley sold more records than anyone else in the history of recorded music. He was nominated for 14 Grammys and won three, and has been inducted into virtually every music hall of fame. He died at the tragically young age of 42. In the last years of his life, he suffered from obesity, drug addiction, depression, chronic insomnia, glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic constipation and an enlarged colon. Every one of these conditions causes inflammation. He died in 1977, more than two decades before researchers recognized that inflammation is the primary risk factor for heart attacks.
Elvis Died from a Heart Attack, Not Constipation
His final concert was held in Indianapolis at Market Square Arena, on June 26, 1977. On August 16, 1977 he fell off the toilet and lay in a pool of vomit. He was rushed by ambulance to Baptist Memorial Hospital, where he died at 3:30 pm CST. His autopsy was performed at 7:00 pm. Approximately 80,000 people lined the processional route for his funeral.
His personal physician, Dr. “Nick” Nichopoulos, claimed that chronic constipation killed Elvis. The autopsy showed that his colon was full of more than 30 pounds of feces. Chronic constipation enlarges your colon, and Elvis’ colon was twice as long and twice as wide as a normal colon. However, you don’t die of constipation without a dramatic amount of warning beforehand. For constipation to kill a person, the colon dies first. Elvis’ autopsy did not show that his colon died because the pathologist did not notice tissue necrosis, a marker of cell death. Also the autopsy did not show a rupture of the colon itself.
I did find several reports of people who died from drug-induced constipation (BMC Psychiatry, October 19, 2006;6:43). However, all of these people had severe cramping with progressively-worsening belly pain. Virtually all people who die of constipation are in such horrible pain for weeks prior to death that they can do nothing but cry and moan. Elvis played racquetball on the day he died. He did not die of constipation; he died after suffering a heart attack.
Inflammation Led to His Heart Attack
The leading cause of heart attacks is inflammation, an overactive immunity. Your immunity is supposed to protect you from invading germs. However, if your immunity stays active all the time, it attacks you with the same chemicals that it uses to kill germs. The chemicals that your immunity uses to dissolve the outer coats of bacteria, punch holes in your arteries. Then these holes start to heal and plaques form in these areas. Many years after the first plaques form in your arteries, your immunity then knocks off a piece of the plaque from an artery. The broken piece then travels down the ever-narrowing artery to completely obstruct the artery. Also, a clot forms where the plaque has broken off to block blood flow. Then the part of the heart muscle that is deprived of a blood supply dies, causing a heart attack.
Evidence That Elvis Had Extensive Inflammation
The autopsy showed that Elvis was massively obese, had extensive plaques in his arteries and had a very enlarged heart. In the last years of his life, he suffered from many heart-attack provoking factors:
• a high-sugar, high-fat diet,
• high blood pressure,
• chronic insomnia,
• liver damage,
• rheumatoid arthritis, and
• chronic drug addiction. The pathologists found 14 drugs in his body.
Obesity: As a young man he was a sex symbol who wiggled his attractive body to make the women in the audience shriek and howl. In later life, he became obese with a mind dulled by pain-killing and anti-depressant drugs, and was barely able to get through his last few concerts. Full fat cells block insulin receptors to prevent a person’s cells from responding to insulin. Blood sugar levels rise and a high rise in blood sugar causes inflammation that punches holes that start plaques forming in arteries.
Heart-attack diet: All his life he ate lots of high-sugar, low-fiber and high-fat foods: pork chops with mashed potatoes, meat loaf, cheeseburgers, sodas and his favorite, peanut-butter and banana sandwiches fried in lard or butter. He loved Eskimo Pies.
High blood pressure: He had significantly high blood pressure, but nowhere in my reading was I able to find evidence that he took medication to help lower it.
Rheumatoid arthritis: He suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that is characterized by inflammation and is associated with a markedly increased risk for heart attacks.
Chronic insomnia: Chronic insomnia is a major risk factor for heart attacks. It is often associated with obesity.
Liver damage: People who have liver damage are at markedly increased risk for heart attacks. His damaged liver turned on his immunity to cause inflammation. His liver damage was most likely associated with his addiction to drugs.
Chronic drug addiction: The fourteen drugs found in his body included painkillers, morphine, Demerol, and codeine; an antihistamine, chloropheniramine; tranquilizers, Placidyl and Valium; sleeping pills, ethinamate and Quaalude; a barbiturate and an antidepressant. Apparently he also took Amytal, Nembutal, Carbrital, Sinutab, Elavil, Avental, and Valmid. In the first eight months of 1977 his physician prescribed up to 10,000 doses of sedatives, amphetamines and narcotics in Elvis' name.
What You Should Learn from the Death of Elvis Presley
• Don’t be overweight.
• Eat a diet that restricts red meat, sugared drinks, sugar-added foods, and fried foods. Eat huge amounts of fruits and vegetables. * Exercise. * Try to avoid all drugs, particularly those that can damage your liver.
• Don’t take any pills unless your doctor prescribes them for a specific reason.
• If you have high blood pressure: lose weight, exercise, eat a healthful diet and take medication to lower high blood pressure.
• If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you need to help prevent inflammation by exercising, trying to avoid infections, avoiding overweight and eating a healthful diet.
Here are my reports from 2001 and 2002 on the first major articles linking inflammation and heart attacks:
Journal of the American Medical Association, November 2001
New England Journal of Medicine, November 2002
EXCLUSIVE: Elvis Presley's Doctor Claims He Died of an 'Embarrassing' Case of Chronic ConstipationSource: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2010/05/05/exclusive-elvis-presleys-doctor-claims-died-embarrassing-case-chronic/
May 5, 2010
LOS ANGELES – It has been widely reported that Elvis Presley died in 1977 from cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat, possibly brought on by drug dependency, obesity and a weak heart. But the music legend's longtime friend and physician, Dr. George “Nick” Nichopoulos, has put pen to paper for the first time and revealed his belief that it was chronic constipation that actually killed the King of Rock and Roll.
“After he died we weren’t sure (of the exact cause of death) so I continued to do some research and I had some doctors call me from different places and different med schools that were doing research on constipation and different problems you can get into with it. I just want to get the story straight – it all made sense with the new research that was done,” the now retired Memphis M.D told Pop Tarts. "Dr. Nick" was by Presley's side for the last twelve years of his life and tried to resuscitate him the day he died. He recently released the book “The King and Dr. Nick” about his time with The King, and his theory on the death that shocked America.
“We didn’t realize until the autopsy that his constipation was as bad – we knew it was bad because it was hard for us to treat, but we didn’t realize what it had done," the doctor explains of Elvis' condition. "We just assumed that the constipation was secondary to the meds that he was taking for his arthritic pain and for his insomnia.”
According to Dr. Nick, the autopsy revealed that Presley’s colon was 5 to 6 inches in diameter (whereas the normal width is 2 to 3 inches) and instead of being the standard 4 to 5 feet long, his colon was 8 to 9 feet in length.
“The constipation upset him quite a bit because Elvis thought that he could handle almost anything, he thought he was really a man’s man and he wasn’t going to let something like this … he thought that this was a sign of weakness and he wasn’t going to be weak,” Nichopoulos said. “And it’s not the kind of thing you table talk. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s you didn’t’ talk about constipation much, you didn’t’ hear people complaining about it, or saying what they did or how much trouble they had with it.”
In 1975, the primary treatment for this kind of problem involved removing part of the colon, known as a colostomy, and at the time Dr. Nick was in talks with a surgeon at the University of Memphis to perform the procedure. However Presley’s “ego” got in the way.
“He would get embarrassed, he’d have accidents onstage. He’d have to change clothes and come back because of the way we were trying to treat his constipation,” Nichopoulos said. “So if they had done the colostomy then, he’d probably still be here. But it wasn’t acceptable treatment at that time. Now the treatment is short.”
Nichopoulos also believes that Presley’s prominent weight gain in the years prior to his death, was not a result of overeating or eating the wrong foods, as they initially assumed. The doctor reveals that Elvis' bloated appearance was due to his severe constipation.
“It was really a physiological problem. During the last few years we were going back and comparing pictures, some of them were taken just two weeks a part but he looked like he’d gained 20 pounds when the only difference was that he had a good healthy bowel movement and then lost a lot of weight from that,” Dr. Nick explained. “Usually you pass it all in two or three days, but at the autopsy we found stool in his colon which had been there for four or five months because of the poor motility of the bowel.”
So how would Presley feel about all the details of this “debilitating” disease being made public?
“I still think it’d be embarrassing for him, but that may be because we couldn’t explain it at that time the way we can now. But bowel paralysis is hereditary and you can in fact pass it down to your children,” he continued. “His condition was either something he was born with like Hershberger’s disease, or some viruses cause the paralysis of the nerves in the colon. The nerves weren’t functioning enough in places, or weren’t functioning at all because his colon would not push food out, it would just accumulate.”
And even through all the trials and tribulations of their personal and professional relationship, Nichopoulos will first and foremost remember the captivating yet compassionate person that was our beloved American icon, Elvis Presley.
“He was well-written, a very kind person, a very giving person. He was just one of a kind. You couldn’t ask for a better friend,” Dr. Nick added. “The main thing that he enjoyed in life was doing his shows. He would change from one person to another as soon as he walked on the stage. He would just go through a metamorphosis – all of a sudden he flipped a switch and looked like a toy soldier dancing up there.”
Severe Constipation and a Slow-Transit Colon: In Plain EnglishImage Source
August 27, 2012
[Editor’s note: This article was originally hosted on MyFamilyDoctorMag.com, our sister site.
It’s now featured here as part of our new general-health section.]
by Patricia Raymond, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.G.
Q. Do you have a solution for a slow, lazy colon? Can your colon actually quit? A doctor told me it could and they would take it out and replace it with a bag! How scary. I’d never heard that and wondered if it is true.
— Sharon, Missouri
A. Some folks just have a sluggish colon. (We call it prolonged colon-transit time.) And the longer the stool remains in the colon, the more the colon does its job and sucks out fluid from the stool—ergo, the dryer and slower the bowel movements are.
Causes of a Slow Colon
If your bowel movements have been few and far between all your life, that may be just how you were wired. People like this generally don’t need treatment unless the fullness is uncomfortable or the straining makes veins pop out all over your head. Ditto for occasional constipation.
But it sounds like you may be having severe constipation, which can be a neverending feedback loop. The problem is, as more and more poo presses against your colon, its wall gets stretched thinner and thinner, and the squeeze force you can generate becomes weaker. Thus, your colon keeps getting fuller—and quite packed.
Consider my pantyhose stripped off after a long, hot day—all stretched out with little elasticity or shape. The dilated, floppy look mimics your colon after prolonged constipation.
Treatment for a Slow Colon
The ultimate solution for this—done rarely—is removal of a portion of the colon, called a subtotal colectomy. This gives the stool less of a length to travel and thus less time to get all dried out and packed in. Although some people have to wear a temporary or permanent colostomy (a bag attached to the intestines through a hole in the abdomen) after the procedure, this is unlikely for someone with your condition.
Before they even consider a colectomy, most people with severe constipation respond to the simultaneous use of several prescription laxatives that work by different mechanisms, such as making the colon squeeze or pulling extra fluid into the bowels. But except for bulk-forming versions like Metamucil, don’t use laxatives (even over-the-counter ones) long-term without a health-care provider’s OK. Certain ones can cause dependency and other side effects.
I also avoid giving fiber until the bowel regimen has been established; when stools aren’t moving, the addition of fiber serves only to increase the bulk of the adobe bricks that are present (straw + “mud” = adobe).
It may take a while to hit on the right combination of meds to establish that perfect bowel pattern. Just try to be patient and work with your gastroenterologist.
Board-certified gastroenterologist PATRICIA L. RAYMOND, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.G., practices at Simply Screening in Chesapeake, Va., is assistant professor of clinical internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical school and wrote Colonoscopy: It’ll Crack U Up!
Last updated and/or approved: August 2012. Original article appeared in the May 2008 issue of the former print magazine My Family Doctor. Bio current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.