Fact Check: 'The Cause To Every Disease' Does NOT Originate In The Colon

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: 'The Cause To Every Disease' Does NOT Originate In The Colon Complex System

Does the "cause to every disease" originate in the colon, as a video on Instagram suggests? No, that's not true: Scientific literature shows that there is a relationship between gut health and both the management and prevention of certain diseases, but it is not accurate to say that all diseases are caused by the colon or gut, a spokesperson for the American Gastroenterological Association told Lead Stories. "Neither the colon nor the microbes cause diseases," another gastroenterologist told Lead Stories, adding that the gut microbiome -- the ecosystem of microbes that live in the intestines -- is a "facilitating factor" that may make some people more vulnerable to certain conditions. Still, disease development is complex and influenced by various genetic, physical, and environmental conditions.

The claim originated in a video shared on Instagram on February 17, 2024, (archived here) that implied the cause of every disease is rooted in the colon. A person in the video stated the following:

...He just exposed where all diseases are made in the body. It's all about the colon.

Below is how the post appeared at the time of this publication:

image (2).png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken Tues Feb 27 15:24:00 UTC 2024)

A growing body of evidence links gut health to several diseases, but it is inaccurate to state that every disease begins in the colon.

Dr. Bahar Adeli (archive) a spokesperson for the American Gastroenterological Association (archive), told Lead Stories in an email received on March 4, 2024:

While the colon and gut health are important to overall wellness and can influence disease risk, the assertion that all diseases originate in the colon is inaccurate. Diseases are the result of a myriad of factors, and effective health management requires a holistic understanding of these diverse influences.

The claim that the cause of every disease originates in the colon is an oversimplification. It is not supported by comprehensive scientific evidence.

Dr. Emeran Mayer (archive), a gastroenterologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Brain Research Institute, confirmed to Lead Stories in a phone interview on March 4, 2024, that there is no established causality that the microbiome definitively causes disease in isolation from other physical, genetic, and environmental factors.

The person who posted the video is self-described in their bio (archive) on Instagram as selling "Natural Remedies" to "Become free from BIG PHARMA!!" A link in their profile took users to an online store (archive) that sells a product called "Grade A Shilajit."

Adeli further told Lead Stories that the poster's "emphasis on colon cleansing as a necessary means of detoxification and prevention of ALL diseases... is without credible evidence and without any consideration to potential interactions or contraindications that may lead to harmful outcomes in certain individuals who may have comorbidities or take medications that can interact with [their] advertised colon cleansing agent."

The colon and gut are not interchangeable

Although the person in the video used "colon" and "gut" interchangeably, the two are not the same. The colon is the longest part of the large intestine and removes water and some nutrients and electrolytes from partially digested food. According to the National Cancer Institute (archive), solid waste stool also moves through the colon.

There are a "wide variety of diseases associated with the colon" ranging from local gastrointestinal conditions to disorders with broader systemic effects, said Adeli. The most common diseases affiliated with the colon are colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and diverticular disease.

Meanwhile, the "gut" refers to the entire gastrointestinal tract that contains major elements of the digestive system, like the stomach, intestines, and esophagus. The gut microbiome contains trillions of microorganisms that live within the digestive system, according to the Cleveland Clinic (archive).

Diseases are caused by many genetic, physical, and environmental factors - not solely by the colon.

The gut microbiome, including the colon's microbial environment, does play a crucial role in health and disease - but Adeli says it is just "one piece of the puzzle."

Studies, such as this 2009 research (archive) published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature, highlight the gut microbiome's impact on health, but "also underscore the complexity of its relationship with disease." For one, diseases often have a genetic component, as is discussed in this 2009 study published in Nature (archive), which indicates that heritability and genetic variations significantly contribute to disease susceptibility.

Environmental and lifestyle influences also play a role in a person's health (archive), such as diet, physical activity, or exposure to pollutants. These factors influence disease risk independently of the gut microbiome.

Diseases can also enter the body through other forms. For example, many infectious diseases begin when a pathogen enters the body through a cut in the skin or when eaten in food, explained Adeli, adding:

Now, that is not to say that the gut microbiome does not influence beyond the digestive system. There are studies that show that the microbiome's influence extends beyond digestive health affecting conditions like cardiovascular disease. In fact, the more we learn about the microbiome, the more we discover similar connections throughout the body. This highlights one very important fact, organs do not function in isolation. The body is a complex and intricate system. Finally, these connections do not imply that the colon is the origin of all diseases.

Mayer confirmed as much, adding that "there are so many factors in [the development of] chronic complex diseases, it's not the only cause. There's genetic vulnerability and all kinds of other influences but it's one factor that plays a role."

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Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to Health and Disease issues are here.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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