Womens Racquetball

Elvis biopic sparks renewed interest in myth that constipation killed the king

Editor’s note: The new Elvis biopic, recently reviewed by Villages-News.com’s Tony Violanti, has prompted many Google searches to find out what killed the king of rock ‘n roll. Thousands of such searches over the past week have led to this 2021 column by Dr. Gabe Mirkin, published in Villages-News.com.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin

Elvis Presley has sold more records than anyone in the history of recorded music. He has been 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. During 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 a colon hypertrophy. Each of these conditions causes inflammation. He died in 1977, nearly four decades before researchers recognized that inflammation is the main risk factor for heart attacks (J Nat Sci2017 Apr;3(4):e341).

Elvis died of a heart attack, not constipation
His last gig was in Indianapolis at the Market Square Arena on June 26, 1977. On August 16, 1977, he fell out of the toilet and was lying in a pool of vomit. He was rushed by ambulance to Baptist Memorial Hospital, where he died at 3:30 p.m. CST. His autopsy was performed at 7:00 p.m. About 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 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 won’t die of constipation without a considerable amount of advance warning. For constipation to kill a person, the colon dies first. Elvis’ autopsy did not show that his colon was dead because the pathologist did not notice tissue necrosis, a marker of cell death. Moreover, the autopsy did not show any rupture of the colon itself.

I found several reports of people dying from drug-induced constipation (BMC Psychiatry, 19 Oct 2006;6:43). However, all of these people had severe cramps with progressively worsening stomach pain. Virtually everyone who dies of constipation experiences such horrible pain for weeks before death that they can’t do anything but cry and moan. Elvis played racquetball the day he died. He didn’t die of constipation; he died after suffering a heart attack.

The inflammation led to his heart attack
The main cause of heart attacks is inflammation, an overactive immune system. Your immune system is supposed to protect you from invading germs. However, if your immunity remains active all the time, it attacks you with the same chemicals it uses to kill germs. The chemicals your immunity uses to dissolve the outer layers of bacteria puncture 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 pushes a piece of plaque from an artery into your bloodstream. The broken piece then travels along the ever-narrowing artery to completely clog the artery. In addition, the inner lining of the artery wall from which the plaque broke off bleeds, then a clot forms and expands until it completely blocks the flow of blood. Then the part of the heart muscle that is deprived of blood supply dies to cause a heart attack.

Evidence that Elvis had significant inflammation
The autopsy showed that Elvis was massively obese, had extensive plaques in his arteries and had a very enlarged heart. During the last years of his life, he suffered from many factors provoking heart attacks:
• a diet high in sugar and fat
• high blood pressure
• chronic insomnia
• liver damage
• rheumatoid arthritis
• chronic drug addiction

Obesity: As a young man, he was a sex symbol who wiggled his attractive body to make women in the audience scream and scream. Later in life he became obese with a mind dulled by painkillers and antidepressants, and was barely able to hold his last concerts. Whole fat cells in the liver and muscles block insulin receptors to prevent a person’s cells from responding to insulin. Blood sugar rises, and a sharp rise in blood sugar causes inflammation that punches holes that begin to form plaques in the arteries (J Clin Invest2005 May 2;115(5):1111–1119).

Heart attack diet: All his life, he’s eaten lots of high-sugar, low-fiber, high-fat foods: pork chops with mashed potatoes, meatloaf, cheeseburgers, sodas, and his favorite peanut butter sandwiches and with bananas fried in lard or butter. He loved Eskimo Pies. A pro-inflammatory diet increases the risk of heart attack (J du Am Coll de Card, 2020;76 (19):2181).

High blood pressure: He had significantly elevated blood pressure, but nowhere in my readings could I find evidence that he took medication to help lower it (Hypertension2020 Dec 19;75:285–292).

Rheumatoid arthritis: He suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, a disease characterized by an overactive immune system (inflammation) and associated with a markedly increased risk of heart attacks (Rheum Dis Clin North America2010 May;36(2):405–426).

Chronic insomnia: Chronic insomnia is a major risk factor for heart attack (Traffic, Aug 2019;140:796–798). It is often associated with obesity.

Liver damage: People with liver damage have a significantly increased risk of heart attack (cells, 2020 Feb;9(3):567). His damaged liver activated his immune system to cause inflammation. His liver damage was most likely associated with his drug addiction.

Chronic drug addiction: Substance abuse increases the risk of heart attack (Int J Mol Sci, 2019 Feb;20(3):584). 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. During the first eight months of 1977, his doctor prescribed up to 10,000 doses of sedatives, amphetamines and narcotics on Elvis’ behalf.

What you can learn from Elvis Presley’s death
• Don’t be overweight.
• Follow a plant-rich diet that limits red meat, sugary drinks, sugary foods and fried foods. Eat large amounts of fruits and vegetables.
• Exercise.
• Try to avoid all medications, especially those that can damage your liver.
• Do not take pills unless your doctor has prescribed them for a specific reason.
• If you have high blood pressure, lose weight, exercise, eat a healthy diet and, if advised by your doctor, take medicine to lower your blood pressure.
• If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you should help prevent inflammation by exercising, trying to avoid infections, avoiding excess weight and eating a healthy diet.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a villager. Learn more about www.drmirkin.com.