Immune System Compromised after Colon Removal?

Sep 21, 2020 9:36 pm

Hi, all!

I've seen a thread here re: lifespan changes for ostomates (None? YAY!!!) But, here's something I'm wondering about lately:

Science shows a direct link between the large intestine and the immune system. For those of us who needed to have our colon removed, is our immune system compromised? If so, in what way(s), how much? Do we need to support our immune system any differently than someone who still has their colon? Or... are these questions better suited to an immunologist or other healthcare professional?

Anyone care to weigh in?


Sep 21, 2020 9:52 pm

Hi Lily - Great question, and I will say upfront I'm not a medical professional but can simply speak to over 20+ years with an ileostomy as a result of Ulcerative Colitis. My doctor regularly does a blood test on me to check all the key points - liver, kidney function, all the things you need to get checked. I've never needed incremental vitamins or medications to help overcome loss of the colon EXCEPT for needing to drink water regularly and much more than you did before your surgery. That has been my biggest post-operation challenge that seems so darn easy to do. LOL. Without the colon, you'll run into issues by not keeping hydrated - like kidney stones. So eating healthy, watching out for foods that cause your gut problems is key and doing so will help reduce your risk of needing supportive meds or vitamins. I'd love to see if others have feedback about immune system issues caused by not having a colon. Good luck to you!

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Sep 21, 2020 9:56 pm

Well, I'm no professional, but.... I do know we have members on here that are in their 70s that have had an ileo for over 50 years. While I'm sure it doesn't help your overall health, I'm not too sure it hinders much either. In my experience, a long, healthy life is either in your genetic makeup or not..... Again, just my opinion based on pure experience, not science. Regards, mmsh

Sep 21, 2020 10:57 pm

In my 20s, the autoimmune disorders eczema (fingers/hands) and psoriasis (scalp/eyebrows) were triggered about 20 years prior to my ulcerative colitis symptoms & diagnosis in 2008, and I only developed my first allergy reaction in 2007 or 2008. (And I've wondered if THAT reaction triggered my UC. The world may never know...)

Yes, my surgeon gave me a no-nonsense but gentle heads-up on sip-sip-sip (hydration, prevent kidney-issue hospitalizations) and chew-chew-chew (prevent GI blockages) right after my ileostomy surgery. When it came to drinking water, a dietician addressed our ostomy support group and said that ileostomates need to consume "more" salt than someone who still has their colon, as it helps the body's cells hold onto water, and increases thirst. I imagine that this advice may not suit everyone, especially individuals with high(er) blood pressure?

I'm also looking forward to others' take on this subject. Thanks for the reply, LGG!

Sep 21, 2020 11:18 pm

The last I knew, GI specialists & other scientists still aren't sure if ulcerative colitis and other autoimmune disorders are genetic or not. I didn't think so, as no other known family members had it. Move forward about 4 years after my diagnosis: one of my paternal aunts (in her late 70s, early 80s?) was diagnosed! Like you wrote, MMSH, certainly anecdotal vs. evidentiary, but it makes me wonder.

All base aspects of our physical bodies and health are coded on our DNA, including our constitution. Since our bodies are complicated bio-electro-chemical systems, just had to ask if anyone had given thought to what would/could happen with a significant part of our immune system removed? If anything?

Thanks for your insights, MMSH!


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Sep 22, 2020 12:29 am


I've read in several sources that 70% of the immune function may reside in the colon. Therefore, I've also wondered about your question but have not found studies. I'm not a medical professional either but also lean toward thinking loss of some immune function is inevitable without a colon. Then again, UC and Crohn's make us so ill, how would we measure this pre and post surgery? I.e. - We all feel better after surgery.

Regarding salt - I've been taught the need for additional sodium stems from sodium mostly being absorbed by the healthy colon. I typically refer to the following absorption chart that clearly shows what vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes are absorbed by each section of the GI tract. Using this, I've been able to determine additional supplements I might need.

Re the cause of IBS and perhaps UC - My wife's GI doc just told her it might be the food we eat. With all the processing, pasteurization, chemicals, and GMO, this would not surprise me a bit.

Hope this helps.

Sep 22, 2020 6:02 am

Let me preface by saying that I am not an immunologist. My understanding of the GI immune system of the colon is that it is meant to manage pathogens/threats not destroyed by the stomach or small intestine. We are not left defenseless without the colon. As caustic as our GI contents are and as quickly as they move through, threats are generally destroyed or washed out. We have immune system networks behind the upper GI system, too. The colon needs the more complex immune system because of its size, long transit time, and low acidity.

ron in mich
Sep 22, 2020 1:44 pm

Hi all, I've had my ileo for 35 years now and was originally diagnosed as UC, but I had revision surgery 2 years ago and pathology came back as Crohn's. My father had bowel issues, so I'm inclined to think maybe it's inherited. When I had my first surgery, the surgeon said to take a multivitamin - it can't hurt - and also to put a little salt on my food, plus the usual drink water. Now it's funny, my new surgeon said pretty much the same thing, except he said to add lemon to my water for kidney stones. As for compromised immune system, I think I'm healthier now than I've ever been, but that old bugaboo of age is slowing me down.

Sep 28, 2020 2:15 am

Yeah.........what she said!!

Ok, seriously.......NWO makes a great point. The colon is part of our immune system, but it's really a separate immune system for the gastrointestinal tract, not really a contributor to the rest of our immune system that's responsible for the rest of our body, minus the GI tract. Our complete gastrointestinal tract, from our mouth to our ass, is really not that well understood, despite what you read. It's almost a separate entity that lives in our body, as it has its own nervous system, its own control center in the brain and its own immune system. So like NWO says, without a colon you don't need the immune system it provides for itself. What would be much worse would be to have a colon and not have its immune system active. That would be trouble.

The simple way to check your immune system is to have the lab do a CBC and look at your white count. Your white blood cells will tell you if things are amiss or not. Drilling down a little further have them check your immunoglobulins (igG, igM, and IgA). If you're concerned about inflammation have them check your C-Reactive Protein (CRP). You can learn a lot about your immune system with some simple blood tests.



Sep 28, 2020 2:30 am

These posts confirm why I joined this website:   no one person knows everything, and we all have something to teach, to learn.

I appreciate all the information, perspectives, and data in these replies, O'mates - and look forward to many more.   Thank you for broadening my mind!   : )


Sep 28, 2020 2:31 am


There is no doubt that the GI tract, including the colon, contributes to our immune responses. The bacterial flora in our gut makes up what is known as the microbiome. This invaluable component includes many non-pathogenic bacteria (that do not cause disease) that do many things for us, including the synthesis of vitamins, adding to immunity, etc.