From nausea and flatulence to diarrhea and abdominal pains, gastrointestinal issues are often under-discussed, but they can be a tell-tale sign of health for people with lupus.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is in charge of processing food to extract nutrients and dispose of waste. The digestive process works like this:
The gastrointestinal tract begins with your mouth where food is masticated (chewed). After food is swallowed, it travels down the esophagus. This is the only part of the digestive process that is directly under control. The rest of the process is involuntary.
When the esophageal sphincter relaxes, food enters the stomach. The stomach secretes digestive enzymes and gastric acid to help digest the food. From there, the partially digested food, known as chyme, passes through the pyloric sphincter into the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine. The small intestine then takes over, mixing food with digestive juices from the liver, pancreas, and intestine while also absorbing nutrients into the bloodstream.
Digestive muscles continue to work and they push waste into the large intestine. Waste can include undigested parts of food, fluids, and older cells that line the GI tract. The large intestine absorbs the remaining nutrients and water then changes the remaining material into stool. The rectum, located at the lower end of the large intestine, stores the stool until it is excreted during a bowel movement.