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Survivorship Guide for Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant
Coping with Late Effects

Gastrointestinal Tract (Gut) GVHD

Your gastrointestinal tract or gut is the system that digests and absorbs food and then expels waste matter. The gut also contains many immune system cells and serves to protect the body from infection. When the cells that line the gut are damaged by GVHD, they are less able to absorb nutrients and to protect the body from infection. The symptoms of gut GVHD vary based on where in the gut the disease occurs and on the severity of the GVHD. Symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, poor absorption of nutrients, problems with gut motility, weight loss, and diarrhea.

Gut GVHD is a totally unique feeling, unlike normal nausea or abdominal pain. It is a very sharp pain, like an animal eating my gut, with bloating, diarrhea, and indigestion. Gut GVHD is the worst part of my post-transplant life.

I have chronic diarrhea, but it has not affected my health. I usually am able to control the diarrhea with medication.

My esophagus burns from the throat down to the sternum, particularly when I consume anything spicy or processed. The pain lasts 6-24 hours, even with Prilosec.

I have noticed changes to my GI system, but nothing serious enough to go to doctors with.

Gut GVHD affects not only the absorption of foods but also absorption of medications. If you have GI symptoms, it is very important for you to consult with a knowledgeable physician and to get nutritional counseling.

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