Diabetes and Your Gut Health: How Blood Sugar Affects Your Gastrointestinal Tract

If you have diabetes, you likely know that this condition puts you at risk for various health issues like heart disease and obesity. But did you know that diabetes can also cause problems in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including your gut? High blood sugar levels can damage your nerves, including those in your stomach and intestines. Consequently, GI problems are common among individuals with diabetes.

Constipation is one of the most common symptoms of GI problems in individuals with diabetes. However, there are other symptoms to be aware of so that you can seek proper medical care. Here are some of the most common gut-related conditions for individuals with diabetes:

Gastroparesis: The vagus nerve in your GI tract signals your stomach muscles to move food from your stomach to your small intestine. However, if diabetes damages this nerve, the food slows down or stops, causing gastroparesis or delayed gastric emptying. This condition is more common in women than men and includes symptoms such as experiencing satiety after consuming only a tiny portion of food, bloating, throwing up or feeling like you might, and upper stomach pain. Gastroparesis can also make it difficult to control blood sugar levels.

Fortunately, there are several treatments for gastroparesis. Mild cases can often be managed by changing one’s diet, while medicines may help more severe cases. In extreme cases, a doctor may place a stimulator inside your stomach to improve muscle function.

Diabetic Enteropathy: Enteropathy refers to a disease of the intestine. Individuals with gastroparesis are more likely to develop enteropathy. Moreover, if you have had diabetes for a long time, you may also experience problems with your small intestine, colon, or rectum.

Diabetes-related damage to nerves in the intestines can cause food to slow down or stop, leading to constipation and creating an environment conducive to unhealthy bacteria growth. The most common symptom of enteropathy is a combination of constipation and diarrhea. You may also experience stool leakage from your rectum and difficulty controlling bowel movements, which may worsen after eating.

If you have diabetic enteropathy, your doctor will help you manage your symptoms and stabilise your blood sugar.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when fat cells build up in the liver of a person who drinks little or no alcohol. This condition resembles liver damage typically seen in individuals with alcoholism and is more common in individuals with diabetes or obesity.

If you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, it can be challenging to control your diabetes since the more liver fat, the harder it is for your body to use and respond to insulin. Symptoms of this condition are usually absent, although some individuals may experience fatigue or tenderness on the right side of their stomach.

There is no specific treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. However, your doctor may recommend controlling your blood sugar and losing weight. They may also prescribe medication to help your body better use insulin.

Other Ways Diabetes Affects the GI Tract: Diabetes can cause upper GI problems, including heartburn and difficulty swallowing, due to nerve issues in the esophagus. Your doctor will advise you on the appropriate blood sugar levels to control these symptoms and may recommend antacids or other medications.

Additionally, diabetes increases the likelihood of developing other GI diseases, including hepatitis C, cirrhosis, and hemochromatosis. You must see your doctor promptly if you experience new or persistent gut problems.

In summary, diabetes can lead to various gut-related conditions, including gastroparesis, diabetic enteropathy, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. By keeping your blood sugar levels under control.

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