Digestion Issues and Diabetes – Could It Be Gastroparesis?

Wow – as of 2020, the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed that over 10% of the U.S. population is currently living with diabetes, making it one of the most common chronic health conditions in the nation. Though diabetes is manageable, it can lead to other serious health conditions, like diabetic gastroparesis.

What is diabetic gastroparesis?

Diabetic gastroparesis is a condition in which a person’s stomach struggles to digest food properly. Over time, diabetes begins to impact various parts of the body, including the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the human body and controls how fast your stomach empties the food you eat. When diabetes affects the vagus nerve, the digestive system slows down, causing the stomach to hold onto food longer than it should. This is called gastroparesis, also known as delayed gastric emptying.

It is often harder to control and manage diabetes when suffering from gastroparesis since the condition directly affects the way food is digested. When the body finally processes food out of the stomach, blood sugar levels rise, resulting in hyperglycemia. If you’re living with diabetic gastroparesis, your doctor may recommend altering your insulin intake schedule to ensure that your blood sugar levels are properly regulated.

Though more prevalent in those with type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes can also live with gastroparesis. Most people suffering from gastroparesis have had diabetes for at least 10 years.

What are the symptoms of diabetic gastroparesis?

Diabetic gastroparesis can present differently for everyone, but some common symptoms include:

  • High or low blood sugar levels that cannot be controlled
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite or feeling full quickly while eating
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Constipation or sudden abdominal cramps
  • Heartburn

Managing diabetic gastroparesis

Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetic gastroparesis, but there are steps you can take to help control the symptoms.

As opposed to eating the typical three meals a day, it can be helpful to have six small meals to aid in the digestive process. What you eat has a direct impact on how your body digests food as well. Fatty foods like bacon and butter, and foods high in fiber such as apples and bread should be consumed in moderation, as these are the hardest foods for our bodies to process.

It is also important to stay hydrated throughout the day with drinks containing glucose and electrolytes. Carbonated or alcoholic drinks should be avoided.

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