If you have diabetes, you may be at higher risk of a stomach disorder known as gastroparesis, or delayed gastric emptying. This condition causes the stomach to take too long to empty after you eat.
People with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at higher risk of developing gastroparesis if sugar or glucose levels remain higher than normal over a long period of time. High blood glucose can damage blood vessels that carry nutrients to the nerves, leading to nerve damage.
If the vagus nerve which controls the movement of food through the digestive tract is damaged, the muscles of the stomach or intestines may not work correctly. This can cause food to move too slowly or to stall in the stomach, resulting in gastroparesis.
Gastroparesis can make it more difficult to manage diabetes, as glucose levels become harder to predict due to the varying speed at which food is digested.
Normally, sugar is released into the blood as food passes through the small intestine. When food is delayed in the stomach, sugar levels can drop, then spike unexpectedly when food finally moves out of the stomach.
Common symptoms of gastroparesis include nausea, feeling full after eating only a small amount of food, and vomiting undigested food. Other symptoms include stomach pain, acid reflux or GERD, bloating, and loss of appetite.
Gastroparesis is often difficult to diagnose as symptoms may be mild or severe, and may vary depending on what you eat at any particular meal. Eating more frequent small meals and changing the consistency of the foods you eat may help ease symptoms.
For people with diabetes, high blood sugar affects how fast the stomach empties. So controlling blood sugar is a critical element in treating gastroparesis. But gastroparesis causes the stomach to empty at an irregular rate which can make blood sugar levels erratic and hard to control.
If you have diabetes and are diagnosed with gastroparesis, your doctor will probably recommend changes to your diet and may change your insulin dose or adjust your schedule to take your insulin after eating instead of before meals. Medications are also available to help regulate stomach emptying.
Talk to your health care provider if you have digestive problems or have difficulty maintaining your blood glucose levels.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Gastroparesis. Web. February 25, 2024.
American diabetes association. Gastroparesis. Web. February 25, 2014.
Reviewed February 26, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith