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Diabetes and Gut Health – Why People with Diabetes Need to See a Gastroenterologist

Diabetes and Gut Health – Why People with Diabetes Need to See a Gastroenterologist

  By: Editors at DiabetesIQ  |  Published: May 26, 2021   
Published: May 26, 2021   

© Iakov Filimonov | Dreamstime.com


If you have been recently diagnosed with diabetes or have been managing the disease for a while, you're likely familiar with the wide range of possible complications, such as vision loss, kidney disease, and even amputations. However, it is essential to be aware that poorly controlled type 2 diabetes can affect different parts of your body, including your digestive system.

The longer you live with diabetes, the more likely it may be to experience gut health issues. Research has shown that approximately 75% of people who live with diabetes experience significant gastrointestinal symptoms. That is why it's important to see a gastroenterologist on a regular basis, not just when you experience issues with your gut, but also as a precautionary measure.

Here are some of the most important reasons to see a gastroenterologist if you are managing diabetes.


To avoid the development of gastroparesis 

Diabetes is the leading cause of gastroparesis, which is a condition in which the food you consume remains in the stomach for too long instead of passing into the small intestine as it should.

When you have diabetes, the high blood sugar levels may cause chemical changes in the nerves that connect the brain to the gastrointestinal tract. This typically results in impeding the vagus nerve's ability to send messages to the stomach muscles to empty it. By visiting a gastroenterologist regularly, you can make sure that you are not at risk of gastroparesis, or you can alleviate the symptoms, so the condition doesn't get worse if you already have it.

The symptoms of gastroparesis can be debilitating and may also cause a whole lot of other complications, including nutrient deficiencies that can lead to weight loss, fatigue, and anemia. Your gastroenterologist will work with you to prescribe medication and advise you on the steps you should take to keep symptoms at bay.


To get checked for acid reflux 

Acid reflux is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and it may cause chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and even esophagus cancer. Because the stomach contains a highly concentrated amount of hydrochloric acid, it needs to be routinely emptied from it. If that doesn't happen, the gastric juices back up and cause damage to the esophagus, which results in acid reflux.

Hypoglycemia caused by diabetes can damage the nerves along the digestive tract, which results in the stomach not being able to empty the acid in time. By seeing a gastroenterologist regularly, you can keep your acid reflux in check. The good news is that there are various treatment methods available, including lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and even surgery as a last resort.

 

To prevent diabetes enteroneuropathy

This is a condition when diabetes causes damage to the nerves in your stomach. It sometimes has the same symptoms as the more common irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including diarrhea and constipation. Poorly controlled diabetes may lead to damage to the nerves in your gut, that eventually may lead to diabetes enteroneuropathy. Besides causing multiple unpleasant symptoms, diabetes enteroneuropathy may also lead to other serious complications such as kidney dysfunction or damage to the eyes.

By seeing a gastroenterologist regularly, you can check for the early symptoms of diabetes enteroneuropathy and get advice on how to prevent any symptoms you may have from getting worse. Some of the treatment options for diabetes enteroneuropathy include decreasing fat consumption, taking medication to regulate the rhythm of the stomach emptying and use electrical stimulation via a surgically implanted device if needed.


To get advice regarding keeping your digestive system in working order 

Regular visits to a gastroenterologist are essential if you have diabetes because this is the best way to get personalized advice on keeping your digestive system in working order and preventing gut related issues. Your gastroenterologist can also offer you advice on choosing a healthy diet because diets that are high in sugar are not only bad for your blood glucose levels, but can also mess up your gut bacteria.


Keeping your blood sugar levels under control is essential to preventing gastrointestinal issues. The best way to make sure you are doing right is to schedule regular appointments with your gastroenterologist, who can prescribe the right treatment and advise you on making healthier lifestyle choices.


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