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Diabetes type 2: High blood sugars causes gastrointestinal symptoms such as GERD – what is

This Morning: Type 2 diabetes can be 'devastating' says expert

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High blood sugars are the epitome of type 2 diabetes with more sugar taking up space in the bloodstream resulting in less blood reaching the extremities of the body, causing nerve damage. This can affect the digestive system in a number of ways. In fact, research suggests that 75 percent of people visiting diabetes clinics are reporting serious gastrointestinal symptoms caused by the condition including GERD. What is it?

Gastrointestinal complications of diabetes include gastroparesis, intestinal enteropathy (which can cause diarrhoea, constipation, and faecal incontinence), and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Patients with gastroparesis may present with early satiety, nausea, vomiting, bloating, postprandial fullness, or upper abdominal pain.

It’s imperative for anyone suffering with these symptoms to control their blood glucose levels, increase the liquid content of their diet, eat smaller meals more often and discontinue the use of tobacco products.

Having rising blood sugar can damages the organs and tissues throughout your body, including those in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Up to 75 percent of people with diabetes have some type of GI issue. Common symptoms include:

Heartburn

Diarrhoea

Constipation.

Many of these GI issues are caused by nerve damage from high blood sugar (diabetic neuropathy).

When nerves are damaged, the oesophagus and stomach can’t contract as well as they should to push food through the GI tract.

When food is consumed it travels down the oesophagus into your stomach, where acids break it down.

A bundle of muscles at the bottom of your oesophagus keeps the acids inside the stomach.

In gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), these muscles weaken and allow acid to rise up into your oesophagus with reflux causing a burning pain in the chest known as heartburn.

People with diabetes are more likely to have GERD and heartburn.

Gastroparesis is another chronic condition caused by having high blood sugar.

The condition presents significant problems for people with diabetes because delays in digestion make controlling blood glucose difficult.

Gastroparesis makes the digestion process hard to track, so glucose readings can fluctuate.

Health experts advise if experiencing erratic glucose readings, speak with your healthcare professional along with any other symptoms you may be experiencing.

Nausea is another symptom often experienced with gastroparesis.

How to treat

Acid reflux is mostly avoidable. Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy advises you “start by looking at the underlying cause and putting things right.” 

She continued: “If an attack of acid reflux is mild and only lasts a few weeks, it’s sensible to treat this yourself with a few lifestyle tweaks.

“You must first of all improve your diet and eat smaller meals. You should also avoid eating large meals within three hours of going to bed and drinking fluids within two hours of going to bed.”
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