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Gastroparesis Is A Serious Complication Of Diabetes

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It is really not fully understood why nerves are affected by diabetes. Where the peripheral nervous system is concerned, one theory is excess sugar in the blood may cause the outer Schwann cells surrounding the nerve bundles to swell, irritate and eventually choke off the inner nerve cells. Whilst sensory neuropathy, (of which peripheral neuropathy is one aspect), can manifest itself in many ways and is the type of neuropathy closely associated with Type 2 diabetes, autonomic neuropathy is another condition for diabetics to be aware of.

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Autonomic neuropathy relates to nerves whose functions are more or less automatic, they control:

  • the stomach,
  • sweat glands,
  • digestive tract,
  • intestines,
  • bladder,
  • penis, and
  • circulatory system.

Gastroparesis is a neuropathy-related digestive issue... it is a serious complication of diabetes caused by damage to the nerves that control the automatic muscular activity of the stomach. This disrupts the normal emptying process.

Gastroparesis is a condition many people suffer from where the stomach does not empty out food as quickly as it is designed to. While millions of Americans have the condition, they might not realize it is a common occurrence in people with Type 2 diabetes. For those who have been diagnosed with diabetes, this is nothing new. But for those who regularly suffer from gastroparesis and have not been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, they should be aware the number one cause of this disorder is diabetes.

Why is there such a deep connection between Type 2 diabetes and gastroparesis? Simply this... because diabetes causes a dramatic change in blood sugar levels. This has its own effect on chemical changes throughout the whole body, one of which is in the stomach. This particular type of chemical change actually damages the blood vessels within the stomach that are primarily used to transport oxygen, as well as other nutrients, to the nerves.

The most important nerve, which also happens to be the primary nerve in the stomach area, is called the vagus nerve. As time progresses, the effects of diabetes starts to damage the vagus nerve, causing gastroparesis.

This condition has some specific symptoms attached to it: They can include:

  • heartburn,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • gastroesophageal reflux,
  • abdominal bloating, and even
  • diarrhea or constipation.

The individual will likely experience upper abdominal pain and/or spasms in the stomach area. There could also be vomiting of partially digested food which could even take place hours after the completion of the meal.

It is also quite common for gastroparesis sufferers to feel full even after only a few bites of food. Whether or not the person's appetite is affected, they can still experience weight loss, either due to a decrease in appetite or simply because their food isn't being readily absorbed.

Eating certain foods will cause the symptoms to increase in severity: Foods that are:

  • high in fiber such as raw fruits and vegetables, and
  • foods that are solid or contain high levels of fat or carbonation

should be either eliminated or greatly reduced to prevent flare-ups.

Treatment options for this condition are much the same for diabetics as non-diabetics. Simple changes in your eating habits such as:

  • eating smaller meals more frequently, and
  • adjusting the amount of fiber in your diet,

will go a long way towards recovery. This is the easiest remedy and the one most are told to follow at first. Oral medications are often prescribed to give relief as well, depending on how severe the symptoms are. In some extreme cases, it may even become necessary to install a feeding tube.

This really goes without saying... good blood sugar control is the most effective single way to improve the symptoms of neuropathy.

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