There’s a lot to consider with chronic stomach pain, but please digest this—stomach aches aren’t normal.
Stomach irritation complaints are seemingly easy for healthcare providers to brush aside as insignificant. “Many patients go undiagnosed and undertreated because the gastrointestinal tract has not been traditionally associated with diabetes and its complications,” Clinical Diabetes tells us. And with 75 percent of all people visiting diabetes clinics complaining of gastrointestinal issues, there’s a common malady at hand.
Diabetes and the Gut
Diabetes is a complex condition that has the potential to wreak havoc on organs, including the bowel. The length of your diabetes diagnosis and how often your blood sugars are at a normal level impact bowel disease.
Healthcare providers are very tuned into exterior neuropathy and checking a patient’s feet because they are visible and measureable. When it comes to the bowel, it can be another story. The bowel is just as vulnerable to neuropathy, but it’s not easily seen or tested—every action in this area is invasive, meaning doctors must use instruments to look into your body. Neuropathy in the gut can slow down or speed up motility, the normal rate of contractions in the gut, resulting in gastrointestinal upset.
People with diabetes who are prone to stomach neuropathy have also been linked to a higher incidence of autoimmune gut diseases, and like it or not, autoimmune disease breeds more autoimmune disease.
When a patient mentions diabetes and gut symptoms, providers should pay attention.
Identifying the Culprit
In order to get the best treatment possible, it’s necessary to identify the culprit. In the case of celiac disease, for example, the best remedy is actually diet. Once irritating gluten is removed from the diet, the gut slowly begins its healing process. Other diagnoses may require medications, diet changes, and other procedures.
Diseases of the gut that you may be tested for are gastroparesis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, h-pylori, yeast infections of the gastrointestinal tract, and perhaps gallbladder disease, among others.
Diabetes can cause issues such as “diabetic diarrhea.” Clinical Diabetes reports a longstanding history of diabetes may be a precursor to frequent diarrhea “in up to 22 percent of patients”.
Good blood sugar management is always an important part of managing any gut disease when living with diabetes.
Seek Help With Symptoms
Don’t grin and bear it; bowel changes and other physical symptoms are important to tell your provider about. These can feel like embarrassing topics to broach with your healthcare provider, but they are vital to convey. You may receive a referral to a gastrointestinal specialist who can test, diagnose, and provide treatment to get to the bottom of your uncomfortable issues.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, be sure to communicate them to your healthcare team so they can help you move toward better health.
• Rectal bleeding
• Stomach pain
• Abnormal stools
• Appetite changes