Diabetic Gastroparesis Makes Blood Sugar Hard to Control

Diabetic gastroparesis means food is not moving through your stomach like it is supposed to. What does that mean to a diabetic? Why does it happen to you?

Many kinds of neuropathy plague diabetics. Chronic high blood sugar, which is diabetes, damages tiny blood vessels.

Those blood vessels feed your nerves, so when blood vessels are damaged, your nerves stop working.

Peripheral neuropathy is the early nerve damage to your fingers, toes and eyes.

What Is Gastroparesis?

Diabetic gastroparesis is one of the autonomic neuropathies.

They affects things on the inside. Things like your ability to sweat and an important nerve in your stomach.

Your vagus nerve makes your stomach move when food is present.  This is supposed to happen automatically as part of your autonomic nervous system.

Know your blood sugar and prevent neuropathies like gastroparesis.

How It Affects a Diabetic

What this means to you is that your digestion may not work properly anymore.

But like everything else about diabetes, you will not be aware of diabetic gastroparesis until the symptoms begin to show.

Heartburn, burping, nausea, bloating, and feeling full too soon are the milder symptoms.

When gastroparesis is worse you may experience vomiting of undigested food, weight loss and poor blood sugar control.

Diabetic gastroparesis makes the food you eat sit in your stomach for too long. By the time it digests and moves on, the medications like insulin that you took at mealtime may be gone.

You may swing from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) even though you used to have good control.

This symptom of diabetes often shows up after at least ten years with the disease. It can be difficult to prove you have diabetic gastroparesis without special motility tests by a GI doctor.

But if you suspect you have it, there are some things you can do right away to help.

How to Treat the Symptoms

Try eating six small meals a day. If your stomach holds small meals spread out over the day it can handle them better.

Chew your food well. Then your stomach will not have to work as hard.

If your food is sitting in your stomach and going nowhere, eat less fat, because fat slows digestion.

GI doctors advise you to eat a lower fiber diet, because fiber slows digestion too.

Instead of apples, eat applesauce. Stay away from broccoli and green beans.

If your diabetic gastroparesis is really bad, try nutrition shakes and things that are easy to digest because they've been through a blender.

Sometimes just giving your stomach a chance to rest can help.

Do not exercise right after eating. Wait an hour or two. 

Do not lie down right after eating either.  Sit up for at least an hour after supper.

Your Doctor Can Help

There are medications your doctor can give you if slow digestion is making you miserable.

Food sitting in your stomach too long causes bacterial infections so you might need antibiotics. Some of those even help move food along too.

Anti-nausea drugs are available, some over the counter and some by prescription.

Your doctor can prescribe motility medications to help make your stomach and intestines active again. He can give you stool softeners if you are constipated.

How to Prevent Gastroparesis

Exercise lowers your risk of  complications like Alzheimer's.

The best way to prevent neuropathies like gastroparesis is to keep your blood sugar under good control.

Use your glucose monitor, get your hemoglobin A1C checked, and take your medicine regularly.

Good control of blood glucose will keep the nerve damage to a minimum.

Exercise is always a good idea, because it helps all of your systems work better, blood flow and nerves included.

If You Need Help

Diabetic gastroparesis is an unkind visitor. If it is making your life miserable, do not wait to get help. It may not get better on its own.

If you need more information, the American Diabetes Association is at www.diabetes.org, and if you need a good support group, www.inspire.com has several GI support groups.

Please don't get discouraged. You will find the way through this too.

You can use our contact page if you have a question or know of a place to get more help on this subject.

I would love to hear from you about gastroparesis, especially if you know of good ways to deal with it.

[Go back to the top]

Diabetic gastroparesis is only one of the symptoms of diabetes you need to know.