Diabetes and Digestion

Woman with a drink

For easier digestion, blend foods that are high in fiber.

High blood sugar can lead to gastroparesis, a condition that affects how you digest your food. Diabetes is the most common known cause of gastroparesis. Read how you can help prevent it from getting worse.

Nausea, heartburn, or bloating can have many causes, but for people with diabetes, these common digestion issues shouldn’t be ignored. That’s because high blood sugar can lead to gastroparesis, a condition that affects how you digest your food. Diabetes is the most common known cause of gastroparesis.

Managing your diabetes can help you manage gastroparesis. It can also help delay or prevent other serious health problems. Keeping your blood sugar as close to your target range as possible will keep you feeling better today and down the road.

What Is Gastroparesis?

Normally, your stomach muscles tighten to move food through your digestive tract. If you have gastroparesis, nerve damage from high blood sugar can cause those muscles to slow down or not work at all. Your stomach doesn’t empty properly, and your food may take a long time to leave your stomach.

Because gastroparesis affects how fast the body absorbs food, it’s hard to match insulin doses to food portions. It also affects how the body absorbs nutrients, which can lead to malnutrition if left untreated. Another symptom of gastroparesis is frequent vomiting. This is dangerous because it can cause dehydration, or extreme thirst.

Symptoms

Have you ever eaten a large meal and then felt “stuffed” afterward? With gastroparesis, you may have that same “stuffed” feeling, bloating, discomfort, or pain after eating even a small amount of food. This can happen soon after you start eating or long after you finish your meal because gastroparesis slows down stomach emptying.

Other symptoms include heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite.

You should talk with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms so you can manage gastroparesis and keep it from worsening.

Tips to Manage Gastroparesis

There is no cure for gastroparesis, but you can lessen symptoms with the following actions:

  • Keep your blood sugar levels as close to their target range as possible.
  • Eat frequent, small meals that are low in fat and fiber. Fat, fiber, and large meals can delay stomach emptying and make symptoms worse.
  • Drink plenty of water. For most adults, that’s 6 to 10 cups per day.
  • Let your doctor and pharmacist know about all medicines you’re taking—prescription and over-the-counter, as well as any supplements.
  • If medicines you’re taking seem to cause more digestion problems, talk with your doctor.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.
  • Stop smoking or don’t start.
  • Get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

A registered dietician can help you understand and meet your diet and nutrition needs.

Page last reviewed: May 7, 2021