Diabetes is a disease in which the body either does not produce or is
unable to use the hormone insulin properly. The pancreas produces insulin,
which helps the body use sugar (glucose) from foods. If the pancreas cannot
produce enough insulin, or if the body cannot use the insulin properly, blood
sugar levels rise and the body cannot use foods effectively. High blood sugar
levels are harmful to many body tissues.
Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal problem of people
with diabetes. Diarrhea that occurs at night is also common. The nerves of the
intestines control how long solid food waste remains in the intestines. If
these nerves have been damaged by high blood sugar levels, food and waste
products may move through the intestines too slowly, causing constipation or
too quickly, causing diarrhea. Damage to the intestinal nerves usually does not
occur unless you have had type 1 diabetes that requires treatment with insulin
for many years.
If you have diabetes, discuss any problems that you are having with
either constipation or diarrhea with your doctor. Both conditions
can be easily treated with medicine.
February 20, 2013
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& David Messenger, MD
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