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Diabetes and Constipation or Diarrhea

Topic Overview

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.

Credits

Current as of: June 26, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine

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