For sufferers of both diabetes and indigestion (dyspepsia), the causes can be varied and are usually related to an existing condition of the digestive tract such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcers, cancer, or an abnormality of the pancreas or bile ducts. Dyspepsia occurs as several symptoms such as a feeling of fullness while eating, uncomfortable fullness after a meal, and burning or pain after a meal. When an underlying cause cannot be found, the indigestion is known as functional dyspepsia and is thought to originate where the stomach meets the small intestine. Abnormal motility, the contraction of the stomach’s muscles as it receives food, is also a potential cause of indigestion.


Diabetes and Indigestion: Motility of the Stomach


For long-term patients of diabetes, those suffering from the disease for more than five years, the chance that they will experience decreased motility of the stomach increases. When this happens delayed gastric emptying occurs leading to the feeling of fullness during and after meals, discomfort, distended abdomen, constipation, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Called diabetic gastroparesis, the disorder is a form of neuropathy (nerve damage), which can be caused by extended periods of high blood sugar. Gastroparesis can alter blood sugar as well due to a delayed emptying of the stomach. Insulin levels can affect the vagus nerve of the stomach, causing chemical changes and damaging the blood vessels. Complications arise if food in the stomach begins to ferment and bacteria begin to produce. Another complication may be the formation of bezoars that can cause nausea, vomiting, and obstruction. Bezoars can be very dangerous if they block the entry of food into the small intestine.


Treatment of Diabetes and Indigestion


Treatment options for gastroparesis are insulin and other drugs, diet, and in the most extreme circumstances, a feeding tube. Diet is an important first step, though the unpredictable nature of the release of food (and thus glucose) may necessitate insulin treatment more often. Patients should work with their doctor and dietician to craft a specific diet though several methods are generally employed. Eating smaller meals more frequently will help the stomach not become overly full. Another option is a liquid diet until the condition improves. This option moves nutrients through the stomach faster and more easily. As a last resort a feeding tube, called a jejunostomy tube, can be surgically inserted directly to the small intestine. Using a special liquid food, the tube provides all the essential nutrients required. It is important to remember that indigestion is a chronic condition thus the best prevention and treatment is proper management of glucose levels.