Diabetes and Gastroparesis
Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder that slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine.
Most people diagnosed with gastroparesis have idiopathic gastroparesis, which means a health care provider cannot identify the cause, even with medical tests. Diabetes is the most common known cause of gastroparesis.
Changing eating habits can sometimes help control the severity of gastroparesis symptoms. A health care provider may suggest eating six small meals a day instead of three large ones.
Several prescription medications are available to treat gastroparesis. A combination of medications may be used to find the most effective treatment.
An elevated blood glucose level directly interferes with normal stomach emptying, so good blood glucose control in people with diabetes is important. However, gastroparesis can make blood glucose control difficult. When food that has been delayed in the stomach finally enters the small intestine and is absorbed, blood glucose levels rise. Gastric emptying is unpredictable with gastroparesis, causing a person’s blood glucose levels to be erratic and difficult to control.
The primary treatment goals for gastroparesis related to diabetes are to improve gastric emptying and regain control of blood glucose levels. In addition to the dietary changes and treatments already described, a health care provider will likely adjust the person’s insulin regimen.
To better control blood glucose, people with diabetes and gastroparesis may need to
- take insulin more often or change the type of insulin they take
- take insulin after meals, instead of before
- check blood glucose levels frequently after eating and administer insulin when necessary
A health care provider will give specific instructions for taking insulin based on the individual’s needs and the severity of gastroparesis.
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