The link between diabetes, constipation and diarrhea

There are approximately 29.1 million people with Type 2 diabetes (T2D) in the US, and roughly another 8 million are undiagnosed. When it comes to the prevalence of IBS in the US, there are between 25-45 million individuals who have this GI disorder. Yet, despite these large population numbers, there are few research studies that link the two conditions together.

Those who have done the research do know that there is a link between IBS and T2D. In an article published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass. have demonstrated that chronic diarrhea and constipation are more prevalent in people with diabetes. They tracked 664 diabetics and 4,488 people without and demonstrated the connection between the two.

In another study published in Diabetes Care Journal, T2D patients are at higher risk of getting reflux, impaired gastric contraction and emptying. Their small bowel, colon, and rectum muscles are unable to function correctly, which have been linked to constipation. It’s been suggested that about 75% of T2D patients tend to suffer from heartburn, acid reflux, chest pains (that are not related to heart), and difficulty swallowing.

It’s surprising that despite these studies, most primary care physicians are not aware of the link between IBS, GI complications, and diabetes. The reasons why are various, but no clear argument has surfaced yet. However, it is important for primary care physicians to be aware of the link, if not to prevent one condition, but also to reduce its severity. Until more clinical trials can be done on the connection between the two conditions, it’s important for people with IBS to be their own healthcare advocate and talk with their physicians about any symptoms or risks they may encounter.

It’s also important to note that for those individuals who already have been diagnosed with T2D and are experiencing diarrhea should see some improvements if they focus on controlling the blood sugar. Another dietary intervention to consider is to incorporate a low FODMAP diet with the help of a nutritionist/dietitian.