The cause of chronic gastrointestinal symptoms in type 1 diabetes has been uncovered, so researchers are hopeful that treatment is now possible. Gastrointestinal symptoms are common in type 1 diabetes; some of them include delayed emptying of the stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal distention and fecal incontinence – all of which can impact a person’s quality of life. Up until now the cause of these gastrointestinal symptoms in type 1 diabetes has been unknown, but researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio have now revealed it.
Details about the study
The findings, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, uncovered the cause of gastrointestinal symptoms in type 1 diabetes. Professor at the University, Franco Folli, Ph.D., M.D., said, “Intestinal tissues from diabetic patients and healthy individuals were compared. In patients with Type 1 diabetes, the cell lining of the intestine was damaged. The stem cells that maintain this lining, called colonic stem cells, were altered. The culprit is found in a protein called insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP3), which is produced in the liver and in higher amounts in type 1 diabetes. IGFBP3 binds to a receptor protein on colonic stem cells causing their death and, in turn, damaging the intestinal lining.”
The team conducted further research with biopharmaceuticals which blocked circulating levels of the protein. They found that the drug can reverse damage to the colon.
Dr. Folli concluded, “This is a very exciting finding, obtained by studying patients’ cells, that has the potential to result in a new treatment for this chronic complication of longstanding Type 1 diabetes.”
Effect of diabetes on the gastrointestinal tract
A reported 75 percent of diabetes patients will report gastrointestinal symptoms. Diabetes can affect the entire gastrointestinal system, from the oral cavity all the way to the colon. Common gastrointestinal symptoms reported by diabetic patients are:
- Early satiety – feeling full even before finishing a meal
- Abdominal pain
Furthermore, diabetes can contribute to gastrointestinal disorders as well.
Gastrointestinal (GI) disorder in diabetes
Gastroparesis: Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, bloating, fullness, abdominal pain and early satiety. It most commonly affects women.
Diabetic diarrhea: Reported in 22 percent of patients, diabetics may have chronic diarrhea. Autonomic neuropathy may contribute to abnormal motility and secretion of fluid into the colon. Intestinal issues may also occur in diabetes, which can contribute to diarrhea as well.
Ulcer disease: Ulcer disease is commonly caused by the virus H. pylori. When a diabetic develops an ulcer they are treated in the same fashion as anyone else who would develop an ulcer. Diabetes does not increase the likelihood of developing an ulcer.
Candida infections: When blood sugar control is poor it can increase the risk of yeast infections in the GI tract. Oral yeast infection (thrush) can present itself as white coating of the tongue, along with pain and burning. Common yeast infection treatments can help treat the infection in diabetics.
Diabetic gastrointestinal disorders prevention and natural treatment
If you’re diabetic, there are lifestyle changes you can make in order to prevent gastrointestinal symptoms from occurring. Because gastrointestinal symptoms can be discomforting, following these tips can help ease the symptoms and improve your quality of life.
- Change your diet – incorporate more fiber, drink plenty of fluids, avoid greasy or fatty foods.
- Check your glucose-lowering meds – some medications can irritate the gut. Speak with your doctor if you feel your medications are the cause of your gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Eat six small meals a day.
- Chew food properly and slowly.
- Don’t lie down immediately after eating.
- Avoid foods like oranges and broccoli.
- Stay away from strong smelling food if nauseous.
- Avoid caffeine, spicy foods, oily food or raw mint.
- Stop smoking or drinking alcohol.
- Increase protein with lean meat.
- Control blood sugar.
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