People with diabetes often have gastrointestinal symptoms such as incontinence and nausea, according to a report. But the frequent stomach and intestinal troubles may be a result of poor control of blood sugar rather than a side effect of diabetes medications, researchers suggest. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as heartburn, bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation have been thought to occur in diabetics more frequently than in people without the disease, but evidence supporting the link has been mixed.
Dr. Peter Bytzer of the University of Sydney in Australia and colleagues examined the rate of gastrointestinal maladies in a survey. After the researchers took into account age and sex, they found that diabetics were more likely than people without the disease to have had any of 16 gastrointestinal symptoms and five groups of symptoms. Three symptoms--fecal incontinence, nausea and difficulty swallowing--were much more common in diabetics.
But glycemic control was related to the likelihood of gastrointestinal problems, Bytzer and colleagues found. Participants who reported having poor glycemic control were more likely to have intestinal symptoms than diabetics who reported being able to keep their blood sugar under control.
Although the study was not designed to determine how poor glycemic control might increase gastrointestinal symptoms, the authors suggest a possible explanation. They point out that hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is known to affect the gastrointestinal system. For example, high levels of blood sugar can promote feelings of nausea, they note.