Diabetes, whether you have type 1 or type 2, is a systemic disease that can cause a lot of varied symptoms, especially if your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled. One of the parts of your body that diabetes can wreak havoc on is your digestive system, producing symptoms like stomach pain and cramping, nausea, vomiting and heartburn.
One gastrointestinal problem that is much more common in diabetics is called gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is a condition in which the stomach does not empty food into the small intestines properly. This is caused by damage to a nerve called the vagus nerve, which can be damaged in uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes. If the stomach can not empty its contents properly, this can lead to stomach pain and cramping, heartburn due to acid reflux, nausea, vomiting, bloating, a decrease in appetite and problems controlling your blood sugar levels. People with gastroparesis can be more prone to infections and blockages in the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, gastroparesis can make it harder for a diabetic person to control their disease because delayed emptying into the intestines after a meal can lead to blood sugar spikes at unpredictable times.
Diabetic individuals with poor control of their blood sugar levels are more prone to developing Candida yeast infections in their gastrointestinal tract than people with controlled blood glucose levels. Yeasts are single-celled fungi that are normally present in the body in low numbers. In diabetic individuals, however, these yeasts can grow out of control and cause an infection. Candida yeast infections are more common in the upper gastrointestinal tract, but they can cause pain from heartburn, difficulty swallowing and even intestinal bleeding if the infection is severe.
Abdominal pain in diabetics may also be caused by problems with the small intestines. These problems can be very similar to gastroparesis. If there is any nerve damage to the nerves that supply the small intestines, food might move more slowly through the small intestines of a person with diabetes. These problems make some diabetic people much more prone to bacterial infections of the intestines. There may also be pain and cramping associated with this nerve damage. Disorders of the small intestines such as celiac disease, which is an autoimmune response triggered by wheat gluten in food, are also more common in diabetics than non-diabetics.