Diabetes and Constipation, a Secondary Factor



Diabetes and digestive issuesYou may be shy to talk about it, but the state of affairs with your bowel can provide important clues to your health.  Lets face it- diabetes and constipation have a symbiotic relationship.

Bowel dysfunctions can erupt from a number of health problems.  Regardless of the cause, there are mechanical issues in the intestine resulting in bowel emptying issues.

My doctor says its “normal”-

Do you believe yourself or your doctor?  Here’s what I think…  You are the one sitting on the toilet and dealing with stomach aches.  You are the one parenting to a child who isn’t feeling well.  I think you are the boss in this department.

If you are plunging the toilet regularly, hearing complaints about tummy aches from your child, see a decreased appetite, painful bowel movements, and a bloated tummy these are signs that something isn’t right down yonder.  Most adults may not want to face the music but they wouldn’t be able to stand the pain without seeking treatment options either.

Stomach aches, constipation, diarrhea and other bothersome bowel issues are not “normal”.  If a pediatrician tells you not to worry about your child’s continued complaints of stomach aches-  you may want to seek another opinion.  Just because it is a child, doesn’t mean their complaints lack validity.

Just to complicate matters, stomach complaints are very subjective.  By this I mean they are open for interpretation.  It’s not like a sore throat that we can look at and swab for strep throat.  Many things can cause stomach upset and complaints.  A good practitioner will start with simple suggestions and step them up accordingly, which is wonderful.

Keep in mind that 1 in 10 people with type 1 diabetes has celiac disease.  Celiac disease has been getting a lot of press in the past few years but not much with its relationship to other autoimmune diseases.

What can I do about it?

If you are having bowel issues find a doctor that you feel comfortable talking to.  It doesn’t have to be a gastroenterologist, begin by talking to your health care practitioner first.

Remember there are many simple things you can do at home to help with constipation.  Increase fluids/ stay hydrated, decrease caffeinated beverages, exercise, maintain good blood sugar control, add fiber to your diet, consider probiotics.

Look for patterns and note what may be the predecessor to the problems erupting.  A child that has both celiac disease and diabetes becomes skilled at interpreting their tummy aches.  You may hear them qualify their stomach distress into many categories such as: a sick stomach, a gluten stomach ache, a high blood sugar stomach ache, a constipated stomach ache, a medicine stomach ache (from Miralax or another medication).  Adults must also learn how to interpret these cues which can be tricky.

Can you still be constipated and have a bowel movement every day?

Don’t be fooled into thinking you or your child couldn’t possibly have constipation because you or they have a bowel movement every day.  I describe the bowel as a play-doh machine, you add a little more play-doh to the top (mouth) and turn the crank (bowel) and play-doh comes out (poop).  But the bowel is never fully cleared of its contents, it just slowly moves down as more food is added to the system.  There is a bottleneck going on causing many issues.

Your health care practitioner may suggest a bowel cleanse out, medications, blood work or further testing.  There are many wonderful products to help ease you or your child’s discomfort that are not laxatives.  Taking medications or giving them to a child for constipation should always be discussed with a practitioner first.  Some choices may do more harm than good over the long run which is not in anyone’s best interest.

How does it affect diabetes control?

Constipation not only causes stomach distress it affects blood sugar control.  This is also true in the opposite direction, as high blood sugars cause constipation.  Diabetes and constipation have a shared relationship.

When food is not moving properly through the digestive tract or is sluggish, it affects absorption of food.  With food staying around longer, you will notice shifts in diabetes control.  When the bowel is moving effectively, you will see improvements in glucose control.  Another word you will hear knocked around is gastroparesis.   Read She Sugar’s article “Gastroparesis, a Factor in Diabetes Control”.

High blood sugars are a serious cause of constipation.  With fluctuations in blood sugars, water is removed from the bowel to help flush excess sugar from the blood stream.  This process causes people with uncontrolled diabetes to live in a constant state of dehydration.  Aim to be hydrated like a fresh grape rather than resembling its dehydrated version, a raisin.


  1. Lea says:

    Super helpful! I think constipation might be an issue for blood sugar swings with one of my children… I won’t be specific which one ( they would be horrified & embarrased!) Lol. We have never been able to figure out why the bg’s are so unpredictable and maybe this is a factor.

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