Diabetes and Diarrhea

Diabetes and Diarrhea

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Diabetic Diarrhea

Diabetes and diarrhea is actually common. Diarrhea can be caused by problems in the bowel or colon and has been noted in patients who have had diabetes for many years. As many as 22 percent of diabetic patients with longstanding diabetes have reported the occurrence of “diabetic diarrhea.”

This form of diarrhea affects the ability of the body to absorb and secrete fluids of the colon, which can lead to diarrhea. The cause of this form of “diabetic diarrhea” is unknown, but conjecture has been made that it might be due to some neuropathy in the intestinal area that causes rapid excavation of the intestines. Speak with your endocrinologist about any episodes of constant diarrhea. If diabetic diarrhea is the cause, your doctor will work with you to determine whether or not this is your problem and how best to address it.

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and are on medication, contact your doctor immediately if you are enduring a bout of severe diarrhea. Severe diarrhea can cause extreme dehydration, as well as cause extreme lows in blood sugar levels. Both conditions might require hospitalization or treatment in an emergency room. Various fluids given intravenously will combat the effects of low blood sugar levels and dehydration.

Diarrhea is described as loose or liquid bowel movements, at least three episodes per day or more, often when a patient is suffering from a stomach virus or food poisoning. In most cases, a non-diabetic will get through the episode with a few uncomfortable days and then get back to their regular routine.

When a person on medication for diabetes (especially insulin) has an episode of diarrhea, close monitoring of blood sugar levels is required, usually every three to four hours. As stated above, contact your doctor or go to an emergency room in cases of extreme, uncontrollable diarrhea, especially if there is any blood in the stool.

When severe diarrhea occurs, patients should adjust their insulin intake accordingly, and supplement their fluid intake.

Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Severe all-over-the-body cramping, especially in the lower limbs
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased urine output that is very dark in color that may have a strong odor
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Severe dry mouth
  • Tiredness
  • Disorientation

Treating Dehydration

Home Treatment for Dehydration

If dehydration is not severe and you feel comfortable treating it at home “because it’s just a little bug,” then here is a list of some products available at your local drug store or supermarket:

  • Gatorade (Can cause high blood sugar)
  • Powerade (Can cause high blood sugar)
  • Pedialyte (an oral electrolyte solution). This is used by many adults to help with any dehydration that might arise. (Can cause high blood sugar)

Treatment at a Hospital or Urgent Care Facility for Severe Diarrhea

Never hesitate to seek medical attention when diarrhea gets the upper hand. If you show any of the symptoms listed above, see your doctor immediately or go to the nearest hospital or urgent care facility. If you receive a diagnosis of dehydration, the most likely form of treatment will be an IV drip that replaces the fluids you have lost. This hydrates the body intravenously until your body gets to the point that it can receive fluids orally.

Some Causes of Diarrhea

  • Various Viruses
  • Bacterial Infection
  • Medications
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Food Poisoning
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The Norwalk Virus

Probably the best-known virus to cause diarrhea is the ever-famous norovirus. It has gained notoriety because of the way it has worked its way through a number of cruise liners, even causing some ships to seek help in foreign ports. The noroviruses are a group of germs that usually cause diarrhea or gastroenteritis in people, an easily spread family of viruses that thrive in the confined environment of a luxury ship at sea. The name came about due to an outbreak of gastroenteritis in a school in Norwalk, Ohio, in l968. The symptoms of the noroviruses are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and stomach cramping
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Extreme Fatigue

Easily contagious, a norovirus can disable a family, neighborhoods, schools, assisted living facilities or nursing homes rapidly. Your best bet is just to avoid anyone in your circle who has been exposed to the Norwalk virus.


Salmonella is a very serious form of food poisoning and usually must be treated. It is most often caused by eating undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or egg products. One story is that a man was barbecuing chicken and stuck his finger in the same cup of barbecue sauce that he had been brushing on the chicken and spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from the salmonella that had transferred from the chicken to the sauce by the brush he had been using to apply the sauce. Symptoms can show up in a couple of hours to a couple of days, and these symptoms are similar to your typical diarrhea, except that in most instances there is blood in the stool. Salmonella is a very dangerous condition and should be treated promptly. Stool samples and blood tests are used to confirm a diagnosis of salmonella.

E. Coli

E. (Escherichia) coli is a germ or bacteria that is found in the digestive tract of humans and animals and in its natural setting causes no problems. But you can get what is commonly referred to as “E. Coli,” when “you” are exposed to the feces or stools of humans and animals. Either drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated by feces can create a case of E. Coli. E. Coli has been known to contaminate our food chain – dairy products, fruits and vegetables, city water, pools and lakes. E. Coli can also spread from one person to another when someone does not wash their hands thoroughly after using the loo. Caution is the key in an E. Coli outbreak, caution and diligence. Make sure to wash thoroughly any fresh produce you purchase.

Avoiding Diarrhea and/or Precautions

Most spreading cases of diarrhea can be stopped through hand washing on a regular basis. Contaminated foods are also known culprits, and certain foods have been taken off the market due to contamination prior to being put on the supermarket shelves. Heed all warnings when they are issued by the Food and Drug Administration on foods that have tested positive for contamination.

Everyday Foods that Might Cause Loose Stools

You’ve eaten this food over and over and it’s never caused a problem for you in the past, but now you know, you just know, that this food no longer agrees with you and you have loose stools. It happens. Stop eating that food for a while and reintroduce it gradually over a matter of days or weeks, testing your body’s reaction to the food. If loose stools occur again after the reintroduction, then just don’t eat that food any longer.

Some foods that have been known to cause loose stools are:

  • Milk
  • Caffeine
  • Hot Peppers
  • Olestra (an oil used in certain fat-free chips and other fat-free products)
  • Artificial Sweeteners (If you overindulge in some of the sugar-free candies on the market now, you might have difficulties with diarrhea.)

Everyday Foods that May Ease Diarrhea

After suffering from diarrhea for a few hours or a few days, it’s best to slowly get back into your regular eating habits. Some safe foods to begin with include:

  • Clear Soups (no thick, creamy soups)
  • Oatmeal
  • Boiled Watery Rice – almost soupy
  • Bananas
  • Very softly baked potato that has been mashed – no salt or pepper
  • Yogurt (gradual introduction of the yogurt. It contains probiotics, which help in the digestive tract, but some people find it difficult to digest, perhaps because they suffer from undiagnosed lactose intolerance.)
  • Dry toast

Treatment for Diarrhea

There are various over-the-counter remedies for diarrhea, including, but not limited to:

(When taking any OTC medication, read the labels thoroughly and follows the directions; also check for any drug interactions that might become a problem for you with your current list of medications. Always check with your pharmacist in regards to any questions you might about any OTC medication.)

When acute diarrhea strikes and professional intervention is called for, some of the possible prescribed medications are:

Diarrhea can be life threatening. Always seek medical attention immediately for any health situation that becomes acute.

One thought on “Diabetes and Diarrhea

  1. Trina

    Wow, this is helpful. Just to tell you about something that happened with us. Our six yr old grandson, who has type 1, came down with one of those awful stomach bugs that they pick up at school. It started gradually, and my daughter-in-law kept checking his blood sugar level with the finger pricks. Well, it kept getting worse and worse and then little Robbie became almost unresponsive. They took him to the emergency room right away and he was treated immediately. Thank goodness, because he had become lethargic by that time. They put an IV in that contained medications for electrolytes, some glucose ’cause he needed it, and overall just re-hydrated him, and medication too, I guess, that treated the diarrhea and vomiting. This ended up being a life or death situation for us as a family. We could have lost him. He was only diagnosed six months ago so all this is very new to us. After this happened, I Googled to find more information and I found your site. If we had only known all this beforehand, I don’t think things would have gotten so out of control for us. When you have type 1 diabetes, you have stay on watch all the time when you are dealing with a young child. It breaks my heart to see what he has to go through. And people can be so ignorant about it. After I told some friends on the phone about his diagnosis, friends I hadn’t seen for a long time, they asked me if maybe he lost some weight it might help him. I was furious. Type 1 — you don’t get that from being overweight but with all the obesity around a lot of young kids are getting type 2. To be honest, I was probably just as ignorant before Robbie’s diagnosis, but I really don’t think I would have asked a dumb question like that. For one, I never ever discuss anyone’s weight. But once you have a family member get diagnosed with a condition, you try to find out everything you can about it. Well, I sure did not like what I read about type 1 but that’s what we’ve been handed and that’s what we’ll deal with. But beware of vomiting and diarrhea when you have type 1. That can work a bad number on you, really bad. Mom and Dad, hang in there, but watch over that child. They need you.

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