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Diabetes and GERD: Are They Linked? (Part 1)
July 9, 2012
You know the feeling. You wake up in the middle of the night with a burning feeling in your chest or throat. You might have a sour taste in your mouth or feel nauseated. Maybe your throat is sore or you sound hoarse when you talk. Or perhaps you start to wheeze or cough.
Many of us have had some or all of these symptoms at one time or another. I know I’ve had a few of them myself, especially after eating a rich meal too late in the evening. But what if you have them all the time? And what’s causing these unpleasant symptoms?
• Narrowing of your esophagus due to tissue scarring from the acid
• Esophagitis, a condition whereby the lining of the esophagus becomes inflamed, possibly leading to ulcers and bleeding
• Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing
• Barret’s esophagus, a condition in which the lining of the esophagus changes, increasing the risk for esophageal cancer
Causes of GERD
• Hiatal hernia
Diabetes and GERD?
We know that many people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight, so it seems to make sense that GERD is more common in these individuals. But it also appears that having Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor in and of itself for GERD, apart from weight. A study published in 2008 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that GERD is present in about 40% of people with diabetes. The researchers also found GERD to be more common in people with diabetes who also had neuropathy, or nerve damage, which is a common complication of diabetes. People in this study who had diabetes and neuropathy were more likely to have GERD, regardless of weight, compared to people without neuropathy.
Gastroparesis, which is a type of neuropathy that affects the digestive tract, can boost the risk of GERD. With gastroparesis, the stomach may be very slow to empty as a result of nerve damage. Food sits around in the stomach for too long, which builds up pressure in the stomach. This pressure can cause the LES to relax, allowing reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. Other symptoms of gastroparesis, by the way, include nausea, vomiting, bloating, and early satiety, or fullness.
Fortunately, there are ways to help manage, if not cure, GERD, and we’ll take a look at these next week.
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