Diabetes and Digestion

Woman looking at yogurt on grocery shelves

Healthy digestion and converting foods into energy

To understand diabetes, it helps to know how our bodies handle the sugars and energy found in our food and drinks.

  1. Food is broken down into nutrients in the digestive system.
  2. Carbohydrates in our foods are broken down and converted to a usable type of sugar, most often glucose. Blood circulates this glucose throughout the body to provide energy to cells or to store it as fat to use later. (Fat is essentially "stored energy.") The body uses energy stored in glucose to move, exercise, heal, grow and think.
  3. Insulin is needed for the body to use glucose. Cells in the pancreas respond to the higher levels of glucose in the blood by producing insulin. With the help of insulin, cells throughout the body absorb glucose and use it for energy.

In people with diabetes, this process can go wrong in two ways. Either:

  1. There isn’t enough insulin. The pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin to respond to the glucose in the blood and blood sugar levels rise, or
  2. Cells are resistant to the insulin. The cells no longer respond to the insulin signal to take up glucose from the blood and blood sugar levels rise.

People with diabetes may have the following symptoms when their blood sugar is extremely high:

  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Dry mouth, dry tongue
  • Fever
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination (at the beginning of the syndrome)
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Coma