The Link Between IBD, Crohn’s Disease, and Diabetes

Living with diabetes puts you at a higher risk for a number of related health complications. These include the ones we all hear about often, such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and diabetic nerve damage which can impact both the extremities and the eyes.

Diabetes is also known to impact gastrointestinal function. In this post, we’ll examine the link between diabetes and some of the most common gastro problems you might face, namely Crohn’s disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

While it’s long been known that there is a relationship between Type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s disease, the understanding of just how closely the gut and diabetes are linked has grown in recent years.

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are different, and they have different connections to gastrointestinal problems. Here’s a quick refresher. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks and destroys the beta cells of the pancreas, which are necessary to produce insulin. Soon the body becomes unable to produce insulin to process blood sugar leading to a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is not related to an autoimmune disorder. Its development is usually directly linked to factors like age, diet, weight, and Body Mass Index (BMI). With Type 2 diabetes, lifestyle choices play a major role in the development of the disease.

Type 1 Diabetes and Crohn’s Disease

The biggest link between Type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s Disease is that they are both autoimmune diseases. It’s very common for autoimmune disorders to go hand-in-hand. In fact, there’s actually a term used to describe a person who has at least three different autoimmune disorders - it’s called multiple autoimmune syndrome (MAS) and it occurs more often than you might think. About 25% of people with one autoimmune disease will develop another and diabetes and Crohn’s are no exception.

If you have Type 1 diabetes your chances of also contracting Crohn’s and other inflammatory bowel conditions are elevated. The opposite also holds true. If you have Crohn’s disease you are more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes.

A Common Gene

Recently, science has even been able to narrow down a common gene that might be a marker for both. The PTPN2 gene is found to be involved in the coexistence of Type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s Disease.

The technical name for the gene is Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase Non-Receptor Type 2. That’s a mouthful, and, the truth is, for our purposes digging too deep into the science isn’t useful. What is important to know is that this gene is involved in the regulation of the immune system and the more we understand how it jointly impacts these autoimmune diseases, the more likely it is for new and better medical treatments to become available.

Type 2 Diabetes and Gut Disorders

While the existence of a link between Type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease has been documented for quite some time, new evidence is pointing to a link between Type 2 diabetes and gut issues, as well.

In cases of Type 2 diabetes, the body still produces insulin, however, it cannot use the hormone properly to effectively process blood sugar. The result is that too much sugar remains in the bloodstream, building up to unsafe levels and leading to a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

In healthy individuals, we know that the gut plays a big role in how effectively the body is able to regulate blood sugar. Now, studies have shown that there may be a correlation between gastrointestinal issues and the development of Type 2 diabetes. One study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology examined 3,000 people with inflammatory bowel disease and found that a person with either Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis experienced a notable increase in risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

It seems that the inflammation that occurs in the intestinal tract when a person has an inflammatory bowel condition, such as Crohn’s Disease, can impede the body’s ability to process blood sugar, and thereby, increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes.

Treating Crohn’s and Diabetes

Here’s another consideration if you happen to be living with both diabetes and Crohn’s disease. Medications used to treat these diseases can have a negative impact on each other. In other words, some treatments for Crohn’s disease might make it more difficult for you to effectively manage your diabetes. Likewise, treatments that might help you better manage your diabetes might make it harder to control Crohn’s disease. That’s why it is important to work with both a qualified endocrinologist and gastroenterologist to formulate a personalized program to treat both conditions as effectively as possible. 


The link between chronic gut issues like Crohn’s disease and both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is pretty well established. But that doesn’t mean that everything is entirely understood. Research is still in its early stages, and since both forms of the disease appear to have a relationship with inflammatory bowel conditions, further studies must be completed before conclusive claims can be made. If you have diabetes and believe you might also be suffering from a gut condition, or vice versa, please see your doctor right away.


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