Honestly, when it comes to dealing with type 1 diabetes, eating disorders is not the first thing that comes to mind. As a type 1 diabetic, I was shocked when I first heard about the eating disorder (diabulimia) and its association with type 1 diabetics.
Most people are familiar with the more widely known eating disorders anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and even binge eating disorder, but few recognize the link between type 1 and type 2 diabetes and eating disorders (and yes, I was one of those people).
Curious about what this eating disorder was all about, and thanks to Amy (a frequent visitor of the website) and her sharing her empowering story about her personal battle with diabulimia, I decided to do a little research, so lets take a closer look!
Although not yet officially recognized as a medical condition, diabulimia is nevertheless a serious and emerging problem. Experts predict that as many as one-third of young female diabetics could be suffering as a result of this condition. Diabulimia is an eating disorder in which people with type 1 diabetes deliberately give themselves less insulin than they need for the purpose of weight loss. When insulin is omitted, calories are purged through the loss of glucose in the urine. Individuals with diabulimia manipulate insulin as an inappropriate behavior to prevent weight gain.
How Does Diabulimia Effect The Body:
The side effects of manipulating and omitting insulin from the body can be serious and dangerous.
Blood sugar levels can surge and reach an unhealthy level, leading to fatigue, dehydration and eventually wearing of the muscle tissue. Over a long-term, the symptoms are the same as badly managed diabetes. Although diabulimia is not a new condition, medical and mental health professionals are becoming more aware of the symptoms of diabulimia. The following are a few of the warning signs that an individual with diabetes may also be developing an eating disorder:
- Changes in eating habits (e.g., eating more but still losing weight)
Rapid weight loss or weight gain
- Poor metabolic control despite the appearance of compliance
- Low self-esteem or preoccupation with body image, weight or food intake
- Frequent urination, excessive thirst or high blood sugar levels
- Low energy, fatigue, shakiness, irritability, confusion, anxiety or fainting
- Purging behaviors (e.g., excessive exercise or the use of laxatives)
- Discomfort with eating or taking insulin in front of other people
- Hoarding food
- Unwillingness to follow through with medical appointments
- Recurrent diabetic ketoacidosis
Recovering from diabulimia is never easy. While it is already a challenge to recover from any type of eating disorder, type 1 diabetics suffering from diabulimia offer even more of a challenge for treatment facilities because the patient must be treated from both a traditional method focusing on therapy and self-acceptance and from a medical standpoint. A type 1 diabetic will always have to be very aware of food and its nutritional content and needs constant blood sugar level monitoring.
In order for someone with type 1 diabetes to accept the help and recovery that a treatment center offers there must be a well trained and educated staff that not only have an understanding of someone suffering from an eating disorder but have an understanding of the hundreds of factors that a person with type 1 diabetes must consider when eating a meal or taking an insulin injection.
Eating disorder treatment is often recommended for those struggling with anorexia, diabulimia or bulimia. Bulimia and anorexia treatment for diabulimia is available for those willing to seek treatment at one of many eating disorder treatment centers.
Amy, I have the utmost respect for everything that you have overcome and I want to personally thank you for en-lighting me and sharing your empowering story on a subject that I honestly knew nothing about.
For anyone who is currently going through this, or for those of you who suspect that something like this might be happening to one of your family members, friends or loved ones, please reach out for help. The diabulimia helpline is a great resource you can check out that offers a 24/7 helpline. You can reach them right here (Diabulimia Helpline)
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Thanks for Reading!