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Diabulimia is an extremely dangerous eating disorder for diabetics.
Diabulimia is an eating disorder that is becoming more common among people with type 1 diabetes, especially in teenagers who are more affected than adults. This is happening because teens often lose weight before their diabetes is diagnosed but then when their insulin treatment begins they quickly gain weight. Some teens get very unhappy with the fact they are putting on weight, they then figure out that if they skip an insulin dose it is possible to lose weight.
It is estimated that among type 1 diabetics the prevalence of eating disorders is 2-6 times higher than in general population. Nearly a quota of females with type 1 diabetes may have a diagnosable eating disorder. This happens because both disorders (diabetes and eating disorders) involve the control of food consumption and body weight. Food for both individuals is no longer considered to be just for nutrition but the object of strict control.
Diabulimia can include not only skipping the insulin doses but many kinds of behaviours such as:
-reducing the insulin dose
- compulsive overeating
- restrictive diets
- inducing vomiting
- taking laxatives
- over exercising
The most dangerous practice is misusing their insulin doses.
To lose weight some individuals with type 1 diabetes deliberately miss the dose or take fewer doses than needed of insulin. Why they start to lose weight is because without the insulin their blood sugar rises; the kidneys produce more urine and the sugar then is passed out of the body in their urine.
Skipping insulin doses is very appealing for diabetics who want to lose weight; it is an alternative to engaging in a purging and a vomiting routine. So now they have realized they can overeat but still lose weight simply by not taking the insulin. There is a component of obsessive –compulsiveness in acting out this kind of behavior and if it gets out of hand can be extremely dangerous. This is because they can build faulty neuronal pathways in their brain, making the problem deep-rooted and difficult to treat. (see Neuroplaticity)
Being a diabulimic results in serious complications such as;
- Kidneys failure
- Heart failure
- Circulation problems
- Loss of vision
- Dangerous infections
- Increased chance of death
As you can see these conditions are not what you want the diabetic to endure.
How to tell if the person has diabulimia?
- weight loss
- increased urination
- lethargy and low energy
- high blood sugar level
- constant thirst
- sugar in the urine
- inability to concentrate
- electrolyte abnormalities
- low sodium levels
- over exercising
- taking laxatives or diuretics in order to lose weight
Diagnosing diabulimia can be difficult because the dietary concerns of the diabetic can mask the eating disorder. Ongoing education and explanation about diabetes and eating disorders should play a major role in the prevention and eradication of a dangerous problem such as diabulimia.