I wanted to write a post about diabulimia as it impacts many people within the diabetes community. I myself have never suffered with this condition but feel that as a diabetes blogger I have a huge responsibility to spread awareness of this condition.
So, what is diabulimia? It is a condition where type 1 diabetes sufferers restrict their insulin intake due to a fear of gaining weight. This restriction of insulin can have quiet adverse effects on the body.
Two in five women and one in ten men with Type 1 diabetes are thought to have diabulimia.
Living with type 1 diabetes means, being extremely attentivewhen it comes to food, carbohydrates counting, as well as being focused onmaintaining a good weight, blood glucose levels and HbA1c. Not only that, butthe many disruptions that can occur within the body when a blood glucose level fallsand rises can be challenging to maintain. All these volatilities can makediabetes a high risk for developing an eating disorder.
Being able to persist with the daily demands ofadministering insulin can be difficult for any diabetic. For those withdiabulimia it is a constant challenge and these individuals restrict theirinsulin administration several times a day, a week or omit it completely.
Having a platform to share and speak to people you can trust gives you the strength to continue this difficult journey. I can say that I have been quite fortunate to have had this throughout my years with the condition and, I’ve learnt to develop my own inner strengths.
The leading type 1 diabetes charity JDRF estimates 60,000 15 to 30-year-olds are living with T1 in the UK.
Diabetes and mental health experts believe up to 40% of those will at some point restrict their insulin over a “fear of fatness”.
Social media and imagines in magazine and on television have a huge part to play in the way that women and men perceive themselves. These images can be detrimental to how a person my feel about themselves.
“Body image pressure is helping to drive ever increasing numbers of young people to the health service for treatment and support and while diabulimia is rare it can be just as deadly as other more common eating disorders’’. Claire Murdoch, national director for mental health at NHS England
So,what happens to the body when someone suffers with diabulimia?
The symptoms that can occur are like those that occur with anindividual before they are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. You can read mystory here to see what my experiencewas like. I had all the following symptoms listed below.
- Believe it or not, hunger is oneof the symptoms that can occur – The body’s cells can’t get theenergy they need from food. This makes the cells in the body believe that theyare starving which in turn sends signals to the brain which increases thefeeling of being hungry.
- Frequent urination also occurs– Due to high blood glucose levels, the body tries to get rid of the excess glucosein the blood by producing extra urine. An individual with high blood glucoselevels will go to the toilet a lot more frequently.
- Thirst –a result of frequent urination is that the body will become dehydrated andtherefore the individual will consume more liquids than normal.
- Tiredness –The body is unable to burn glucose for energy, this in turn will deplete thebody’s cells of energy therefore the body will get tired very easily.
- Fruitysmelling breath – When cells are unable to receive glucose, the body will burn fatfor energy. This creates an acid called ketones. ketones cause the breath to have a fruitysmell.
- Breathing problems. – breathing will become a problem asthe body tries to get rid of the excess build up of the ketones. The individualwill breath harder and faster (similar to someone who is out of breath afterrunning).
- Blurry Vision– Extra glucose can increase liquid within the eyes which can cause changes invision, making it harder to focus and even damaging the eyes.
- Weight Loss –When the body burns fat instead of glucose this can lead to weight loss.
- Infections -Due to the increase levels of glucose in the body, germs in the body have anexcess of the ideal environment they need to thrive in, making it easier forthe body to develop infections and harder for the body to get rid ofinfections.
“Diabulimia is a serious eating disorder which – without the right clinical and mental health support – can have devastating consequences, such as stroke, kidney failure and blindness. It can also be fatal’’. Libby Dowling, senior clinical advisor at Diabetes UK
NHS UK have plans to start a new therapy programme to help individuals suffering with the condition by joining up treatment of diabetes with mental health treatment. Patients will be offered clinical support to manage their insulin intake, as well as having specialist day care centres to give advice on structured meal planning and blood glucose levels. More training will also be rolled out for healthcare professionals to increase their knowledge and understanding of the condition as well as specialist eating disorder teams in diabetes and mental healthcare being accessible.
“As a diabetes clinician, I’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact that this condition can have on people and their families and so these services are an important step forward in the recognition of diabulimia’’. Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for diabetes and obesity at NHS England
Whilst the programme is a great step in managing and increasing knowledge and awareness of both diabetes and diabulimia. The programme will only help people in the south of England. With the increasing numbers of individuals suffering from diabulimia in the UK, combining services of diabetes specialists and mental healthcare specialist will need to take effect soon to reduce the escalating numbers of diabulimia sufferers. I hope that once this new pilot has been tested in the south it will then continue to progress throughout the country, improving the lives of people affected with diabulimia and hopefully we will see a reduced number of diabulimia sufferers.