DIABETES AND EATING DISORDERS
Diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. In order to produce proper levels of insulin, diabetics have to closely monitor their diet. Since diabetics have to manage their illness by carefully monitoring their weight and controlling what they eat, there is a troubling possibility that they may actually end up struggling with eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and compulsive over-eating. In fact, as many as 25% of women struggling with insulin-dependent diabetes might have a diagnosable eating disorder.
Because of the nature of diabetes treatment, eating disorders and diabetes can go hand-in-hand. One common initial symptom of the onset of type 1 diabetes is weight-loss due to the body’s inability to properly metabolize calories. This weight-loss can feel rewarding to diabetics. However, after diabetics begin insulin treatment, rapid weight-gain is common. Complicating matters, the deregulation of hormones related to hunger in type 1 diabetics and the effects of insulin therapy on appetite can make it difficult for diabetics to know when they’re full. This can lead to over-eating and fluctuations in weight.
Diabetics with eating disorders can also fall into the dangerous habit of misusing insulin. Some diabetics with eating disorders under use their insulin in hopes of losing weight. This causes their blood sugar to rise and spill into their urine. The resulting weight-loss is literally due to the body’s tissues being dissolved. This can lead to conditions like kidney failure, heart disease and retina damage.
Both eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating disorder, and diabetes represent serious health issues that require proper treatment and careful management. When the two illnesses occur in an individual, proper diagnosis of the eating disorder can be quite difficult due to the very nature of how diabetics are required to manage their condition. Physicians recommend that diabetics rigorously monitor their blood sugar levels and avoid gaining weight in order to control the potential ravages of their illness. In fact, strict focus on what they consume and how much they weigh is essential for the most advantageous management of diabetes.
Clearly, a different criterion is required to recognize and diagnose eating disorders in diabetics. Physicians treating diabetes must work with mental health professionals specializing in eating disorders to develop strategies to properly assess eating disorders among diabetics.
More research is required to determine how to best manage diabetes while preventing the development of a potential eating disorder. Researchers recognize the need for comparative studies between diabetic and non-diabetic individuals to determine how to address this perplexing problem.
The American Diabetes Association has also funded a study that is chronicling the progress of ninety diabetic children between the ages of 10 and 17. This study will hopefully provide answers that can help future generations of diabetics break the link between diabetes and eating disorders.
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