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Eating Disorders & Insulin-Skipping Can Threaten Your Life

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Eating Disorders & Insulin-Skipping Can Threaten Your Life

July 28, 2009

By: Laura Leon for Diabetes1

The sudden deaths of several young diabetics, who had deliberately deprived themselves of insulin as an “easy” way to lose weight, is a serious wake-up call for those who don’t grasp the dangers of ignoring your diabetes medication.

Take Action

The American Diabetes Association lists the following tips for losing weight without skipping your insulin:

  • Practice "portion control" by eating smaller portions to reduce your calorie intake without sacrificing your favorite foods.
  • Exercise to improve your body's response to insulin and naturally help lower your glucose by burning calories.
  • If diet control and exercise are not enough, ask your doctor about weight loss medication or surgery.  
  • Warning signs of diabulimia include:

  • Preoccupation with weight
  • Rigorous exercise
  • No monthly period
  • Elevated A1C values
  • Repeated diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
  • Unexplained hypoglycemia
  • Intentionally skipping insulin medication is a life-threatening behavior, often referred to as “diabulimia.”  This issue is becoming increasingly prevalent as more patients admit to deliberately starving themselves of insulin.  According to a study done by the Joslin Diabetes Center, a startling 30 percent of the 234 women with Type 1 diabetes who participated claimed they had, at some point in their lives, consciously taken less insulin than they needed.  Patients who did not skip insulin medication could expect to live 13 years longer on average in comparison to diabetics who failed to receive the proper dosages of insulin.

    Without sufficient insulin, the body cannot make use of the nutrients found within food. These nutrients will simply pass out of the body, resulting in frequent urination that is darker in color, due to overworked kidneys attempting to rid the body of excess sugar in the bloodstream.  The symptoms of diabulimia occur when any person with diabetes does not receive the appropriate amount of insulin. Lack of insulin can lead to serious problems, such as: nerve damage, heart damage, blindness, stomach damage, foot problems, kidney problems, infections, high A1C levels, frequent episodes of DKA, dangerously acidic blood, and even early death.

    Until there are advanced technological devices to monitor blood sugar levels and automatically provide optimal dosages of insulin, patients with diabetes need to be attentive to their insulin intake.  Being mindful of your insulin levels is the key in keeping healthy and avoiding future complications.

    If any of your loved ones exhibits any of signs of diabulimia, consult a physician immediately.

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  • Add Comment
  • Wednesday, Aug 05 2009 13:10 EST by FatCatAnna

    Very good article Laura. I just opened up a discussion in the forums - here is the link for anyone who would like to add their comments - http://www.diabetes1.org/forum/Using_Insulin/Diabulimia#63616

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