National American Diabetes Association Alert Day is observed annually on the fourth Tuesday in March (March 26th, 2019) and first started in 1986. This day is a one-day “wake-up call” to inform the American public about the seriousness of diabetes and encourages all to take the diabetes risk test and learn about your family’s history of diabetes. Diabetes mellitus is a term for a group of disorders that cause elevated blood sugar (glucose) levels in the body. Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed in childhood and occurs because the pancreas is unable to make produce insulin. Insulin is required for the breakdown of glucose. Type 2 diabetes is a disorder that is characterized by an inability of the pancreas to make enough insulin, and this was initially been a disorder of adulthood but is now being diagnosed in children as a result of high sugar diets. Gestational diabetes is seen in pregnancy and usually resolves after the baby is born. Gestational diabetes and type 1 diabetes can be treated with oral hypoglycemic pills and/or insulin depending on the severity of the disorder; however, type 1 diabetes is only and always treated with insulin. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 100 million adults are living in the United States are living with diabetes or prediabetes (a predisposition to diabetes) and most of these numbers can be prevented by a mindful diet an daily exercise.
Complications associated with diabetes
Diabetes can result in severe complications affecting almost every organ in the body. Diabetic retinopathy (blindness), neuropathy (decreased sensation in hands and feet), erectile dysfunction, kidney complications, heart disease, stroke, delayed wound healing and gastrointestinal problems are all well-known complications associated with long-term diabetes and as a result individuals with diabetes are strongly encouraged to have their eyes and feet checked once a year.
Although not formally recognized by The American Psychiatric Association (APA) or The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), diabulimia is a co-occurring disorder involving type I diabetes and an eating disorder, most commonly bulimia nervosa. Individuals with diabulimia reduce their insulin intake to lose weight. Insulin is responsible for transporting sugar from the bloodstream into the tissues in the body, and when insulin is not present, a spike in blood sugar occurs and sugar cannot be carried into the appropriate tissues requiring the authority to use proteins and fats as an energy source which results in weight loss. Individuals with diabetes are responsible for monitoring their sugar levels and are often required to count their carbohydrates. This obsession with numbers can quickly carry over into an eating disorder where body weight and size is an obsession. Treatment for diabetes requires amounts whereas treatment for eating disorders requires letting go of numbers and therefore a conflict between the two arise. Individuals with this disorder will often binge on high-calorie and sugary foods knowing their bodies will burn fat instead of sugar if they do inject their bodies with insulin.
Signs and symptoms of diabulimia
The signs and symptoms associated with diabulimia are similar to those associated with both the side effects of diabetes and eating disorders.
Extreme elevations in blood sugar
Obsessions with body image and weight
Fear of gaining weight
Depression and mood swings
Increased cravings for sugary foods
Hiding insulin and syringes
Source: CDC. National Diabetes Statistics Report. 2017