The basic science behind diabulimia is that, without insulin to process glucose, the body cannot break down sugars from food to use as energy. Instead, the body’s cells break down fat already stored in the body, flushing out the excess sugar through the urine. If there’s not fat to burn, the body will start burning through muscle and organs.
Some people binge eat and then omit their insulin.
Please find below our blog post on Diabulimia and Muslim Sufferers. This post comes after BBC 3 aired documentary on Diabulimia: World’s most dangerous Eating Disorder. We Thank Claire and Jack for their hard work into bring us this timely piece of documentary. Thank you for bringing in diversity and showing Diabulimia doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone.
Diabulimia is a rare and deadly combination. It’s a psychologically rooted eating disorder that manifests in individuals who also suffer from Type-1 Diabetes. Many of its victims are usually women, and many of them end up committing considerable self-harm unless treated. In fact, if left to their own devices the disease can and will result in their deaths. Don’t underestimate this condition if you or a loved one potentially has it. The condition is considered a ‘dual diagnosis’ by medical professionals. This is because it’s really a combination of two separate conditions. These are bulimia and Type-1 diabetes. Many victims of this condition are also Muslims, particularly young Muslim girls. What can be done to help them better? Let’s take a closer look at the condition first.
A Breakdown of Diabulimia
Unlike Type-2 diabetes, Type-1 is more inherited than it is lifestyle induced. The UK NHS defines it as a lifelong autoimmune disorder. Once you have it, your body isn’t going to produce enough insulin. This is because the disease attacks your pancreas which creates this insulin. Insulin is vital for the absorption of sugars and energy in the body. It also regulates blood sugar levels. Without insulin, you’d quickly die.
On the other hand, bulimia is a dangerous mental condition. People with bulimia intentionally starve themselves in order to lose or not gain weight. They do this by restricting everything they eat or even engage in binge eating and then forcing themselves to vomit or use excessive laxatives. This leads to them becoming seriously malnourished and at risk for various conditions.
Thus, when people have diabulimia, they end up intentionally refusing their insulin treatments. They believe that insulin will cause them to gain weight and become fat. In a documentary by BBC Three, a number of young girls with diabulimia were interviewed. Many felt that skimping on insulin allowed them to eat whatever they want without fear that their body would metabolize and turn it into fat.
People with this condition carry huge risks. They can develop further psychological conditions for one. Additionally, lack of proper nourishment wreaks havoc on their immunity. Their risks of developing various types of infections skyrockets! They also become more prone to strokes, heart conditions and blood pressure disorders.
Some of the girls who had the condition were Muslims as well. In the UK and many other countries, there are many silent sufferers just like them. Religious and cultural differences may add an extra layer of complication to things. There are practically no statistics on this phenomenon with this proving doubly true for Muslims. Diabulimia is already hardly studied due to the small number of people it affects. Research into it regarding Muslims is even rarer. This due to stigma and possible fears of running afoul religious and cultural beliefs.
In fact, some sufferers feel as though skipping insulin is killing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, injections may be taboo for them either due to religious or cultural beliefs. This may be more common among children of recently immigrated families. On the other hand, they also feel they won’t gain weight and feel more secure skipping their shots. Some Muslims also believe that taking injections for the purpose of nourishment during their Ramadan fasting is ‘haram’ (not permissible). This belief may arise due to not fully understanding the condition. More data and awareness campaigns are obviously needed to address this issue.
One of the Muslim girls from said documentary faced this issue. Her family did not fully understand what diabulimia is. As a result, she ended up missing shots days at a time without them knowing. Only when it became a serious medical issue did an intervention become mandatory. It was here they understood just what the risks were and opted to play a larger role in her treatment. This is important as a family can play a huge role in treating a psychological condition.
We Need To Take Action
Awareness campaigns need to be created against this silent killer. Academics must be prompted to investigate it further. Better understanding it will allow better treatments. The psychological aspect is incredibly important to understand and should be researched thoroughly. Particular attention should be given to differences in culture and belief. Muslims with this condition would benefit from outreach which discusses it with their families.
Better knowledge about diabulimia can help overcome any taboos. This includes cultural differences and views on mental health. With greater family support many lives can be saved. Sufferers can be identified well before drastic symptoms start showing. This includes increased sickness, drastic weight loss, and harmful practices. Additionally, some ethnic groups are also more prone to develop Type-1 diabetes. Many of these ethnic groups comprise immigrants and are adherents of Islam. This makes them a high-risk group for this problem. Neglecting that reality could mean the death of many young children.
Thus, people with Type-1 diabetes should be educated on the issue. This will allow sufferers to feel more comfortable about seeking out help. We must remember that they cannot do this alone. It needs to be a teamwork effort. A proper standard for education about this in the medical system is a must. This will also allow Muslim sufferers to better reach out to their own family and not be hampered by taboos or cultural issues.