Islets of Hope for persons newly diagnosed with diabetes

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Article by Lahle Wolfe. For reprint information e-mail:

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Links to more comprehensive information on complications of diabetes

Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetic Retinopathy
Eating Disorders
Erectile Dysfunctions
Foot & Skin Problems
Frozen Shoulder
Gum Disease
Heart Problems
High Blood Pressure
Insulin Shock
Kidney Problems
Lactic Acidosis
Seizures & Coma
Peripheral Artery Disease
Sexual Problems
Urologic Problems
Weight Gain
Weight Loss
Wound Care

think like a pancreas  Gary Scheiner, CDE
Think Like a Pancreas:
 Many books offer advice on managing diabetes, but few focus specifically on the day-to-day issues facing those who use insulin.  Scheiner, a certified diabetes educator and himself an insulin user himself since 1985, gives you the tools to "think like a pancreas"--that is, to successfully master the art and science of matching insulin to the body’s ever-changing needs. Free of medical mumbo jumbo, comprehensive, and packed with useful information not readily available in other books.

Newly Diagnosed (easier reading) Problems & Complaints with Diabetes

Comprehensive Information on Diabetes Problems & Complaints

the schwarzbein principle

The Schwarzbein Principle

The Schwarzbein Principle is a holistic guide to achieving lasting weight loss, normalizing metabolism and maintaining ideal body composition through lifestyle and nutrition. By bringing the internal systems into balance, the Schwarzbein program has been proven to: reverse type II diabetes; free people from food cravings for chocolate, caffeine and sugar; cure depression and mood swings; and reduce body fat while building lean tissue. The nutritional program consists of two phases; Healing and Maintenance, which are easy to adopt into any lifestyle. Instead of shunning fat, the program advocates eating all of the good fats and proteins your body needs as well as an unlimited portion of non-starchy carbohydrates. By incorporating the lifestyle components of stress management, exercise and eliminating harmful stimulants, program participants experience renewed energy and vitality.

Newly Diagnosed Diabetes Information
Information for those Newly Diagnosed with Diabetes                             Print Full Diabetes Complications Article

Complications of diabetes
Weight loss, gain and eating disorders

This section:    Weight Gain  *  Weight Loss  *   Eating Disorders

Other complications:

Amputation  *  Blindness  *  Diabetic Ketoacidosis  *  Diabetic Neuropathy  *  Diabetic Retinopathy  *
Eating Disorders  *   Erectile Dysfunctions  *  Foot & Skin Problems  *  Gastroparesis  *  Gum Disease *    Heart Problems  *
High Blood Pressure
 *  Infections  *   Infertility  *  Insulin Shock  *  Kidney Problems  *  Seizures & Coma  *
Peripheral Artery Disease  * Sexual Problems  *  Urologic Problems  *  Weight Gain  *  Weight Loss  *  Wound Care

Click on any link to read more in-depth information about each topic.  

Weight Gain

Weight gain can be the result of an unhealthy lifestyle including lack of physical activity and eating too much.  But other factors can also contribute to weight gain including certain oral medications prescribed for diabetes, stress, insufficient sleep, and too much insulin.  Hashimoto's thyroiditis, a hypothyroid (low) autoimmune disease can also cause weight gain and people with diabetes have a 4 times greater chance of having this thyroid disorder than non-diabetics.

Certain metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, gestational diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance can also lead to weight gain.  Many people with these disorders may be insulin resistant and therefore overproduce insulin in response to eating.  Insulin is not only a fat-storing hormone that instructs the body to store energy, but excess insulin cannot be excreted and can also be stored as fat.

When a person with insulin resistance eats certain foods (many types of carbohydrates, excessive protein, or high-fat foods) their body may over respond by producing too much insulin in order to maintain normal blood glucose levels.  This is because cells in the body do not respond effectively to insulin so the body keeps on producing more until the cells finally "unlock" and move glucose into cells for nourishment.

Insulin resistance can be improved.  Exercise, especially anaerobic (such as weight lifting and resistance training) activity can improve muscle sensitivity to insulin and increase insulin sensitivity by as much as 15% -- the same percentage of improvement as may be seen when taking oral insulin-sensitizing medications.  Losing weight also improves insulin resistance, as does following a healthy, low-fat, moderate protein diet, rich in complex carbohydrates.

Many with insulin resistance find it easier to meet their weight loss goals by following low-glycemic index diets, or carbohydrate controlled plans.  True, low-carbohydrate (40 grams of carbohydrate or less per day) that induce ketosis are somewhat controversial as to their long-term health risks and benefits.  But many who are metabolically challenged and unable to lose weight on other plans find they can control their weight by more drastic carbohydrate reduction.

Sudden weight gain from fluid retention may indicate a serious underlying medical problem including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, a negative side effect to an oral antidiabetes medication, or even a condition such as irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease.  Be sure to discuss any sudden, unexplained, or significant weight loss with your physician.

Weight Loss

Weight loss may be part of a healthy approach to managing diabetes, especially for those with type 2 diabetes.  But when weight loss is either unintentional, or more than healthy, it could be part of an underlying medical condition or possibly due to an eating disorder.

Weight loss can occur when blood glucose levels are too high, or, when those on insulin are not taking enough insulin to cover food eaten.  One of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes prior to diagnosis is weight loss because when not enough insulin is present to properly metabolize and make use of food energy glucose (sugars) will build up in the blood stream.

To understand why weight loss occurs when not enough insulin is present it may help to think of insulin as a key that "unlocks" cells and allows glucose (from food energy) to enter into cells and nourish the body.  Without sufficient insulin the body's cells, tissues, organs, and even the brain begin to starve.  As a defense, the body turns to fat stores in an effort to find useable energy.  When this happens, in addition to a buildup of glucose in the bloodstream, ketones (a byproduct of fat burning) may also build up in the body.  This can lead to a serious, potentially life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and may require hospitalization.

You should always discuss unexpected weight loss, or moderate-high levels of urine ketones to your physician.

Eating Disorders

Why should you know about eating disorders?  If you, your child, or loved one has one of the many metabolic disorders that carry a medical demand of closely monitoring eating habits, there is a significant increase in the risk of developing an eating disorder. Eating disorders (EDs) are not just a problem for young girls; an all too common belief.  EDs can develop at any age and also affect boys and men.  In Australian type 1 diabetic children as young as 11 years old purposely under bolus insulin with meals in order to lose weight.

In the United States studies suggest up to 25% of all females with diabetes – a prevalence of 2-6 times higher in women with diabetes than in the general population – have an eating disorder.  The findings from a study by Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide, also showed children in Australia with diabetes were markedly affected by disordered eating behavior:

  • 39% of young children with type 1 diabetes were binge eaters,
  • 25% exercised excessively to lose weight,
  • 10% had reduced their dose of insulin or omitted it completely to lose weight,
  • 8% restricted their diets to lose weight.

While diabetes does not actually cause an eating disorder, having to pay close attention to weight management and food choices places an unnatural and unhealthy focus on eating and leads to distortion of self and body image.  Once a person has ED issues, it is often easy for them to hide their problem under the guise of “it is part of my diabetes care plan.” 

Restricting, the elimination of certain foods or entire food groups, is a common factor in ED behavior, as is developing “safe” and “unsafe” food lists.  A person may become overly concerned or anxious when offered something from their “restricted or unsafe list.”  The initial limitation and focus of a food may stem from legitimate management issues (eating high glycemic index carbohydrates causes a rapid rise in blood sugars, fat prolongs highs) that develop into compulsive avoidance.  Fear may also stem from weight gain which can happen with all forms of diabetes, and for diabetics, the body conscious, ultra-thin-is-desirable- culture we live in, is made even worse because diabetics are weighed at every visit and constantly reminded from a health standpoint about excess body weight and diabetes.  And those with metabolic challenges, especially type 2 and pre-diabetes, hear the “thin message” from culture, health professionals, parents, and even their own still voice from within.  In fact, many believe that diabetics are to blame for their onset and readily point the finger at a lifestyle out of control.


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Page Updated 03/23/2006