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Appetite Changes and Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that limits your body’s ability to manage the glucose (sugar) in your blood. In 2018, approximately 34 million Americans had diabetes, but only about 27 million of them knew about their diagnosis. Many are living with diabetes and don’t know it.

Unfortunately, uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to several health complications, but appetite changes can provide clues. Dr. Rohit Dwivedi here at Sonoran Endocrinology has these insights to share about the role your appetite plays when you have diabetes.

How blood sugar works

Glucose comes from food you digest and absorb, and this sugar moves throughout your bloodstream to fuel your body. Under ideal conditions, the hormones insulin and glucagon regulate blood sugar in the body to keep it within a healthy range. 

Insulin

When you consume carbohydrates, the digestive process turns them into sugar. As the sugar enters your bloodstream, it causes your blood glucose levels to rise. This process signals your pancreas to make insulin, which helps the cells in your body to absorb the sugar from your bloodstream.

Cells either use glucose for energy immediately, or cells in liver or muscle tissues store the sugar as glycogen for later use. Insulin is needed for both of these processes.

Glucagon

Glucagon works in tandem with insulin. Decreasing glucose levels in your blood, usually 4-6 hours after you eat, signal glucagon production in your pancreas. When released, glucagon tells the cells storing glycogen to turn it back into glucose.

When in balance, this delicate cycle is in constant motion to provide a continuous supply of energy and keep your blood sugar balanced. If you have diabetes, your blood sugar is too high because your pancreas doesn’t make enough (or any) insulin or doesn’t use it properly.

Uncontrolled hunger

Diabetes often causes excessive hunger, especially cravings for sugary food. Also known as polyphagia, this change in your appetite develops because of both high and low blood sugar levels.

High blood sugar

In most cases, you have high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) when your glucose levels reach 140 mg/dL or higher. However, you can expect to start feeling hunger as soon as you hit 250 mg/dL, and your cravings only become stronger the longer it stays at these levels.

This also means that the more you eat, the hungrier you’ll get, because your blood sugar continues to rise as your body turns the food you consume into glucose.

Low blood sugar

It may seem like less is better when it comes to blood sugar, but having low glucose can also cause excessive hunger. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, typically starts triggering sugar cravings when your glucose levels drop below 70-80 mg/dL. At the same time, you can also have sudden and intense hunger if your blood sugar drops rapidly.

Loss of appetite

Many people associate excessive hunger with diabetes, but loss of appetite is just as serious, whether you have a diagnosis of diabetes or not. Two complications of diabetes can lead to loss of appetite: diabetic ketoacidosis and gastroparesis.

Diabetic ketoacidosis

When you have too much sugar in your blood, you can experience diabetic ketoacidosis. This issue occurs when your body can’t use the glucose in your system for fuel, so it starts breaking down fat instead. This causes ketones to build up in your blood and urine, making your system more acidic. It can also cause loss of appetite and make you dangerously ill.

This is a serious complication and indicates that your diabetes is not under control.

Gastroparesis

Diabetes is also the leading cause of gastroparesis, a condition where food moves slowly through your gastrointestinal tract. Unfortunately, having high blood sugar can cause nerve damage over time, including the nerves involved in digestion. When this occurs, it’s harder for your digestive muscles to move food from your stomach into your small intestine, which slows digestion and causes loss of appetite. 

Having gastroparesis can also make it harder to control your glucose levels properly.

If you have diabetes or you’ve noticed appetite changes, Dr. Dwivedi can help you keep your blood sugar under control. Contact one of our offices in Surprise or Gilbert, Arizona. You can call the nearest office or book an appointment online today.

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