What is diabulimia?

Pediatrician Jamie Wood, MD Clinical Diabestes, shares advice for parents on what diabulimia is and the signs to look out for that may indicate that your child has it
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What is diabulimia?

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Diabulimia is not actually a medical diagnosis. It's a term that has been used recently to describe a person who has diabetes who also has bulimia or an eating disorder. People who have an bulimia will purge in an attempt to control their weight. They will purge with exercise, with vomiting, with laxatives to have diarrhea. A person with diabetes can purge by eating, but not taking their insulin when they eat so that the calories from the food that they eat don't absorb, and they don't gain weight. It is a very dangerous, very serious condition that is, quite honestly, very challenging to treat. Eating disorders are challenging to treat anyway, but when you have a person -- usually a woman, but not always -- who has both Type I Diabetes and bulimia or an eating disorder, it becomes immensely challenging. A person with Type I Diabetes has to count every gram of carbohydrate that they take. Most of their day, they are thinking about what they are eating and how much they are eating. For a person who struggles with an eating disorder or body image, separate from the diabetes, it becomes quite problematic. Diabulimia is often can be difficult to identify in a person with Diabetes, because a child can have poor blood sugar control for a multiple of reasons. They may not have poor control of their diabetes in an attempt to lose weight, they just may be having trouble controlling their Diabetes for other reasons. It's really about noticing comments about body image and weight. So if a parent notices their teenager talking about weight concerns, or a desire to lose weight or they see them starting to skip insulin at different times of the day, in addition to concerns over weight. That's something that they need to bring to their medical team's attention.

Pediatrician Jamie Wood, MD Clinical Diabestes, shares advice for parents on what diabulimia is and the signs to look out for that may indicate that your child has it

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Jamie R. Wood, MD

Pediatrician, Clinical Diabetes, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Dr. Jamie Wood was born and raised in Vermont, where she also attended medical school. She completed her pediatric residency at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, and her endocrine fellowship at Children’s Hospital Boston and the Joslin Diabetes Center of Harvard University. She moved to the Los Angeles area in 2008 and is now the Director of Clinical Diabetes Programs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Wood’s specialty is the care of youth with type 1 and type 2 diabetes—a field she fell in love with during a medical student rotation at a summer camp for youth with diabetes.  She also enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking, and playing with her husband and two children, Jackson and Olivia.

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