Diabulimia: Battling Type 1 Diabetes and Eating Disorders Together

Posted in Diabetes Research News

In managing type 1 diabetes (T1D), individuals can become very focused on the numbers associated with their condition – blood sugar levels, A1C, weight, insulin dosage – as well as what they eat. The food they consume impacts blood sugar and insulin needs. Some people struggle with not just T1D, but an eating disorder as well.

Dealing with diabetes can cause changes in weight. Some people lose weight quickly before diagnosis and gain it back once they begin treatment to help their body. This can be difficult to deal with, and individuals may begin restricting their insulin in order to control their weight, a condition known as diabulimia.

This can be very dangerous as their blood sugar levels can spiral out of control and increase risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, bacterial infections, muscle atrophy, dehydration, delayed wound healing, peripheral neuropathy, kidney disease, and more. These issues can become potentially fatal if not properly treated.

Researchers recently evaluated 11 online blogs of individuals with diabulimia to explore their experiences with this condition and the challenges they have faced. The bloggers expressed a variety of motives for choosing to restrict their insulin, as well as diverse complications from doing so. However, they found that having a strong support system, recognizing triggers for relapse, and improving diabetes self-management were beneficial to recovery.

Treating diabulimia can be difficult because rapidly altering blood glucose levels can be dangerous. It must be done carefully under medical supervision. In addition, treatment cannot only address diabetes management. It must also focus on eating disorders and improving the person’s relationship with insulin, food, and self-perception. There are many underlying issues that should be taken into consideration. Treatment providers should be well-versed in both T1D and eating disorders.

More in-depth research is necessary to gain a better understanding of effective interventions and treatment approaches for diabulimia. Organizations like the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) provide critical funding for peer-reviewed, novel studies regarding T1D. Early career researchers can make strides in advancing diabetes management and eventually finding a cure. To learn more about current projects or support these efforts, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.