Diabetes and Alcohol

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 6 May 2021

Table of Contents

 

  1. Diabetes and Alcohol
  2. Facts About Diabetes and Alcohol
  3. Effects of Alcohol on Diabetes
  4. Diabetes and Alcohol Consumption Dos and Don'ts

 

Diabetes and Alcohol

 

If you have diabetes, alcohol consumption will trigger your blood sugar to increase or fall. Additionally, alcohol is high in calories.

 

If you want to consume alcohol, do so with moderation and only when the diabetes and blood sugar levels are well-controlled. If you are on a calorie-restricted diet, one drink of alcohol can be considered two fat exchanges. Learn more about alcohol's impact on diabetes.

It is prudent to consult your doctor to determine if alcohol consumption is appropriate for you.

Facts About Diabetes and Alcohol

Drinking alcohol should be avoided for those with diabetes because it can exacerbate some of the problems associated with the disease. To begin with, alcohol interferes with the liver's ability to regulate blood sugar. Alcohol may also interfere with the effectiveness of certain diabetic treatments. And if you just consume alcohol on occasion, tell the doctor about it so he or she can determine which medications are better for you.

Here's what you should be aware of:

1. Alcohol interferes with the effectiveness of diabetic treatments.

Depending on how much you consume, alcohol may trigger your blood glucose levels to increase or fall. Sulfonylureas and meglitinides, for example, reduce blood glucose levels by causing the pancreas to produce more insulin. Combining the medication's blood-sugar-lowering effects with alcohol will result in hypoglycemia, also known as “insulin shock," which is a medical emergency.

2. Alcohol impairs the liver's ability to function.

Your liver's primary purpose is to store glycogen, which is a type of glucose that can be used as a source of energy while you haven't eaten. When you consume alcohol, the liver must work harder to eliminate drugs from the bloodstream rather than regulating blood sugar, or blood glucose. As a result, you should never consume alcohol if your blood glucose level is already low.

3. Never consume alcoholic beverages with an empty stomach.

The rate at which alcohol is ingested into the bloodstream is reduced by food. If you're planning to consume alcohol, make sure you eat a meal or snack that contains carbohydrates.

4. Before consuming an alcoholic beverage, measure your blood sugar.

Since alcohol reduces your liver's capacity to process glucose, it's important to know your blood glucose level before you consume an alcoholic beverage.

5. Hypoglycemia may be caused by alcohol.

Alcohol will trigger the blood glucose level to drop within minutes of consuming it and for up to 12 hours afterward. Always monitor the blood glucose level after drinking alcohol to ensure it remains within the safe range. If you have low blood sugar, take a snack to boost it.

6. Drinking slowly will save your life.

Too much alcohol will make you dizzy, tired, and confused, which are all signs of hypoglycemia. Wear a bracelet that informs those around you that you have diabetes so that if you begin to become intoxicated, they may be aware that the symptoms could be induced by hypoglycemia. To increase your blood glucose level if you are hypoglycemic, you will require food and/or glucose tablets.

7. Knowing your limit can save your life.

Your doctor will advise you about how much alcohol is safe for you to consume. It could indicate no alcohol at all, depending on your state of health. Women with diabetes should have no more than one alcoholic beverage a day in certain cases. There should be no more than two for men.

Effects of Alcohol on Diabetes

Additionally, alcohol can have an impact on diabetes in the following ways:

  • While moderate amounts of alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to increase, excessive amounts may actually cause them to fall dangerously low, particularly in people with type 1 diabetes.
  • Beer and sweet wine also contain carbohydrates and can result in an increase in blood sugar levels.
  • Alcohol increases the appetite, and may lead to binge eating and impair the blood sugar control.
  • Alcoholic beverages also have a high caloric content, making it more difficult to reduce extra weight.
  • Additionally, alcohol can impair your judgement and willpower, resulting in poor food choices.
  • Alcohol consumption can result in an increase in triglyceride levels.
  • Alcoholic beverages can cause a rise in blood pressure.
  • Flushing, nausea, an elevated pulse rate, and slurred voice are also possible side effects of alcohol.

These signs can be confused with or overlap with those of hypoglycemia.

Diabetes and Alcohol Consumption Dos and Don'ts

Individuals with diabetes who consume alcohol should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Consume no more than two alcoholic beverages in a single day if you are a male, or one alcoholic beverage if you are a woman.

  • Consume alcohol only in conjunction with meals.

  • Consume alcohol slowly, avoid binging.

  • Avoid “sweet" cocktails, sweet wines, and cordials.

  • Wear a medic bracelet indicating that you have diabetes.

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