Diabetics do some planning regarding the foods and drinks they consume each day. It is natural to wonder how drinking alcohol affects diabetes. Is it safe for a diabetic to drink?
First there are a few questions that must be considered.
1) Is your diabetes under control?
2) Do you understand the effect alcohol will have on your blood sugar and what to do about it?
3) Have you talked with your health provider about whether you can drink, and how much you can consume?
If you are taking oral hypoglycemic medication, or need to inject insulin each day, regardless of whether you are a type 1 or type 2 diabetic, it is best to have a regular established routine already in place on how to manage your blood sugars, so that you stay within normal ranges. This way you can anticipate any changes that may occur if you drink alcohol.
This includes understanding and being in control of any other health problems you may additionally have, such as hypertension, elevated cholesterol and obesity.
Drinking alcohol can cause your blood sugar to rise or fall, depending on a few factors.
Beer and wine contain carbohydrates, which ordinarily would cause your blood sugar to rise. However, if you are taking oral medication to lower your blood sugar such as sulfonylureas and meglitinides, they act by stimulating the pancreas to make more insulin cautioned Healthline.com.
This means that instead of raising your blood sugar, your blood sugar can dangerously drop causing hypoglycemia, and may lead to insulin shock. Insulin shock is a medical emergency.
In addition, when you consume alcohol, your liver jumps into action to try and remove it from your blood. Your liver stops doing its other job of turning stored carbohydrates into useable glucose, which is another potential cause for hypoglycemia occurring in your blood.
This is why it is very important that you do not drink alcohol without eating some food beforehand or along with it. Eating food can slow down absorption of the alcohol. Healthline.com recommends testing your blood sugar before you drink so you know what it is when you start.
Sometimes hypoglycemia can mimic the appearance of drunkenness, so others may not recognize what is truly happening. Side effects of dizziness, disorientation and sleepiness can be misinterpreted, and valuable minutes lost, while others are trying to determine what is wrong.
Consider wearing a medical-alert bracelet that notifies others that you are a diabetic, if you decide to drink alcohol.
The effects of alcohol can last up to 12 hours after consuming it, so you may want to check your blood sugar before you go to sleep.
According to Onetouch.com, if your blood sugar is between 100 and 140 mg/dL, you are likely to be fine to go to sleep. However, if it is lower than that, you should eat a snack such as yogurt, cheese and crackers, or a half sandwich, so that your blood sugar does not drop while you are sleeping.
Talk with your health provider about whether it is okay for you to drink alcohol or not.
The ADA recommends that diabetics drink “no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.”
You can exchange calories from alcohol for those you would use for fat, but never substitute drinking alcohol for a meal itself.
Mixing Alcohol with Your Diabetes. One Touch.com. Retrieved Nov. 1, 2015.
Diabetes and Alcohol. Joslin.org. Retrieved Nov. 1, 2015.
Diabetes, Alcohol, and Social Drinking. Healthline.com. Retrieved Nov. 1, 2015.
Diabetes and Alcohol. WebMD. Retrieved Nov. 1, 2015.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues.
Edited by Jody SmithRead more in Diabetes Health Center