Diabetes and Alcohol

Diabetes and alcohol, do they mix?  <hum, I’m picturing an image of a martini glass with the word diabetes inside and a huge red circle and strike thru on it)

The main objective of a diabetic patient is to control or manage his blood sugar level. The food and beverages that we consume will have an effect on that control. Some food and beverages have even a bigger effect. Alcohol is one of them and has a direct influence on diabetes management.

Diabetes and Alcohol – Not a Great Combination

Alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body, so keep that in mind. Alcohol is also very high in calories, which can lead to increase in body weight and blood sugar levels. People with poorly managed diabetes mellitus should not drink alcohol altogether.

Alcohol moves through the bloodstream quite easily without ever being metabolized in the stomach. Without giving the liver the proper amount of time to break down the alcohol, it will move to other organs in the body and eventually build up in the bloodstream. Your body can only break down one ounce of alcohol per hour.

It is recommended that people with diabetes avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. 

Safe Drinking Guidelines

Guidelines for diabetics and alcohol consumption are as follows: one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Those over 65 should also only allow themselves one drink per day.

At parties, many people will drink more than they eat.  Diabetic patients can develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in such situations. Alcohol tends to lower blood sugar even more.  

Watch Out for Hypoglycemia

Drinking and exercise can also cause hypoglycemia in diabetics, so consider having good low carb meal if you plan to go out drinking and dancing.  And limit yourself to one drink!

Generally, when diabetics are experiencing low blood sugar levels, the liver changes the stored carbohydrates in the body into glucose. This glucose in the bloodstream slows down the 'low glucose' reaction that the body is having.

Never Drink on an Empty Stomach

So, what is happening when you mix diabetes and alcohol? When a diabetic person experiences low glucose levels while drinking alcohol, the trouble lies in that the liver, reacting to the alcohol that has built up in the bloodstream as a toxin, will go on red alert and stop producing glucose in order to cleanse the body of the alcohol. Therefore, drinking on an empty stomach is not recommended.

Hypoglycemia Can Be Missed, Warn Friend and Family about Symptoms

Drinking just one alcoholic drink can impair judgment enough to make a critical mistake in diabetes management. Diabetics should make sure that there is someone with them who knows what to watch for should a low blood sugar reaction occurs. Hypoglycemic episodes can be easily confused with being tipsy. Remember hypoglycemia can happen some hours after a drinking session.

Wear a Medical Alert Bracelet

A bracelet, necklace or identification card stating medical conditions should be worn at all times and glucose tablets should be kept nearby also. It is recommended that diabetics not take naps or fall asleep without having a snack or meal first and to check glucose levels first thing in the morning.

Be Sensible

When it comes to diabetes and alcohol, keep to sensible drinking levels. Alternate an alcoholic drink with a low-calorie mixer. Don't drink on an empty stomach - enjoy a meal before or with your drink. You may need to eat a bigger meal before the party. Adjust your insulin before you drink.

Stick to Drinks That Are Lower in Sugar

Red, dry or medium-dry white wines are acceptable in moderation as are dry sherries and dry light beers, such as lagers and light ales; these are fermented with 'low residual sugars' and are perfect for moderate consumption. Hard liquors such as whiskey, gin or vodka can be mixed with sugar-free or diet mixers.

Sweet wines, ports, and Sherries have high residual sugar contents, as do heavy and/or dark sweetened beers such as stout and porters. Wine coolers, hard liquors mixed with regular sodas and cocktails, in general, should be avoided by diabetics.

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