How Drinking Alcohol Affects Diabetes
If you have diabetes, you must use extra care when consuming alcohol. Alcohol can make many of the complications suffered because of the condition worse. Alcohol affects the liver, and the liver’s job is to regulate blood sugar.
Many medications that are prescribed for those who have diabetes will interact with alcohol. Even if you just drink alcohol socially on rare occasions, you need to tell your physician so they can determine which medicine will work best for you and your situations.
What Diabetics Should Know Before They Drink
If you have diabetes, you need to be informed before you drink alcohol. There are several ways that alcohol can affect a diabetic. Here are some basic facts that you need to know.
- Alcohol can interact with medication for diabetes – Consuming alcohol can cause your blood sugar levels to drop or increase, depending on the amount of alcohol you consume. Some oral medications for diabetes, such as meglitinides or sulfonylureas, lower blood sugar levels from stimulating the pancreas to encourage the manufacture of insulin. When you take your medication and drink, you are combining the effects of lowering blood sugar, which can lead to insulin shock or hypoglycemia, which are medical emergencies.
- Alcohol affects your liver’s performance and keeps it from doing its job. Your liver keeps the stored glucose form, glycogen so you will have some stored when you haven’t eaten. Your liver must work to get alcohol out of your bloodstream rather than working to regulate your blood sugar levels when you drink alcohol. You should never consume alcoholic beverages if your blood sugar level is already low.
- Don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Food will help slow down the speed of alcohol absorption in the bloodstream, so make sure you have a snack or a meal containing carbohydrates before you drink alcohol.
- If you are diabetic, you should check your blood sugar before consuming alcohol. Because alcohol impairs your liver’s ability to produce glucose, you need to know your blood sugar levels before you ever start drinking.
- Be sure to drink slowly. If you drink too much too fast, you will feel disoriented, sleepy, and dizzy, which are the same symptoms that accompany hypoglycemia. You need to wear a bracelet to alert others that you are diabetic so that if you start acting intoxicated, they will realize it might not be the alcohol but your blood sugar that is causing your problems. If you become hypoglycemic, you will need glucose tablets or food to raise blood sugar levels.
- You need to know your limits. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you how much alcohol is safe for you to drink based on your condition and your medications. For some people, it might mean absolutely no alcohol consumption. Some women with diabetes might not be allowed more than one alcoholic drink per day while men shouldn’t consume more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
Alcohol and Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetics
Alcohol also has a lot of calories, and if you are overweight that can affect your diabetes and your blood sugar levels. One goal of diabetics is to maintain a healthy weight, so you don’t want to overdo it and take in too many calories from alcohol. Sweet wine and beer contain carbohydrates, which might increase your blood sugar levels.
Also, when you consume alcohol, it will stimulate your appetite and cause you to overeat, causing you to gain weight in the long run and could impact your ability to control blood sugar levels. Because of the excess calories in alcohol, it will make losing weight even more challenging. Consuming alcohol could also affect your willpower or judgment, leading to poor food choices and weight gain.
In addition, alcohol causes symptoms that might be confused with diabetic complications, such as nausea, increased heart rate, slurred speech, and flushing.
Here are some further recommendations for diabetics:
- Don’t drink more than one alcoholic beverage per day for females or two per day for males.
- Drink very slowly.
- Be sure to eat when drinking alcohol.
- Avoid sweet wines, mixed drinks that are sugary, or cordials.
- Mix liquor with diet sodas, water, or club soda.
- Always wear a piece of jewelry to alert others of your medical condition.
- Always talk with your medical provider before consuming any alcohol at all if you are diabetic.
If you are diabetic, it is better to be cautious. If you have any doubts, don’t consume any alcohol. Diabetes and alcohol aren’t a good mix and can lead to serious consequences.