Drinking Alcohol With Diabetes

So, drinking alcohol is supposed to reduce the risk of heart disease, but what about diabetes? Your beer (or wine, or whatever!) blocks glucose production in your liver. That can cause a blood sugar drop. Your liver stores the emergency glucose reserves, so if someone drinks too much their liver can’t keep up. Blood sugar levels get dangerously low, and can cause death.

Livers remove toxins from the blood, as a result the alcohol processes in your liver. Most medications metabolize in the liver, too. That’s why mixing alcohol and medications causes liver damage, or other interactions. Ask your doctor about your medications.

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The guidelines for those with diabetes are the same as for the general population.

  • 1 drink/day for women

  • 2 drinks/day for men

*1 drink is 12 oz of beer,1 ½ oz of distilled spirits (like gin, vodka, or whiskey) or a 5 oz glass of wine.

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Specific Alcohol Guidelines for People With Diabetes

  • Don’t drink when your levels are low, or on an empty stomach.

  • Make sure people around you know about your diabetes. If people with you drink alcohol, your hypoglycemia could just look like being too drunk.

  • Read the labels, especially of craft beers. They often have double the calories and alcohol of light beer.

  • Choose drink mixers carefully, if you mix your spirits at all. Club soda or water are best.

Hypoglycemia from drinking alcohol hits you up to 24 hrs later. Always check your blood sugar levels:

  • Before drinking

  • During the evening

  • Before you go to bed and even through the night

  • Even more frequently than normal for the next day

Make sure your levels are safe (100 to 140mg/dL) before bed. Eat something and then check it again if it is low. Even set an alarm on your phone to wake you up overnight to test again.

Alcohol effects are unpredictable. Never drink to treat high blood sugar.

Most importantly, tell your doctor of your drinking patterns. The medications you take may need to be adjusted to be sure you can keep your blood glucose levels in the safe range. When you do go out to an environment where others are drinking alcohol, consider the other beverages that are safe and healthy choices for you.

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