Diabetes and alcohol: the consequences of drinking alcoholic beverages without good control of blood sugar

Alcohol can lead to higher blood sugar levels or levels that are too low.

Alcohol can lead to higher blood sugar levels or levels that are too low.

Photo: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Drinking alcohol when you have diabetes carries some risksThis is because alcohol can interfere with the way the body uses blood sugar and can also interfere with certain diabetes medications.

Alcohol can lead to higher blood sugar levels or levels that are too low.

It is possible that people with diabetes can drink alcohol taking into account some measures for safe consumption, some of them are the moderation, check blood sugar level frequently and do not drink on an empty stomach.

Risk of hypoglycemia

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) notes that The biggest concern with drinking alcohol when you have diabetes is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

“The problem with alcohol is that the liver is not good at multitasking. The liver will choose to metabolize alcohol rather than maintain blood sugar. The liver stops releasing glucose, as a result, the blood sugar level can drop rapidly.

Medline Plus notes that injecting insulin or taking certain types of diabetes medicine can cause a serious drop in blood sugar. Drinking alcohol without eating at the same time can also increase this risk.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include slurred speech, drowsiness, confusion, or trouble walking, are also symptoms of drunkenness and it can be difficult to tell them apart.

The risk of low blood sugar remains for hours after taking the last drink. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk. Also, being intoxicated makes it harder to recognize low blood sugar symptoms.

Increase in blood sugar levels

Some alcoholic beverages such as beer and sugary mixed drinks are high in carbohydrateswhich can cause an increase in blood sugar levels.

The ADA notes that high-carbohydrate beverages may seem like the option when you’re at risk for hypoglycemia, but it’s more complicated than that. “Liquid sugars are quickly absorbed by the body, so those carbs won’t be of much help in preventing or treating a low that can occur hours after drinking.”

General recommendations for alcohol consumption when you have diabetes.

While there is no universal rule on how to drink alcohol safely when living with diabetes, there are some general recommendations to consider:

Check your blood sugar level often. Before you start drinking alcohol, while drinking, a few hours after drinking, and up to 24 hours after you stop drinking.

Do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach or when blood glucose is low. Drinking alcohol with a meal or a high-carbohydrate snack will help keep your blood sugar levels normal.

Consume alcohol in moderation. No more than two drinks per day for men and one drink for women. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol), five ounces of wine (12% alcohol), 1.5 ounces of spirits: gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, etc. (80 proof or 40% alcohol content).

Opt for “light” beers: Diabetes Food Hub notes that these beers are the lowest in carbohydrates (generally 5 grams or less per serving), calories, and alcohol.

drink slowly Do not consume more than one drink per hour.

Have a source of sugar such as glucose tablets, in case sugar levels drop.

Do not exercise if you have drunk alcohol. Exercising increases the risk that your blood sugar level will drop.

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