Alcohol and Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) states that the guidelines for drinking alcohol are the same for the public AND people with diabetes. The ADA suggests no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.* Some people who should avoid alcohol altogether, such as those with a history of alcohol abuse or anyone who is pregnant. People with diabetes who have medical problems, such as pancreatitis, high triglycerides or nerve damage should avoid alcohol. Some medicines may be unsafe when used with alcohol. Ask your pharmacist or doctor for guidance on your safe alcohol consumption.

What are the safety measures?

Drinking alcohol can affect blood sugar, so diabetics should be conscious of consuming alcohol at a minimum level. To play it safe, you should only drink alcohol if your diabetes is in good control. For those who take insulin or diabetes pills, low blood sugar can occur. Alcohol prevents the liver from making sugar. It remains in the body up to 8 - 12 hours. During this time, no sugar is released from the liver. The only sugar in the blood comes from food. Therefore, always eat food with alcohol to prevent low blood sugar. Plan to drink with a meal or snack. Mixing alcohol with exercise may cause even lower blood sugars.

Are there other things diabetics need to consider?

Too much alcohol can impair judgement. You could forget to check your blood sugar or take your medicines. Alcohol stimulates your appetite, which might result in you overeating. This could increase blood sugar levels and cause weight gain, as alcohol does contain calories. If your doctor has recommended that you lose weight, these calories need to be worked into your meal plan.

How much alcohol can a diabetic drink?

If you take insulin and do not need to lose weight, you can have one or two drinks in addition to your meal plan. Do not omit food as this may result in low blood sugar. If you use regular soda or any type of juice to mix with your liquor, note that the carbohydrates present in these drinks should be counted into your meal plan. If you mix alcohol with a non-caloric beverage such as diet soda, it does not need to be counted. In general, If you need to lose weight, alcohol must be counted into your meal plan.

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What Diabetics Need to Remember Before Drinking...

  1. Drink alcohol only if your diabetes is under good control.
  2. Only have one or two alcoholic drinks per day.
  3. Always drink alcohol with food. Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach, or when your blood glucose is low.
  4. Avoid caloric mixers such as regular soda or juice, and if used, count these carbs into your meal plan. Opt for calorie-free drink mixers like diet soda or club soda.
  5. Avoid exercise before, during or after drinking.
  6. Carry carbs with you at all times to treat low blood sugar levels.
  7. In case of an emergency, always carry your diabetes I.D. with you.
  8. Hypoglycemia may be mistaken for simply being drunk and can occur as a result of drinking alcohol for up to 24 hours after drinking. Check your blood glucose before and while you drink, before bed, over the course of the night, and more often within the 24 hour time period.

How can your doctor help you?

Make sure that you discuss using alcohol with your doctor. They will help you decide if it is safe to drink, to what capacity, and what precautions you should take depending on your diabetes and other health risks.

*https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/42/Supplement_1/S46 Accessed 06/28/19