Alcohol and Diabetes

As we are in full swing of the holiday season, holiday parties and get-togethers may be crowding up your calendar. Festive holiday drinks and socializing with alcohol may be the norm at many of these parties. Unfortunately, alcohol and diabetes can be a toxic mix. If you have diabetes, it’s important to understand how alcohol can impact your blood sugar control and what other considerations you need to make.

Hypoglycemia

Drinking alcohol can lower your blood glucose for up for 24 hours, which could lead to hypoglycemic episodes (low blood sugar). One of the jobs of the liver is to store sugar, known as glycogen. When your blood sugar starts to dip down, the liver usually jumps into action to release this stored sugar to help keep your blood sugar steady. But if your liver is busy breaking down alcohol, you have a much higher risk of having a severe low blood sugar. Also, due to the effects alcohol has on our bodies, symptoms of hypoglycemia could be masked by intoxication.

Medications

Alcohol can interfere with the positive effects of oral diabetic medication or insulin. Certain diabetes pills directly lower your blood sugar by stimulating the pancreas to make more insulin. Combining these medications with alcohol which can also lower blood sugar can lead to further risk for hypoglycemia. It is important to talk with your doctor about alcohol intake if you are taking medicine for your diabetes.

Empty Calories

Alcohol contain a lot of unnecessary calories and contains no nutritional value. Alcohol also stimulates your appetite, which could lead to overeating. Losing weight is often cornerstone for improving blood sugar control so drinking empty calories may not be the right fit for you if losing excess weight is a goal.

Tips for Drinking Safely

Never drink on an empty stomach. Try to eat a carbohydrate meal or snack while drinking.

Check blood sugar frequently, wear a medical ID, and drink with friends who know you have diabetes.

Do not take extra insulin to cover carbohydrates in your drinks. If you have questions about your medications, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Avoid drinking within 2 hours of exercise.

Try to cut back on your alcohol intake and switch to alcohol-free, low carb drinks. See our blog post Best Beverages for Diabetes for some ideas.

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