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.
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.
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.
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.