Wondering if alcohol is safe to enjoy when you have diabetes? Let’s look at how the body processes alcohol and its effects on blood sugar control.
Normally, the liver stores and releases sugar, called glucose, into the blood stream between meals and overnight to maintain energy or fuel. The liver also removes toxins, like alcohol, from the body. While busy cleansing the body of toxins, the liver cannot simultaneously regulate or release sugar to maintain a steady level.
This can lead to hypoglycemia, an unsafe drop or dangerously low blood sugar, which could result in death. Hypoglycemia can be intensified if combined with certain diabetes medications, like insulin or pills that cause the body to release insulin. Hypoglycemia can be difficult to differentiate from feeling tipsy. Some symptoms include feeling sleepy, dizzy, and confused or having slurred speech and blurred vision.
Since the liver is responsible for processing and removing all medications and toxins, like alcohol, drinking too much alcohol can contribute to liver damage. Always use your health care provider’s advice on alcohol and your specific health condition(s) to make sure alcohol is safe for you.
Once approved by your health care provider, the same guidelines for moderate intake apply:
- Women: no more than 1 drink per day
- Men: no more than 2 drinks per day
* The serving size of one drink is equal to a 12 oz beer, 5oz wine or 1 ½ oz distilled spirits (vodka, whiskey, rum or gin)
- Do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
- Perform a blood sugar check and do not drink alcohol if your blood sugar is low or decreasing steadily or sharply on a Continuous Glucose Monitoring device (CGM).
- Always have a carbohydrate food (crackers, fruit or bread) or wait until meal is served to consume your alcoholic beverage. Enjoy and sip alcohol slowly.
- Do not count alcohol as a carbohydrate for meal planning or insulin dosing.
- Continuously monitor blood sugar levels and maintain a level between 100-140mg/dl before going to bed.
- Wear a medical I.D. necklace or bracelet that notes diabetes condition.
- If choosing beer, select light beers over craft or regular beers.
- Use mixers without sugar, for example: diet soda, diet tonic water, water, sugar-free flavoring like Crystal Light.
- Avoid beverages with juice and added sugars like margaritas, pina coladas, daiquiris and hurricanes.
- Avoid sweet, port wines and cordials.
- As with anyone with or without diabetes, do not drive after drinking alcohol. Have a designated driver or alternate plan to get home safely.