Can I drink alcohol if I have diabetes? Is it okay to drink alcohol if you are type 1 or type 2?
In this video we will answer your questions related to diabetes and alcohol.
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There’s a misconception that those with diabetes should not consume alcohol, but the American Diabetes Association actually approves of diabetics having a drink or two. However, alcohol is not a typical carbohydrate, and understanding its relationship to blood sugar levels and diabetes is paramount to using it responsibly.
Many people with type 2 diabetes think they need to eliminate alcohol completely from their diet. But, in moderation, alcohol may actually have some health benefits.
For instance, moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of developing diabetes in people who don’t have the condition, particularly women, according to a data analysis published in the September 2015 issue of Diabetes Care. And in people who have type 2 diabetes that is well-controlled, a glass of red wine a day as part of a healthy diet may help improve heart disease risk factors, according to results of a two-year study published in Annals of Internal Medicine in October 2015.
However, you need to be thoughtful about including any type of alcohol, even red wine, in your type 2 diabetes management plan.
“The most important thing is to make sure you aren’t drinking alcohol on an empty stomach,” says Liz Brouillard, RD, LDN, CDE, nutrition manager at the Boston Medical Center’s Center for Endocrinology, Nutrition, and Weight Management in Massachusetts. She recommends only drinking alcohol with a meal or snack that contains both carbohydrates and protein. That's because alcohol can lower your blood sugar, creating a risky situation for people with type 2 diabetes.
I think this might be a good time to talk about the liver. Why? Well, the liver has this special ability. It is called gluconeogenesis. This is a process where the liver releases glucose from its glycogen store. The liver gets the glucose by two different ways. One is the excess glucose from a meal or snack will be stored in a reservoir in the liver in the form of glucogen. The liver can also make glucose from fat and proteins. This storage of glucose is useful in the event of a low blood sugar. When the body senses a low blood sugar, it sends a signal to the liver to release glucose to slow down or prevent a severe reaction.
As many of you know, alcohol affects the liver. One way it does so is to inhibit the liver to release glucose. A few minutes after consuming an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol finds its way to the blood stream. About an hour and a half later, the blood alcohol is at its highest level. The stomach cannot break down alcohol. The body recognized alcohol as toxic. The liver works very hard to break it down and get rid of all the alcohol. This can take a long time, up to eight hours or greater.
Since the liver is working so hard to get rid of the alcohol, it shuts off everything else, including releasing glucose into the body.
Therefore this increases the risk of a severe low blood sugar. This also means that you may not have a low blood sugar until 8 hours later. This can lead to a very serious case of hypoglycemia, which can be deadly.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia — sleepiness, dizziness, and disorientation — can look like being intoxicated. If signs of hypoglycemia are mistaken for drunkenness, you may not get the help and treatment you need.
As stated earlier, the American Diabetes Association says that those with diabetes can drink. But they also qualify that to say no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. (Example: one alcoholic drink = 5-ounce glass of wine, 1 1/2-ounce "shot" of liquor or 12-ounce beer).
More than this can lead to different levels of intoxication which is not good for one with diabetes on many levels. As already stated, it can cause a severe condition of hypoglycemia. It also means you can’t think as clearly. You need to be able to take the correct dosages of insulin or other medications, test your blood sugar, and be aware of how you are overall felling. You don’t want to be intoxicated and take the wrong dose of medication or none at all and then have more problems on your hands to deal with.
One very important factor when choosing to drink, do so with a meal. This will help to somewhat absorb the alcohol. Mainly this will help you in regards to hypoglycemia. If you aren’t drinking with a meal, have some high carb snacks available. I personally think there is a reason pretzels are so popular at the bar.
In addition to watching — and counting — your serving size, follow these tips for safer drinking:
Wear a MediAlert bracelet or necklace identifying yourself as one with diabetes.