Alcohol and Diabetes
A DELICATE BALANCE
While it's true that moderate amounts of alcohol may cause blood sugar to rise, more than one or two drinks of alcohol can decrease your blood sugar level — sometimes causing it to drop to dangerous levels, especially for people with Type 1 Diabetes. This is one reason why people with diabetes need to be especially cautious about their alcohol use.
IS IT SAFE FOR A DIABETIC TO DRINK ALCOHOL?
Many with diabetes wonder if their days of sipping wine or beer are over. “My diabetic patients do ask that question occasionally,” says Dr. Catherine Dinglasen, who’s been treating diabetic patients at CBHA since 2005. “I always urge caution. Drinking alcohol can lead to serious low blood sugar reactions, especially if patients take insulin or types of diabetes pills that stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas.”
She said alcohol can also affect other medical conditions like diabetic nerve damage, diabetic eye disease, and high blood triglycerides. Low blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can cause people to pass out, which is a medical emergency that can be misinterpreted as intoxication.
“Diabetes is a complicated disease that must be managed carefully,” Dr. Dinglasen says. “It becomes much more complicated when alcohol is added into the diet. A medical ID bracelet should always be worn. A carbohydrate source, like glucose tables should also be carried in case of low blood sugar.”
When mixing alcohol and diabetes, a little extra attention to preventative measures can make all the difference between a safe experience and one that requires medical attention. Given the risks, some providers do recommend abstinence from alcohol with a patient has diabetes.
WHAT IS PREDIABETES?
According to the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an estimated 37 percent of adults over age 20 have a prediabetes.
What’s prediabetes? It’s a condition that indicates your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not quite high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. But without intervention, the condition will likely progress to diabetes. According to the American Heart Association, risk factors for prediabetes include being overweight, smoking cigarettes, having a sedentary lifestyle and excessive alcohol consumption.
IF YOU ARE DIABETIC OR PRE-DIABETIC
• Alcohol can interfere with the positive effects of oral diabetes medication or insulin.
• Alcohol may increase levels of triglyceride.
• Alcohol may increase blood pressure.
• Alcohol may affect judgment, causing you to make poor food choices.
• Alcohol stimulates your appetite, which can cause you to overeat and may affect your blood sugar control.
• Beer and sweet wine contain carbohydrates and may raise blood sugar.
• Alcoholic drinks are usually high in calories, making it difficult to lose excess weight.
ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION WITH DIABETES
• Drink alcohol slowly and only when also eating food.
• Do not consume more than two drinks of alcohol in one day if you are a man, and no more than one drink per day if you are a woman.
• Mix liquor with water, club soda, or a diet soda.
• Wear a medical alert bracelet or other piece of jewelry that says you have diabetes.
For additional questions about managing diabetes, your CBHA medical provider will be happy to help you.