What You Need To Know About Type 1 Diabetes And Alcohol
To put your first question to rest, the answer is yes. You can drink alcohol with type 1 diabetes! Of course, like anyone with or without type 1, its still important to monitor how much you have to drink. The recommended daily intake for everyone, whether they have type 1 diabetes or not is no more than two drinks per day if you are a man or one drink per day if you are a woman.
Having diabetes means that in addition to consuming responsibly, you will also need to understand the effect of alcohol on blood sugar and keep an eye on it while drinking.
What Are The Risks Of Drinking If I Have Diabetes
Low blood sugar is the most likely risk of drinking if you have diabetes. Lets look at how this can happen.
Your liver produces glucose, or sugar, to help your body bring up blood sugar levels when they get too low. The liver is also responsible for breaking down alcohol when you drink. During this process, substances are formed that can make it harder for your liver to make new sugar. When this happens, your blood sugar levels can become too lowa condition known as hypoglycemia. Left untreated, hypoglycemia can become a medical emergency and lead to confusion, seizures, and coma.
People with diabetes are at a particular risk for hypoglycemia when they drink because they are usually on insulin or other medications that lower their blood sugar already. The more you drink, the longer it will take your liver to process the alcohol and the longer the risk for low blood sugar exists.
What makes this situation even more dangerous is that you can easily mistake hypoglycemia for intoxication. If youve ever had a few too many, the symptoms of low blood sugar may sound familiar:
If youre drinking, you may assume these symptoms are from the alcohol or be less aware of them. People around you may also assume your symptoms are from alcohol and not realize that you need help.
Other health concerns
Risks Of Alcohol In Type 2 Diabetes
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps cells absorb the sugar they need for energy.
Type 2 diabetes involves having too much blood glucose. This happens when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or does not respond to insulin as it should. This is known as insulin resistance.
Because of the effects alcohol can have on blood sugar control and other aspects of the disease, you face certain risks by drinking alcohol if you have type 2 diabetes that otherwise healthy people may not.
As you mull these ideas, keep in mind that much remains to be learned about how alcohol affects people with diabetes.
Diabetes: Can You Drink Alcohol If You Have Diabetes Express
Diabetes: Can you drink alcohol if you have diabetes?.
In the stomach or intestine, alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. This is possible because alcohol is made up of molecules that are so small they can be taken up by the thousands of tiny blood vessels that line the stomach and the small intestine. If there is food in the stomach, the pyloric valvewhich separates the stomach from the small intestinewill be shut so that the food can be digested before moving to the small intestine. If there is no food in the stomach, the pyloric valve is open and the alcohol can go straight into the small intestine.
Alterations Of Lipid Metabolism
Heavy alcohol consumption can worsen certain diabetes-related lipid abnormalities. For instance, alcohol consumption can result in elevated triglyceride levels, reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol , and elevated levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.7
Hypertriglyceridemia can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and pancreatitis. Such inflammation of the pancreas can be not only painful, but can additionally impair insulin productionfurther complicating blood sugar management issues for people with diabetes.7
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The Difference Between Type 1 And Type 2 Diabetes
There are two main types of diabetes:.
- Type 1 diabetes develops if the body cant produce enough insulin, because insulin-producing cells in the pancreas have been destroyed. People who have this type of diabetes are usually diagnosed before theyre 40 and the causes remain largely unknown
- Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the body becomes resistant to insulin.
Type 2 diabetes can happen when people are overweight and inactive, and may be influenced by genetic factors. For example, people who are an apple-shape have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And, in the UK, people of south Asian, African-Caribbean, or black African descent are two to four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, compared with white people.
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age. But while White people are more at risk over the age of 40, people of South Asian, African-Carribean, or Black African descent are more at risk from the age of 25 and at lower levels of overweight.
Type 2 diabetes is now far more common in the UK than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2.4
Is It Safe To Drink With Diabetes
People with diabetes do not need to cut alcohol out of their diet. As a matter of fact, many studies have suggested that light drinking may be beneficial to diabetes, including a recent study from China that’s been in the news. However, there are some important safety considerations for people with diabetes.Alcohol competes with your livers ability to make glucose when your blood sugar is low. If you are on insulin or other anti-hyperglycemic medications, this can lead to dangerously low blood sugar up to 24 hours after you stop drinking. Alcohol can also cloud your judgement, so you may not realize that your blood sugar is low.To prevent hypoglycemia, dont drink on an empty stomach. Make sure you have food handy while you are drinking and keep an eye on your blood sugar.
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Who Can Drink Safely
The American Diabetes Association recommends asking yourself three questions before you have a drink:
- Is my diabetes under control?
- Have I talked to my doctor about drinking, and do they agree that I can have alcohol?
- Do I know how alcohol affects my blood sugar?
If the answer to all three questions is yes, the ADA recommends no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and no more than two drinks for men.
To manage your blood sugar:
- Avoid sugary and high-calorie cocktails.
- Have a meal or snacks with carbohydrates before you drink to prevent low blood sugar.
- Check your sugar more often than usual when you drink, and on the day after.
And in case of a health emergency, carry identification that says you have diabetes.
Is Drinking Alcohol With Diabetes Dangerous
Drinking lots of alcohol is dangerous for anyone. However, with larger amounts of alcohol, serious hypoglycaemia can occur.
Some sources advise strict carbohydrate management, perhaps even chips or pizza, if a large amount of alcohol has been consumed.
However, avoiding alcohol in large quantities is the best recourse.
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Symptoms Of Type 2 Diabetes
Common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are:5
- Feeling particularly tired
- Feeling more thirsty than usual
- Going to the toilet to urinate more often than usual, especially at night
- Genital itching or frequent episodes of thrush
- Slow healing of cuts and wounds
But, importantly, many people found to have type 2 diabetes have no symptoms, so it is important to get checked by asking at your GP surgery.
You can find out more about type 1 and type 2 diabetes on the NHS website.
Alcohols Effects On Blood Sugar Levels Of Diabetics
Numerous studies have investigated alcohols effects on the control of blood sugar levels in diabetics. Those effects differ substantially depending on whether alcohol consumption occurs when the person has just eaten and blood sugar levels are relatively high or when the person has not eaten for several hours and blood sugar levels are relatively low .
I Have Diabetes Is It Still Safe To Drink Alcohol
If you have diabetes and want to drink alcohol, you should talk to your diabetes team about how to drink safely.
Its important for everyone, including people with diabetes, to stay within the UK Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines and not regularly drink more than 14 units a week. Avoiding binge drinking is especially important if you have diabetes, because your body may be able to cope less well with a large amount of alcohol.
If you have diabetes and are going out to drink alcohol its important to bring hypo treatments with you, and to always wear medical ID. Its also a good idea to make sure that whoever you are with knows you are diabetic and understands how to help you if you do have a hypo.
Alcohol And Risk Of Low Blood Sugar
If you are managing your diabetes with diet and exercise alone, drinking alcohol can stil increase your risk of low blood sugars. And if you take insulin or types of diabetes pills that stimulate insulin production, drinking alcohol can lead to even more serious low blood sugar reactions.
Normally, the liver releases glucose to maintain blood sugar levels. But when you drink alcohol, the liver is busy breaking the alcohol down, so it does a poor job of releasing glucose into the bloodstream. This can lead to a drop in blood sugar levels if you are drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.
Each alcoholic beverage takes about 1-1 ½ hours to finish processing in the liver. For that entire time, the risk of low blood sugar exists. So, if you have 2 drinks, you double that time to 2 to 3 hours that you are at risk for low blood sugar. The more alcohol consumed, the bigger the risk for serious low blood sugar.
The solution? Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach. ALWAYS consume alcohol with a meal or snack that contains carbohydrates. Never skip meals or substitute alcohol for a meal.
Follow these safety tips too:
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Statistics On Alcohol & Diabetes In The Us
Some statistics on alcohol use disorders and diabetes in the United States include:10,11
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2015 through 2018, nearly 16% of U.S. adults aged 20 and older are estimated to have type 1 or 2 diabetes.
- 3% of these people have physician-diagnosed diabetes.
- 6% have undiagnosed diabetes.
- 27 million doctor visits are for patients with diabetes as their primary diagnosis.
- Past results from the National Health Interview Survey suggest that nearly 46% of people with diabetes currently drink.
- 4% of people with diabetes reported that they were binge drinkers , compared to 36.6% of those without diabetes.
- In general, people with diabetes consume less alcohol than those without diabetes.
Pathophysiology Of Diabetes Mellitus
Moderation is the key as too much alcohol can cause hypoglycemia. A standard 5-ounce serving has about 120 calories, nearly all of which come from alcohol, not carbs. Test your blood glucose levels more often on the day you drink and the next day, to see the effect of alcohol. Also, test before bedtime, and if your sugar is low, have a snack. Beers do contain a moderate amount of carbs and generally have 2-12% ABV . Those with lower ABVs will have closer to 6 grams of carbs, whereas higher ABV beers may have as much as grams per 12-ounce bottle. If youre drinking beer on tap and dont have the nutrition facts, sticking with beers that have an ABV of 7% or less can help keep your carb intake in check.
Overall, carb counting can be a great tool, but it may not be for everyone. It takes a lot of work to find out how many carbs are in different foods, and you have to be diligent in keeping track of what youre eating and adding up the carbs. Read on to learn more about what carb counting is and whether or not its right for you. Hypertriglyceridemia is an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, elevated triglyceride levels can cause severe inflammation of the pancreas . Heavy drinking can cause alcohol-induced hypertriglyceridemia in both diabetics and nondiabetics .
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Test Your Blood Sugar
After you drink alcohol, your blood sugar levels can drop up to 24 hours later. Check your blood sugar before and while you’re drinking and then again before you go to bed.
A healthy range is between 80 mg/dL and 130 mg/dL before bed. If yours is low, follow your physician’s recommendations, such as consuming some carbs to counteract the drop.
Government Guidelines On Alcohol Units
To help keep health risks from alcohol at a low level, its safest not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week. These guidelines are the same for men and women. The guidelines also recommend that if you choose to drink up to 14 units a week, spread this over at least three days.
But what does this actually mean when youre in the pub or having dinner with a glass of wine at home?
It means you shouldnt drink more than six medium glasses of wine or six pints of lager a week.
But the size of the glass and type of alcohol affects the number of units, so its best to check the guidelines at drinkaware.co.uk
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Managing Alcohol If You Have Diabetes
Drinking can make it more difficult to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level.
Alcohol lowers your blood sugar but at the same time you might also be more inclined to snack.
You may be careless about counting carbs and checking your blood sugar when you are drinking.
Staying within the weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines can help to avoid these problems.
The Effect Of Evening Alcohol Consumption On Next
If your glucose drops to less than 70 milligrams per deciliter , youll need to down 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates. This could be three or four glucose tablets, 4 ounces of juice , or five pieces of hard candy . Drinking alcohol in moderation has also been linked to a number of other health benefits, such as increasing the amount of good cholesterol in the blood.
At this point, alcohol can affect blood sugar in ways that are especially important for people with type 2 diabetes. This is because the liver is where excess glucose is stored in a form called glycogen. A 4-ounce serving contains just one carb and about 78 calories. You could even mix it with sparkling water to increase the volume without adding sugar or calories. If youre celebrating over dessert, try a small portion of a diabetes-friendly treat like fresh berries or this chocolate-topped strawberry cheesecake. Some wines have high residual sugar, particularly off-dry, sweet, and dessert wines.
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Dont Drink Sports Drinks Unless Youre An Endurance Athlete
Exercise is great for managing type 2 diabetes, but skip sports drinks, which are high in carbohydrates. One 8 oz serving of Powerade, for example, packs about 19 g of carbs, notes the USDA, and thats not even the whole bottle.
Dietitians only recommend sports drinks for endurance athletes, who may exercise strenuously enough to need salt and nutrient replacement. Sports drinks are usually not necessary unless someone has been very active for over an hour, Zanini says.
Water is sufficient to keep you hydrated for moderate exercise. You can also plan on a healthy postworkout snack that provides you with some carbs and protein, such as an apple with a bit of peanut butter or a hard-boiled egg and an orange. These options will give you the protein and carbs you need to kick-start your exercise recovery without spiking your blood sugar.
How Will Alcohol Affect My Blood Sugar Control
Different alcoholic drinks will have varying effects on your blood sugar It also depends how much you drink. A single alcoholic drink may not have a huge effect on your overall blood sugar.
If you have more than a single drink, most alcoholic drinks will tend to initially raise your blood sugar.
Typically beers, lagers, wines, sherries and liqueurs will have this effect. However, alcohol inhibits the liver from turning proteins into glucose which means youre at a greater risk of hypoglycemia once your blood sugars start to come down. If you have a number of these drinks, you can expect to see a rise in blood sugar followed by a steady drop a number of hours later, often whilst asleep. People who take insulin, in particular, therefore need to be wary of hypoglycemia.
Each person will have a slightly different reaction to alcoholic drinks so its well worth using blood tests to check how your body responds to it.
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Alcohol Can Make It Harder To Manage Your Weight
- This is because alcohol can have a lot of calories.
For most people, this doesnt mean you cant drink alcohol. But talk to your healthcare team. They can help you work out whats right for you. This is especially important if you take medicines that can cause low blood glucose like insulin or sulphonylureas like glicazide or glipizide.