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.
What Kind Of Alcohol Can I Drink And How Much
If you and your doctor decide that its OK for you to drink, here are a few guidelines you should follow when deciding what to drink and how much to consume:
Stick to light beers and dry wines, which have less alcohol and fewer calories.
Avoid sweet wines and mixed drinks with a lot of sugar, like piña coladas.
If you order a mixed drink, use water and diet soda instead of regular soda or other sweet mixers.
Try to stick to the American Diabetes Association guidelines for how much to drink: no more than 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men . One drink is defined as 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, and 1.5 oz. of liquor.
Emergency Glucagon Treatment Might Not Work If
Remember that tidbit about how alcohol interferes with your livers normal release of glycogen? If you have consumed a lot of alcohol and youre experiencing a severe low blood sugar, your emergency glucagon treatment might not be effective because it relies on your liver!
Emergency glucagon kits work because glucagon is a hormone that tells your liver to release a large amount of stored glycogen. If your liver is overwhelmed with processing the alcohol in your system, it isnt going to respond normally to the presence of emergency glucagon.
This is another reason why its important as a person with diabetes to be very mindful of how much alcohol you consume.
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Drink To That: How To Safely Consume Alcohol With Diabetes
Were already thinking about carbs and calories all the time, and adding alcohol into the mix makes things more complex. Experts share their best advice on how to safely drink when living with diabetes.
People who choose to drink alcohol typically do so for a few main reasons: to cope with challenges, to be sociable, or just because they enjoy having a drink. But while alcohol may make some people feel more comfortable, drinking can be especially complicated for people with diabetes. If youre choosing to drink with friends or loved ones, lets talk about how you can do so safely with diabetes.
First, alcohol is a drug, and it can be highly addictive. If you dont drink now, theres no reason to start. In fact, avoiding alcohol is the healthiest choice for people with or without diabetes. Drinking more than is healthy for the body has been linked to issues in the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system and is associated with several kinds of cancer, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Drinking is also connected to other health problems, such as unintentional injuries , domestic violence, alcohol use disorders, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So, with all that said, how can you best manage your diabetes if you choose to drink?
Things To Keep In Mind If You Choose To Drink
If you decide to drink alcohol, taking these steps can help keep you safe.
- Do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach or when your blood glucose is low. Any time you drink alcohol, there is a risk of low blood sugar. Drink alcohol with a meal or with a carbohydrate-rich snack to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
- Never skip meals or have alcohol in place of a meal.
- Drink slowly. If you consume liquor, mix it with water, club soda, diet tonic water, or diet soda.
- Carry a source of sugar, such as glucose tablets, in case of low blood sugar.
- If you count carbohydrates as part of your meal plan, talk with your provider about how to account for alcohol.
- Do not exercise if you have been drinking alcohol, as it increases the risk for low blood sugar.
- Carry visible medical ID stating that you have diabetes. This is important because the symptoms of too much alcohol and low blood sugar are similar.
- Avoid drinking alone. Drink with someone who knows that you have diabetes. The person should know what to do if you start having symptoms of low blood sugar.
Because alcohol puts you at risk for low blood sugar even hours after you drink, you should check your blood glucose:
- Before you start drinking
- A few hours after drinking
- Up to the next 24 hours
Make sure your blood glucose is at a safe level before you go to sleep.
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Gin Rum Vodka Or Whiskey
These liquors contain 0 grams of carbs per 1.5-ounce serving .
However, the carb content of your drink may vary depending on what you mix the liquor with.
Avoid mixing liquor with sugary juices or sugar-containing soda. If you do drink these with alcohol, your blood sugar may spike and then dip to dangerously low levels.
When consumed on their own, hard liquors provide 0 grams of carbs but may lead to very low blood sugar levels. Avoid drinking them on an empty stomach or mixing them with sugary drinks.
Make sure to go for low sugar options if you feel like having a cocktail.
Here are some of the best low carb cocktails.
Who Shouldnt Drink Alcohol At All
The ADA says you should avoid alcohol completely if you have diabetes and you are also:
- Struggling with a drinking problem
- Diagnosed with a diabetes complication, like uncontrolled blood pressure, or nerve, eye, or kidney damage
- Taking medications with labels that say to avoid alcohol.
Again, ask your doctor whatâs safe for you. If they tell you not to drink, follow their advice.
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Effects Of Alcohol On Diabetes
Here are some other ways that alcohol can affect diabetes:
- While moderate amounts of alcohol may cause blood sugar to rise, excess alcohol can actually decrease your blood sugar level — sometimes causing it to drop into dangerous levels, especially for people with type 1 diabetes.
- Beer and sweet wine contain carbohydrates and may raise blood sugar.
- Alcohol stimulates your appetite, which can cause you to overeat and may affect your blood sugar control.
- Alcoholic drinks often have a lot of calories, making it more difficult to lose excess weight.
- Alcohol may also affect your judgment or willpower, causing you to make poor food choices.
- Alcohol can interfere with the positive effects of oral diabetes medicines or insulin.
- Alcohol may increase blood pressure.
- Alcohol can cause flushing, nausea, increased heart rate, and slurred speech.
These may be confused with or mask the symptoms of low blood sugar.
Glycemic Index Of Alcohol
Glycemic index is a value used to measure how much specific food increases blood sugar levels. It indicates how the body digests a particular type of food and converts it into blood sugar . The lower the GI of a specific food, the less it may affect your blood sugar levels, hence reducing obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Foods are classified as low, medium, or high glycemic food and ranked on a scale of 0100. The table below will help further.
|56-69||70 and above|
If we talk about alcoholic drinks, the Glycemic index of beer and non-alcoholic beer are a high GI food. The Glycemic index of whiskey is low and zero for vodka and wine due to the low carbohydrate content.
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How Many Diabetics Die Because Of Alcohol
According to a study, Diabetic patients are more likely to die from accidents, suicide and other alcohol-related factors. The main reason for deaths is the phycological pressure to deal with the disease for the lifetime and changing the lifestyle forever. Also, because of the anxiety and fear of impact, diabetic tend not to control the quantity of alcohol he/she should consume.
Stop Drinking When You Need To And Make Sure You Can Get Help
If you experience a low blood glucose reading while drinking, stop drinking. Have something to eat and drink water. Remember that you could get to the point that you are not aware that youre having low blood sugar symptoms. Being drunk and hypoglycemia cause the same symptoms of sleepiness and dizziness, and this means your treatment could be delayed. Remember to monitor your sugar and always wear your diabetes identification when drinking to avoid this problem.
To sum it up, the key to safe drinking if you have diabetes is to drink in moderation and to monitor your blood sugar regularly. This will keep you healthy and safe when you enjoy a toast with friends and family this holiday season.
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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
Alcohol Use And Addiction Among Diabetics
Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol on a regular or daily basis is a primary sign of alcohol use. This can lead to dependence and addiction, which can cause a person to become unable to function normally without alcohol in their system.
For some, the struggle of alcohol use precedes their development of diabetes. In other cases, a person may develop a problem with drinking at some point after. In any case, alcohol use in both diabetics and nondiabetics can have deadly consequences without treatment.
Alcohol use disorders can have a profound, negative impact on a persons ability to function in their personal and professional lives. The added difficulty of a medical condition like diabetes only makes this worse and can greatly harm both physical and psychological health.
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Drink Artificially Sweetened Drinks Maybe
Drinks with artificial sweeteners, such as diet sodas, remain a controversial topic.
On the one hand, drinks with artificial sweeteners can be a calorie-reducing alternative to sweetened drinks. I do endorse artificially sweetened beverages for the purpose of controlling blood sugar and weight, Basbaum says.
Because artificially sweetened drinks have zero carbohydrates and low calorie counts, they may be a good alternative to soda and juice sweetened with traditional sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Yet artificial sweeteners can be several hundred to several thousand times more intense than natural sugar, research has shown. Plus, in Zaninis experience, they cause people to crave sweets more.
Some studies support this notion. An article published in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism notes that eating artificial sweeteners may cause brain changes that trigger overeating. The article also references research that may link consumption of these sugar alternatives to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Ultimately, more studies are needed, the authors concluded.
Whether you decide to drink artificially sweetened beverages is a matter of taste and preference, and a choice to make with your healthcare team.
Should You Drink If You Have Diabetes
Despite the risks, people with diabetes may continue to drink alcohol. However, there are a few things to keep in mind so your blood sugar stays within normal range.
1. Drink alcohol moderately
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Experts recommend that you consume alcohol as follows:
- No more than two drinks per day for men
- No more than one drink per day for women
2. Eat food before or while you drink alcohol
Do not drink on an empty stomach to prevent the quick absorption of alcohol into your blood. If possible, eat some food before or while drinking.
Food slows down the absorption of alcohol and prevents the sudden drop in blood sugar levels.
3. Eat carbs before going to bed
Nocturnal hypoglycemia is common in people with diabetes who are taking medications to regulate their blood sugar.
If youve been drinking, make sure to eat some carbs before going to bed. This will keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the night.
4. Avoid exercising and alcohol consumption
If you plan to drink alcohol, do not exercise for the day. You should also avoid strenuous activity for at least 48 hours before drinking.
5. Monitor your blood sugar levels
Check your blood sugar before, during, and after drinking alcohol. The American Diabetes Association recommends keeping it within 80 to 130 mg/dL.13
If your blood sugar levels start to drop, eat simple carbs to prevent hypoglycemia. Should you experience a lower blood sugar of less than 54 mg/dL, get help right away.
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Can You Drink Alcohol If You Have Diabetes
Q: My husband has diabetes and says it’s OK to drink alcohol. Is that true?
A: Alcohol poses several problems for people with diabetes.
First, after an initial spike in blood sugar, alcohol causes that level to drop. Because being tipsy causes the same symptoms as low blood sugar , your husband may not know his levels are low.
Second, if he drinks alcohol while taking glucose-lowering medications, his blood sugar levels can drop to dangerous levels.
Third, heavy alcohol use can aggravate some diabetes complications, including nerve and kidney disease.
Encourage your husband to drink only at meals and only when his blood glucose is under control. Ask him to wear an ID explaining he has diabetes, in case people mistake his low blood sugar symptoms for drunkenness. Make sure he talks to his doctor about alcohol, so he can get personal advice.
— Elizabeth Bashoff, MD, staff physician with Joslin Diabetes Center, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School.
Being tipsy causes the same symptoms as low blood sugar: sleepiness and disorientation.
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So If I Have Diabetes I Can Drink As Usual
Not quite. People with diabetes need to be extra careful with alcohol.
Alcohol intake significantly increases the risk of hypoglycemia . If your diabetes is already well under control, a moderate amount of alcohol may be fine either before, during or soon after a meal.
Even if you have a drink, this may not influence short-term blood glucose levels. However, there are some precautions to be taken care of.
Dont Drink Energy Drinks Which Contain Sugar And Caffeine
Energy drinks give you a temporary boost of energy that comes from sugar, caffeine, and other additives, but all of that can also cause heart rhythm disturbances, increase heart rate and blood pressure, and disrupt sleep, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Just one 8.4 oz serving of Red Bull energy drink contains more than 26 g of sugar and 75 mg of caffeine, notes the USDA, and even the sugar-free version has 75 mg of caffeine. For comparison, 8 oz of brewed coffee contains roughly 92 mg of caffeine.
Instead of relying on liquid energy to keep you going, fight fatigue in other ways. Some of the best ways to stay healthy and alert are to focus on getting quality sleep and regular exercise . If you do need a quick energy boost, stick to healthier beverage options like unsweetened coffee and tea.
Additional reporting by Lauren Bedosky.
Learn more about the relationship between diet soda and diabetes in Diabetes Daily’s article “The Truth About Diet Soda“!
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Does Alcohol And Tobacco Use Increase The Risk Of Diabetes
Yes, alcohol and tobacco use may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Alcohol Although studies show that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may actually lower the risk of diabetes, the opposite is true for people who drink greater amounts of alcohol. Moderate alcohol use is defined as one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Too much alcohol may cause chronic inflammation of the pancreas , which can impair its ability to secrete insulin and potentially lead to diabetes. Tobacco Tobacco use can increase blood sugar levels and lead to insulin resistance. The more you smoke, the greater your risk of diabetes. People who smoke heavily more than 20 cigarettes a day have almost double the risk of developing diabetes compared with people who dont smoke.Continue reading > >