Can people with diabetes drink alcohol?
Yes, but only with an abundance of caution. As little as just two drinks in one day can affect blood sugar levels, while alcohol can aggravate diabetes symptoms and contribute to conditions that lead to diabetes, such as weight gain and pancreatitis.
Heavy drinking can also make your body less sensitive to insulin, which leads to Type 2 diabetes. Read on to learn more about how alcohol impacts diabetic health.
Alcohol and diabetes: An unhealthy cocktail
As you probably know, alcohol is broken down in our livers, the same place that regulates your blood sugar. When you have diabetes, drinking can decrease your sugar levels and impede glucose production. That’s because the liver is working too hard to flush alcohol from your body to regulate glucose.
Worse still, the symptoms of hypoglycemia – dangerously low blood sugar – are similar to the symptoms of drunkenness: dizziness, sleepiness or disorientation. It’s possible for a diabetic in the midst of insulin shock to mistake their symptoms for intoxication and not seek help.
Heavy drinking can also lead to a condition called alcohol-induced hypertriglyceridemia, which causes cardiovascular disease. And even moderate drinking can compound your risk for peripheral neuropathy, a nerve damage disorder that causes numbness, pain and weakness.
Studies have also shown that alcohol can cause people with diabetes to neglect their health, whether that means getting regular exercise or monitoring their blood sugar.
Alcohol and diabetes: drinking responsibly
It’s possible to consume alcohol when you have diabetes, but only if you recognize the risks. To be clear: this isn’t a guide for how to “trick” your body. That’s not possible.
If you have diabetes, you’re not going to be able to drink like you’re at a frat party, but you can enjoy a few drinks by following these rules.
- Recognize your limitations
Like we said earlier, drinking too much can have unwelcome side effects, like dizziness or loss of consciousness. Take it slow, recognize your capacity and avoid things like high-alcohol craft brews.
- Eat before you drink
Drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea, but for people with diabetes, it can cause your blood sugar levels to drop even faster than usual. Getting some food into your system slows alcohol absorption in your bloodstream and prevents hypoglycemia.
- Keep on top of your blood sugar level
This is something that’s second nature for people with diabetes. But when combining alcohol and diabetes, it becomes even more crucial. Check your glucose levels before, during and after you drink, even if you don’t feel drunk.
- Identify yourself
Wear a medical alert bracelet, necklace or keychain when you go out to let people know you have diabetes. It will tell everyone that your symptoms aren’t the result of intoxication but may in fact be due to low blood sugar.
- Talk with your doctor
While drinking in moderation can be safe, excessive alcohol is never a good idea for anyone, least of all people with diabetes.
Since we are not doctors, we suggest speaking to a medical professional who can better explain how alcohol affects your condition.
Are you searching for other tips for living with diabetes? Check out our other blog posts, which deal with diabetic health, diet suggestions and more.