Alcohol and Diabetes: Know Your Limits | Sepalika
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Alcohol and Diabetes: How Much Is Too Much

Jul 10, 2017

If you are diabetic, do you need to give up drinking? While there is a connection between diabetes and alcohol, there is no reason why diabetics must give up alcohol completely. Yes, alcohol affects your blood sugar levels, and it does contain a lot of calories. But with a few precautions and careful management, it is possible for diabetics to enjoy a couple of drinks from time to time.

Diabetes and Alcohol: The Connection

Yes, sugar alcohol and diabetes are closely linked. Alcohol has a confusing effect on the body. Now, moderate amounts of alcohol may cause a spike in blood sugar levels, but on the other hand, drinking too much alcohol will cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low. Diabetics are usually advised to eat something along with their drinks to compensate for the expected drop in blood sugar levels. Truth be told, alcohol does affect different people in different ways. So, when in doubt, test your blood glucose to see how alcohol affects you.

A good idea is to follow recommended alcohol guidelines for people with diabetes. Safe drinking limits for diabetics are – 3 units of alcohol for men and 2 units of alcohol for women. However, it is worth being aware that ‘one unit’ is counted differently for different drinks.

It’s a good idea to check with your doctor to see if drinking alcohol is safe for you. If you can’t cut out drinking completely, it’s wise to cut back. Drink occasionally, and make sure you only do so when your blood sugar levels are well controlled.

5 Facts You Should Know About Type 2 Diabetes and Alcohol

If you enjoy your alcohol too much to give it up completely, here are 5 facts you must know about type 2 diabetes and alcohol.

Alcohol can cause blood sugar to rise or fall.

Different alcoholic drinks affectblood sugar levels differently. If you are drinking beer, lager, wine, sherry or liqueur, more than a single drink will initially raise your blood sugar. However, alcohol interferes with the liver’s ability to turn proteins into glucose, increasing your risk of hypoglycemia when your blood sugars start to drop. If you have had more than the recommended number of drinks, your blood sugar levels will rise initially, and then drop after a few hours. This is particularly dangerous for those who take insulin, as this drop in blood sugar (or hypoglycemia) can also happen while you’re asleep.

Alcohol can interact with diabetes medication.

Some drugs like sulfonylureas (examples include Diabinese, Glucotrol, DiaBeta, Glynase, Micronase) which boost insulin production may react with alcohol to cause hypoglycemia. Additionally, combining these medications with alcohol can also result in vomiting, nausea, headaches and heart palpations for some. On the other hand, if you take metformin, alcohol can increase risk of developing lactic acidosis. This is rare, but may cause weakness, chills, muscle pain, dizziness, trouble breathing, and sudden changes in heart rate or rhythm.

Alcohol can stimulates your appetite and cause you to ingest more calories.

Some people become more reckless with their eating when drinking and not may be too careful about their food intake. This is a mistake, as your blood sugar levels can raise to dangerously high levels after a night of careless drinking and overeating.

Alcohol may increasetriglyceride levels.

Research shows that drinking alcohol (even in small amounts) may raise triglyceride levels. Alcohol stimulates appetite and increases your caloric intake; calories that aren’t converted into energy get stored as triglycerides. A night of binge drinking not only increases triglycerides, but also detrimental to liver and heart health.

Alcohol washes out minerals and vitamins from the body.

This happens due to excess urination and dehydration. This is multiplied in diabetics since they are already losing out too many micronutrients from increased urination. If you are diabetic, increase intake of B vitamins and use liver support herbs like Silymarin on nights when you want to have a drink.

So, Can Diabetics Drink Alcohol?

alcohol and diabetes

Can Diabetics Drink Alcohol

Does having diabetes mean you can’t enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a cold beer with friends? Not necessarily. In a study published in Diabetes Care, it was shown that moderate drinking may even reduce the risk for insulin sensitivity, heart and kidney complications. Keep this list of do’s and don’ts in mind if you are planning on having a drink tonight.

  1. Know your limits. If you have diabetes and want to know how much alcohol is safe for you, here is a simple guideline. One standard drink is equal to:
  • 100 ml wine
  • 285 ml regular beer
  • 30 ml spirits, like gin, vodka or whisky
  • 60 ml fortified wine
  • 375 ml low-alcohol beer (less than 3% alcohol)
  1. Never drink on an empty stomach or when your blood glucose is low. It’s best to drink with your meal or right after it. This is especially important for those on insulin and diabetes pills.
  2. Do not replace food with alcohol in your regular meal plan. Especially if you use carbohydrate counting to plan meals, do not count alcohol in your plan as a carbohydrate choice.
  3. Drink slowly. Don’t guzzle down your drink, but savor it slowly. It takes the liver of a person weighing 150 pounds approximately two hours to break down one alcoholic beverage!!! Drinking too much too soon can make you feel dizzy, sleepy, and disoriented—the same symptoms as hypoglycemia.
  4. If you are hitting the pub with some friends, wear a medical bracelet that says you have diabetes. This simple step could save your life in case of an emergency situation where your blood sugar levels are drastically low or high, necessitating immediate medical attention.
  5. Follow every drink with a glass of water to stay hydrated.
  6. Don’t add sweet mixers to your spirits. Choose plain water or club soda instead.
  7. Limit your intake to 2 drinks to play it safe.
  8. If you are drunk, the symptoms can closely mimic those of hypoglycemia, which can lead to very dangerous confusion. Additionally, be aware that when you have had multiple drinks, you’re at risk of hypo for up to 16 hours afterwards. Monitoringblood glucose levels closely is an essential part of managing your diabetes in this situation.
  9. Make healthy food choices whilst drinking. Ditch the French fries and pizza slices for some nuts or cheese to snack on while you enjoy your drink.

If you’re healthy with well-controlled blood sugar levels and your doctor doesn’t see any reason why you can’t drink alcohol, moderation is the key in this case.

Maneera Saxena Behl
Maneera is a health and fitness enthusiast who is also a firm believer in the power of dietary supplements. A health buff, she likes to help others improve their overall well-being by achieving the right balance between nutrition, exercise and mindfulness.


The Effect of Alcohol on Postprandial and Fasting Triglycerides –

Moderate Alcohol Consumption Lowers the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes –

Effect of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Adiponectin, Tumor Necrosis Factor-α, and Insulin Sensitivity –