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What Does Alcohol Do To Diabetics

What To Drink And Not To Drink

Diabetes and Alcohol / What to drink as a diabetic?

Aside from strict moderation, for people with type 2 diabetes the key to drinking safely is to choose alcoholic beverages that are low in sugar and carbs. Some, such as dry wines, champagne, and distilled alcohol, are naturally lower in sugar than other offerings as long as they’re imbibed straight up or with a sugar-free mixer. Beer, although also low in sugar, tends to be higher in carbs. Dessert wines such as port live up to their names by being relatively sweet.

Comparing Carbs and Sugar in Alcoholic Beverages
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Its wise to steer clear of spiked cider and hard lemonade, which are both high in carbs and added sugars. Opt instead, for a spiked or hard seltzer or club soda or plain seltzer water with a squeeze of lime.

The same logic holds true for mixed drinks made with juice, added sugar, and syrups.

Safe Drinking Tips For Diabetics And Pre

There are certain tips to sip by when it comes to diabetes and alcohol consumption. We now understand how diabetes and alcohol interact and how alcohol and blood sugar affect diabetics. The key to safe drinking is moderation. Keep in mind alcohol is a psychoactive substance and typically a calorie-rich product. To avoid its adverse effects and get the most out of alcohol, diabetics will want to keep the following rules in mind:

  • The safe limit for diabetic men is no more than two drinks per day
  • The daily drinking limit for women is even lower, at one drink per day
  • One drink equals to 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits and hard liquor.
  • Keep away from carbohydrate-rich beverages. Some of the most popular include craft beers, ciders, mixers such as vodka and orange juice, etc.
  • Those on a calorie-restricted diet should never count their drink like a meal.

Also, some general rules apply to both diabetics and pre-diabetics. For example, knowing when to drink is crucial. Keeping these pointers in mind can help a person drink more safely:

If Its Your First Drink As A Person With Diabetes Start With One Drink

If its your first drink as a person with diabetes, just start off with one low-carb drink like a dry red or white wine or a low-carb beer , dont take insulin for the carbs in that drink. Eat a meal with it, and take insulin for the carbohydrates in that meal.

And of course, check your blood sugar often! Then, take notes on what happens so you have a reference for next time.

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Can Alcohol Affect Blood Sugar Levels

Every diabetic or pre-diabetic person knows how important regulation of their blood sugar level is. Too much alcohol can make this task very difficult to accomplish. So how does alcohol affect blood sugar level?

  • Alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, cordials, mixers, and ciders contain a lot of carbohydrates which can skyrocket blood sugar levels.
  • Some alcoholic drinks, beer, for example, are extremely calorie-rich. Ever heard of a beer belly? Well, the last thing a diabetic person wants is to become obese or overweight.
  • Alcohol is also an appetite stimulant. Thats why apĆ©ritifs are served before dinner in restaurants. Diabetic people who often drink may find themselves craving food quite frequently.
  • Does alcohol lower blood sugar level? Yes, in cases of excessive drinking. This is more common for those with a type I diabetes.
  • Finally, a diabetic person who drinks too much may have impaired judgment. He or she may choose to consume the food that they should avoid.

Now that we understand how and why does alcohol lower blood sugar level, we can talk about the implications this habit, if uncontrolled, bring along.

Connection Between Alcohol And Blood Sugar

Alcohol and Diabetes

Drinking alcohol can have an impact on blood sugar levels . For people with diabetes, alcohol use has an even greater effect, especially if your diabetes is unmonitored or your sugar levels are not under control.;

The liver plays a key role in balancing your blood sugar levels. Alcohol decreases your liver’s ability to function. As a result, your liver may not be able to release glucose into your bloodstream properly.

This can be especially dangerous if you have diabetes and take insulin. If your liver doesn’t release enough sugar into your blood, you risk becoming hypoglycemic. Conversely, certain alcoholic drinks contain high levels of sugar and can actually spike your blood sugar levels.

In the United States, more than 34 million people have diabetes. However, 4 in every 5 of these individuals are aware that they have the condition.;

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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.

Grams Of Carbohydrate In Common Alcoholic Beverages

Its not that people with diabetes cant drink at all, says Harris. Id certainly rather my patients have a glass of dry wine or low-carb beer than a soda.

And when it comes to guessing the carb-content in an alcoholic beverage, Harris says people too often make false assumptions.

Wine, for example, whether its red or white doesnt matter. Its not the color that impacts the carb-content, but the level of fermentation because fermentation turns the sugar into alcohol. So thats why the carbs in wine wont impact your blood sugar as much that same carbohydrate amount from a glass of actual grape juice.

Lets take a look at the carbohydrate content of common alcoholic beverages, according to the Calorie King.

Red wines, per 5 fl oz/147 ml glass

  • Merlot 3.7 grams

Spirits, per 1 fl oz/37 ml

Most spirits actually contain 0 grams of carbohydrates. Some flavored varieties, like Smirnoff Strawberry, still only contain fewer than 3 or 4 grams of carbohydrates, which is generally not a quantity youd actually want to cover with insulin.

Mixers: Remember, the only mixers that dont contain carbohydrates are club soda and diet soda. Most other mixers, including tonic and sour mix, contain at least 20 to over 40 grams carbohydrates per 8 ounces.

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Things To Remember About Alcohol & Diabetes

Alcohol and diabetes can be a tricky combination, but its absolutely possible to enjoy drinking responsibly if you remember these guidelines:

  • Check your blood sugar regularly! Before, during, and after you drink.
  • Consider reducing the insulin dose of fast-acting insulin for meals while drinking to prevent low blood sugar hours after youve finished drinking.
  • Choose low-carb drinks like dry wines, light beer, or cocktails that contain sugar-free mixers like diet soda or club soda.
  • Be sure to teach your friends and family about the signs of hypoglycemia, how to help you if youre struggling with alcohol poisoning, and that they should never let you sleep it off if you are unconscious and unresponsive.
  • Be smart. Limit your alcohol consumption ideally to no more than 2 to 3 drinks, with a strict cut-off at 5 drinks if you do intend to drink more heavily.
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    When You Drink So Much That You Become Unconscious Or Blackout Drunk

    Alcohol and Diabetes: What To Know

    While youre unconscious, your blood sugar could begin to plummet as a result of the alcohol, having not eaten enough, and all of the other everyday causes of low blood sugar . At this point, youre not going to wake-up to the symptoms of a low blood sugar or be able to consume carbohydrates.

    This puts you at severe risk for seizures or death because your friends think youre just sleeping when youre actually blackout drunk and suffering from severe hypoglycemia at the same time.

    On the flip-side, you may become so drunk that you forget to take your evening long-acting insulin dose or you forget to dose insulin for the pizza and cake you ate a party. Then, while still unconscious, your blood sugar is rising to dangerously high levels, putting you at risk for diabetic ketoacidosis, coma, or death.

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    Eat Food With Your Drinks

    Even if youre eating an entirely low-carb meal, eating a little peanut butter or cheese or mixed nuts with a few glasses of wine can help prevent or reduce the drop in your blood sugar hours later.

    Generally, eating a meal with your drinks is critical, and ideally, that meal would contain a few carbohydrates, too. For high-carb meals, you will need insulin for a large majority of those carbs. The more complicated the meal , the more complicated dosing your insulin around that meal with alcohol onboard too will be.

    How Much Alcohol Do Drinks Usually Contain

    If you have diabetes and are wondering how much alcohol you should drink, it is worth reading the following list to see how much alcohol is contained in each type of drink.

    One unit :

    • 1/2 pint of standard strength beer, lager or cider
    • 1 pub shot/optic/measure of sherry or vermouth
    • 1 pub shot/optic/measure of spirit , eg gin, vodka or whisky.

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    Alcohol And The Liver

    When we drink alcohol, the alcohol can inhibit the livers ability to release glucose into the blood.

    This can be particularly significant for people on stronger medication such as insulin because it can mean that the liver is not able to release enough glycogen to keep our blood glucose levels from going too low under the influence of the insulin in our body.

    The impairment of the liver by alcohol can last for several hours after drinking so it is important to be aware of this.

    A potentially dangerous situation can occur if you go to sleep without bearing in mind the fact that your liver will be affected by alcohol. Many people with diabetes, particularly those that take stronger medication such as insulin, can be at risk of suffering hypoglycemia over night if they do not take additional carbohydrate before going to bed.

    Managing Alcohol If You Have Diabetes

    Does Alcohol Consumption Affect Diabetes Risk?

    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.

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    ADA Guidelines on Alcohol & Blood Sugar

    The American Diabetes Association does have guidelines regarding alcohol and blood sugar and how alcohol affects blood sugar. Some of their recommendations include:

    • The advice when it comes to alcohol and blood sugar is no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
    • If you have diabetes, you shouldnt drink when your blood sugar levels are low or you have an empty stomach.
    • People with diabetes shouldnt count the calories in an alcoholic drink as a carbohydrate choice in their meal plan.
    • Certain types of alcoholic beverages may be more detrimental for people with diabetes, including heavy craft beers.

    The amount of carbs and sugar varies in every alcohol, so its important to pay attention to labels and serving sizes when considering safe alcohol and blood sugar practices.

    Alcohol Abuse And Addiction Among Diabetics

    Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol on a regular or daily basis is a primary sign of alcohol abuse. 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 abuse precedes their development of diabetes. In other cases, a person may develop a problem with drinking at some point after. In any case, alcohol abuse 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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    Alterations Of Lipid Metabolism

    Abnormalities in the levels and metabolism of lipids are extremely common in people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes and may contribute to those patients risk of developing cardiovascular disease . Alcohol consumption can exacerbate the diabetes-related lipid abnormalities, because numerous studies have shown that heavy drinking can alter lipid levels even in nondiabetics. Alcohol can induce several types of lipid alterations, including elevated triglyceride levels in the blood , reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and elevated levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

    Elevated Triglyceride Levels

    Hypertriglyceridemia is an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, elevated triglyceride levels can cause severe inflammation of the pancreas . In addition to being highly painful and potentially fatal, this inflammation may interfere with the production of insulin, thereby potentially worsening control of blood sugar levels and making hypertriglyceridemia a particularly serious complication in diabetics. Heavy drinking can cause alcohol-induced hypertriglyceridemia in both diabetics and nondiabetics . In fact, from a practical standpoint, heavy drinking should be considered as a possible contributing factor in all patients with hypertriglyceridemia. Abstinence from alcohol generally leads to normalization of the triglyceride levels, unless the person has an underlying genetic predisposition for hypertriglyceridemia.

    What Is A Standard Drink

    What Does Alcohol Do to Your Blood Sugar?

    A standard drink contains 10g of alcohol.; Its important to know what a standard drink is for different types of alcohol so you can monitor your intake.

    One standard drink is:

    • 425ml of low-alcohol beer
    • 60ml of fortified wine
    • 100ml of wine
    • 30ml of spirits.

    Its easy to overestimate the size of a standard drink, so its a good idea to:

    • check the number of standard drinks on the label of the bottle/can
    • measure out a standard drink into a glass, so you know what it looks like
    • be aware that many wine glasses can hold two or more standard drinks.

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    Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol

    Check with your doctor to make sure alcohol doesnt interfere with your medications or complicate any of your medical conditions. Drinking alcohol can lead to serious low blood sugar reactions, especially if you take insulin or types of diabetes pills that stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas. Alcohol can also affect other medical conditions you may have, like diabetic nerve damage, diabetic eye disease, and high blood triglycerides. Get guidelines for alcohol use from your medical provider.

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    Effects Of Alcohol Consumption In The Fed State

    In people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, single episodes of alcohol consumption generally do not lead to clinically significant changes in blood sugar levels. In fact, some studies have indicated that isolated episodes of drinking with a meal may have a beneficial effect by slightly lowering blood sugar levels that tend to rise too high in diabetics . This potentially beneficial effect was observed in both men and women, regardless of age. The alcohol amounts administered in those studies were usually between 0.5 g/kg and 1 g/kg, leading to blood alcohol levels between approximately 0.03 and 0.1 percent . Those doses are equivalent to approximately 2.5 to 5 standard drinks. Interestingly, studies of acute alcohol exposure in nondiabetic people have yielded quite variable results, noting decreases, increases, or no changes in glucose levels.

    • Blood sugar levels in the fasting state

    • Hemoglobin A1c , a blood component that reflects blood sugar control over the past 2 to 3 months

    • C-peptide, a molecule that is produced together with insulin .

    Based on those biochemical markers, the researchers found the following results:

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    Type 1 And Type 2 Diabetes: What’s The Difference

    There are two main types of diabetes3.;Type 1 diabetes develops if the body cant produce enough insulin, because insulin-producing cells in the pancreas have been destroyed. It can happen:

    • Because of genetic factors;

    • When a virus or infection triggers an autoimmune response .

    People who have this type of diabetes are usually diagnosed before theyre 40 and theres currently no way to prevent it. Its the least common type of diabetes only 10% of all cases are type 14.

    Type 2 diabetes. Develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the body becomes resistant to insulin. It can happen:

    • When people are overweight and inactive. People who are an apple-shape have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes

    • Because of genetic factors.

    People who have this type of diabetes are usually diagnosed when theyre over 40, and its more common in men. However, more overweight children and young people in the UK are being diagnosed with the condition. It is also particularly common among people of African-Caribbean, Asian and Hispanic origin. 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2 diabetes5.

    Are Some Alcoholic Drinks Better Than Others

    Can I Drink Alcohol With Type 1 Diabetes

    To meet your goals of managing your blood sugar, body weight and heart health, keep these tips in mind:

    • If you are striving to lose weight, limit your alcohol intake. Or consider avoiding alcohol to rid your diet of empty calories.
    • Watch out for calorie and carbohydrate-rich mixers like regular sodas, juices and tonic water. Choose diet sodas, diet juices, diet tonic water and club soda instead.
    • Choose light beer instead of regular beer.
    • Choose dry wines instead of sparking wines, dessert wines, sweet wines and wine coolers.

    View a list of calories and carbohydrates in popular alcoholic beverages on A Look at your Liquor.


    Please remember to drink safely and responsibly! Never drink and drive. Dont use dangerous equipment, or engage in activities that require coordination, concentration, or alertness. Dont take a hot bath, hot tub or sauna because the heat combined with the alcohol may cause your blood pressure to drop too much.


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