Alcohol and Diabetes – Is It OK To Have A Drink?

Alcohol and diabetes do not always mix and if you are taking diabetes medications, then you will need to drink with caution because alcohol and diabetes medicine can combine to create blood sugar levels that are dangerously low.

Alcohol and diabetes – what is the potential problem?

Certain medications for diabetes, such as sulfonylureas and meglitinides (Prandin), help your body make more insulin which in turn lowers your blood sugar level. Alcohol can cause low blood sugar as well so when the two are combined it has the potential to result in hypoglycemia, the term used for blood sugar levels that have dropped too low.

Is There a Safe Way To Mix Alcohol and Diabetes?

The threat of hypoglycemia for most people simply means you must be more aware when drinking alcohol and take proper steps to avoid problems.

Tips to stay safe when drinking alcoholic beverages:

  • Ask your doctor if drinking alcohol is safe for you. Every diabetic is different so the first tip to staying safe is to ask your doctor about your specific condition and whether alcohol can fit into your diet.
  • Check your blood sugar level before taking your first sip. You should not drink if your blood sugar is not under control. It is also a recommended to check your blood sugar level before going to bed if you had a drink during the day.
  • Eat before you start drinking or have food with your alcoholic beverage.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption. Women with diabetes should not consume more than 1 drink a day and men should restrict their alcohol consumption to 2 or fewer drinks a day.
  • Do not plan on driving after you have an alcoholic beverage.
  • Alert someone if you are feeling overly tired, dizzy or disoriented. The symptoms of hypoglycemia are similar to those that come from drinking too much alcohol. If you drink alcohol and diabetes is a condition you deal with be sure to let others know if you do not feel right.
  • Where an I.D. bracelet that identifies you as a diabetic.

As mentioned above, alcohol tends to lower blood sugar and for diabetics this can increase the risk of hypoglycemia.  "Your body can only break down one ounce of alcohol per hour." (1)  So you will need to be aware of how much alcohol you are drinking and monitor how your body is handling it.

With the right precautions most diabetics can enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage but it is important to understand the relationship between alcohol and diabetes so you can drink responsibly and protect your health.

(1) Rhode Island Department of Health (2010). Diabetes prevention and control program. Retrieved from http://www.health.ri.gov/disease/diabetes/alcohol.php

 

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