Alcohol and Diabetes – What You Need To Know

Chilled cocktails and beer on ice can be found at many summer and holiday events, and it can be tempting to overindulge. Before you reach for your favorite beverage, however, you may consider the type of alcohol you choose and how much you drink.

The Side Effects

Alcohol can lower and/or raise your blood sugars depending on how much and how often you drink. Heavy drinking can decrease insulin release and spike your blood sugar levels instantly. Drinking too often is also likely to cause blood sugar highs.

A few hours after drinking, your liver stops producing glucose, and your levels can drop too low. The liver carries “emergency stores” of glucose to be released into your blood when needed. Overindulging in alcohol can consume all of your stored glucose, causing you to pass out due to markedly low blood sugar levels.

Your liver not only processes alcohol, but it also processes the medications you take. Alcohol can mix with your diabetes medications in the liver, causing your blood sugars to drop to dangerous levels.

Tips for Safe Drinking

Although alcohol does negatively impact your blood sugars, drinking in moderation can help you maintain your sugar readings, if you follow these guidelines.

Know Your Limit

alcoholic beverage bar beer beverage

American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that females with diabetes sip no more than one serving of an alcoholic beverage in a day, and males up to 2 servings per day. One serving is usually:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1 ½ ounces of distilled liquor

Check your blood sugars often

Senior Woman Testing Blood Sugar With Insulin Injection Pen

Your blood sugars can stay on the lower side for about one day after drinking. That is why the ADA recommends testing your blood sugar at these times:

  • Before you drink
  • While you drink 
  • Before going to bed and throughout the night you drank

Choose your alcohol wisely

clear wine glasses

The number of carbs and sugars vary widely with the type of alcohol.

Liquors, such as gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey, don’t carry any added sugars and have zero carbs, which means they won’t affect your blood sugars much. Choose mixers like club soda or diet tonic instead of regular sodas or juices that are loaded with sugar.

Beer tends to be low in sugar but high in carbs. For instance, Porters and Guinness are high in carbohydrate. Be cautious of craft beers, which may hold twice the alcohol and calories than a light beer.

Wine owes its sugar content to the grapes rather than to added sugar. The amount of carbs in wine varies with its type. Most red wines have less than 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving. The sweeter the wine, the higher is the carb and sugar content, causing greater fluctuations in your blood sugars.

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