When first diagnosed with diabetes, most patients quickly learn the recommended dietary guidelines for keeping their blood sugar as stable as possible. What is not always discussed, however, is how alcoholic beverages can affect the body of a person with diabetes. Although alcohol consumption is safe for many diabetics, there are some things to consider before imbibing.
Effects of Alcohol on the Diabetic Patient
To understand the effects of alcohol in a person with diabetes, it is important to know that the liver is responsible for both alcohol metabolism and glucose (sugar) storage and release. The liver releases stored glucose into the blood stream when blood sugar levels are too low and one is not under the influence of alcohol. When working to break down alcohol, however, this ability is impaired.
Most diabetics are prescribed medications, such as metformin or sulfonylureas, which work to decrease glucose release from the liver. As long as the patient retains a stable blood glucose level by eating at regular intervals, these medications can be very successful in managing diabetes. When blood sugar is low, however, and when combined with the effects of alcohol, diabetics can experience dangerously low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).
Guidelines for Drinking with Diabetes
It can be safe for a diabetic to drink alcohol, as long as he or she does so responsibly. If you have diabetes and decide to drink, remember the following guidelines:
- The amount of alcohol you drink should be very limited—one or fewer drinks per day for women, two or fewer for men
- Do not drink on an empty stomach—eat a meal or a light snack with your beverage
- If you decide to drink more than a couple times per week, be sure to tell your physician so they can prescribe medications accordingly
Other Helpful Tips
When drinking, you may also want to consider the following tips:
- Drink only when and if your blood glucose levels are under control
- Be sure to test your blood sugar levels before drinking and before going to bed
- Sip your drink slowly to make it last
- Avoid drinks with a lot of sugar
- Do not mix alcohol and exercise
Do you still have questions about diabetes and your health? Let Southern Hills Hospital & Medical Center be your resource—call our Consult-A-Nurse Healthcare Referral at (702) 880-2700.