Alcohol and Diabetes

For most of us, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine from time to time. Studies have even shown that drinking red wine in moderation can reduce the risk of heart disease. But do the same rules apply to people with diabetes?

You may be surprised to learn that the short answer is “Yes.” However, those with diabetes should be very cautious when consuming alcohol because it can make some of the complications worse. For example, the presence of alcohol in the body can prevent the liver from properly regulating blood sugar. Alcohol can also interact with particular medications that are often prescribed to people with diabetes. Because of this, it’s really important to check with your doctor to determine whether drinking alcohol is safe for you.

If you have diabetes and your doctor gives you the green light to drink alcohol, follow these guidelines to make sure it doesn’t complicate any of your medical conditions:

  1. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one serving per day for women and two servings per day for men.

One serving size of alcohol equals:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1½ ounces of distilled spirits (such as rum, whiskey, gin, etc.)
  1. Don’t drink on an empty stomach or when your blood sugar is low. Food slows down the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream. This is especially important for diabetics who take insulin or diabetes pills that stimulate insulin production.
  2. Keep an eye on your blood sugar. Drinking alcohol can cause hypoglycemia up to 12 hours after consumption. Make sure your blood sugar is at a safe level, above 100 mg/dL, before, during, and after you drink alcohol.
  3. Wear an ID bracelet to alert the people around you to the fact that you have diabetes. This way, if you start to behave like you’re intoxicated, they’ll know your symptoms may be caused by hypoglycemia.
  4. Stay hydrated while you drink alcohol by having a calorie-free beverage by your side. A glass of water is ideal, but diet soda and un-sweetened iced tea are also acceptable choices.