Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Diabetes?

Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes & Alcohol

Balancing both diabetes and alcohol can be a tricky task. Even in a non-diabetic, not only does alcohol affect certain people differently, different types of alcohol can have different effects on the very same person!  

For people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes who take insulin or other diabetes medications to lower blood sugar levels, drinking alcohol needs to be done very cautiously.

How does alcohol affect your blood sugar?

The reason diabetes and alcohol are such a complicated combination is that your body views alcohol as a poison that the liver needs to process immediately.

As the liver gets busy processing the alcohol you drank, your body stops digesting and breaking down the food you ate.

This means you have more risk of having low blood sugar even hours after eating and drinking because you took insulin from food that isn’t being fully digested while alcohol is still present in the body.

Meanwhile, many alcoholic drinks also contain a good amount of sugar. Some beers, dessert wines, cocktails, and other liquor-based drinks with ingredients like soda, juice or sour mix are all high in sugar content.

When you drink too much alcohol, you become unconscious.

While you’re unconscious, your blood sugar could begin to drop as an effect of the alcohol, having not eaten enough, and all of the other day-to-day causes of low blood sugar. 

This puts you at more risk for seizures or death as others might think you are sleeping when you’re actually blackout drunk and suffering from severe hypoglycemia at the same time.

On the flip side, when you become so drunk that you can even forget to take your long-acting insulin dose. Then, while being unconscious, your blood sugar is rising to severe high levels, putting you at risk for diabetic ketoacidosis, coma, or even death.

Excessive drinking can also cause severe vomiting which can cause dehydration in your body.

Severe dehydration with diabetes can rapidly cause kidney failure if you are continuously vomiting. This is a sign that you need emergency treatment.

How does alcohol affects your health with diabetes?

It can lead to weight gain 

If you have type 2 diabetes, you have some level of metabolic disease, and incorporating sugar and calories from alcohol into your regular diet is only going to add more to your metabolic disease.

For those who are already struggling with high triglycerides, the regular intake of alcohol can significantly worsen your levels. 

It becomes harder to make good choices

When you’re drinking, it’s simply harder to make good choices with the use of the right judgement. 

Even the next morning after a night of drinking, you can find yourself craving super oily foods, fast foods and even toxic foods. Even regularly drinking just 1-2 glasses of wine a night can have a huge effect on your motivation to exercise the next day.

It wears on your entire body

Regular drinking not only is going to make your blood sugars difficult to control, but it’s also going to impact your liver and kidneys, both of which are already under greater stress if your blood sugars are higher than usual. It can even worsen the health of the nerves and blood vessels in your eyes.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people dealing with diabetes follow some of the general guidelines for alcohol consumption:

Men: average drinks not more than 2 per day 

Women: average drinks not more than 1 per day

If you are already diagnosed with conditions relating to your kidney or liver function, alcohol is truly something you should avoid completely.

5 things to keep in mind regarding alcohol & diabetes

Alcohol and diabetes can be a very tricky duo, but it’s absolutely possible to enjoy drinking responsibly if you remember some of these guidelines:

  • Do check your blood sugar levels regularly before, during, and after your alcohol consumption.
  • Consider decreasing the insulin dose of fast-acting insulin for meals while drinking to prevent low blood sugar hours after you’ve finished drinking.
  • Opt for low-carb drinks like dry wines, light beer, or cocktails that consist of sugar-free mixers like diet soda or club soda.
  • Make sure to teach your close friends and family about the symptoms of hypoglycemia, how to help you if you will struggle with alcohol poisoning, and that they should never let you “sleep it off” if you are unconscious and unresponsive after overdrinking.
  • Act smart. Limit your consumption of alcohol ideally to no more than 2-3 drinks, with a strict cut-off at Max 5 drinks if you intend to drink more heavily.

Take Away

Type 2 diabetes and alcohol are not at all a beneficial combination. While moderate alcohol consumption lowers blood sugar, heavy consumption is very harmful to diabetes and various other aspects of health as well.

The ADA neither advises nor forbids people to consume alcohol. However, the organization recommends that females with diabetes limit their consumption to only 1 drink per day and males limit their consumption to not more than 2 drinks per day.

If someone chooses to drink alcohol, they should have some food with it and keep a close watch on their blood sugar levels.

Most importantly, if you wish to engage in moderate drinking, you should first discuss this with your doctor.