Diabetes and Alcohol Consumption


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If you have diabetes, you need to be careful with alcohol. Alcohol can affect how well you control your blood sugar (glucose) level. It can also increase risks to your health. Before choosing to drink alcohol, discuss it with your healthcare provider (HCP). He or she can help you decide whether you can drink safely. This sheet tells you more about risks of drinking alcohol. It also gives you tips for staying safe when you drink.

How Alcohol Can Affect Your Diabetes

Here are some of the ways alcohol can affect your health if you have diabetes:

  • It can make certain health problems worse. Alcohol may worsen disease of the liver, kidney, or pancreas. It may also make nerve or eye damage more likely. If you have any of these health problems, your HCP will likely advise you not to drink alcohol.

  • It can increase your risk for low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). The liver helps prevent low blood sugar by releasing extra glucose into the blood. Alcohol in the blood keeps the liver from doing this. Low blood sugar is more likely if you drink alcohol on an empty stomach or during or right after exercise. It is also more likely if you take insulin or medications that help lower blood sugar. Also, alcohol may affect your ability to tell whether you have symptoms of low blood sugar. This may keep you from getting needed treatment.

  • It can increase your risk for high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Many alcoholic drinks contain carbohydrates (carbs). These include beers, sweeter wines, and drinks mixed with fruit juices or sugar. Carbs raise blood sugar levels higher and faster than other kinds of foods. Drinking may throw off your ability to monitor your carbs.

  • It can affect how well you manage your weight. Alcohol is high in calories and has no nutrition. If you are on a meal plan to help control your weight, you will need to count alcohol as part of your daily calorie intake. A standard drink is usually counted as 90 calories or two fat exchanges. In addition, alcohol can cause you to feel hungrier than normal. This makes you more likely to overeat, which can affect your weight and blood sugar level.



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Medical Reviewers: Chambers, Jeanette K, PhD, RN, CS; DeLeuw, Bonnie, RN, BSN, CDE Last Review Date: Apr 2, 2012

© 2000-2015 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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