Alcohol Use and People with Diabetes

Alcohol and diabetes

Drinking alcohol can lower blood sugar levels to the point of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), causing serious symptoms. Keep careful track of your blood sugar (glucose) levels when drinking alcohol. This is important because most diabetes medicines, including insulin, also lower blood sugar levels. If blood sugar levels are too low, or if your stomach is empty, don't drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol can weaken your body's ability to recover from low blood sugar episodes. It may also decrease your ability to see and respond to symptoms of low blood sugar. People with type 1 diabetes are at particular risk of low blood sugar if they binge-drink.

The symptoms for drunkenness and low blood sugar are similar. Symptoms may include severe tiredness (fatigue), mental confusion, and dizziness. To make sure you get the correct medical care for hypoglycemia, always carry a card, wear an ID bracelet, or wear a necklace that says you have diabetes.

Alcohol sometimes can also cause blood sugar levels to rise. This is because of the carbohydrates in certain drinks. Drinking alcohol while eating, or right before eating, can cause blood sugar levels to rise. This may be dangerous. Watch your blood sugar closely before and after drinking alcohol. Be sure not to drink on an empty stomach to prevent hypoglycemia.

If you are using carbohydrate counting to adjust insulin doses, don't count the alcohol as grams of carbohydrate.

Check with your healthcare provider to see if drinking alcohol is safe for you. This will depend on many things, such as your age, other health conditions, and the number and type of medicines you take. Your provider or dietitian can also tell you how to fit alcohol into your diet. If you already drink, be honest with your provider. Tell them how often and how much you drink.

Don't drive for a few hours after you drink alcohol. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2023
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