Alcohol and Diabetes: Effects and Consumption

Alcohol can adversely interact with people with Diabetes

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder which is caused either due to reduced insulin production or failure of the body cells to react to insulin (known as insulin resistance). Gradually, diabetes affects the entire system. This condition influences the quality of life and can reduce life expectancy.

Diabetes, if not treated properly, can lead to complications.

This disorder is characterized by increased blood sugar levels. Alcohol has detrimental effects on blood sugar levels. It can either increase or decrease the blood sugar levels.

Alcohol can inhibit liver’s ability to release glucose into the Blood.

Generally, when blood glucose level falls, liver converts the stored carbohydrate into glucose and sends it into the bloodstream, preventing hypoglycaemia. But when alcohol is consumed, this process is disturbed and the liver initially attempts in rapidly eliminating alcohol from the blood and fails to send glucose into the bloodstream. Glucose is send into the bloodstream by liver only after complete alcohol detoxification. This can lead to marked reduction of blood sugar resulting in hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels).

Effects of Alcohol on Diabetes

Some of the ways by which alcohol can affect diabetes is

  • Moderate quantity of alcohol can increase the blood sugar levels while excess amounts can decrease the blood sugar to dangerous levels.
  • Increases the appetite thus, affecting the blood sugar levels.
  • Consumption of alcohol in large amounts can decrease the body’s sensitivity to insulin thus, stimulating type 2 diabetes.
  • Alcohol contains excess of calories which increases weight and enhances risk towards type 2 diabetes.
  • Alcohol may inhibit the action of some medications that are prescribed to people suffering with diabetes.
  • May interfere with the helpful effects of insulin and diabetic medications.
  • May increase the triglyceride levels and blood pressure.
  • Can cause increased heart rate, disorientation, nausea and slurred speech which can mask the symptom of hypoglycaemia, failing to realize the need of urgent treatment.
  • Influence of alcohol can affect the judgement leading to poor food choices.
  • Can worsen few complications of diabetes – if you suffer from diabetic neuropathy complication then, alcohol can accelerate tingling sensation in your hands and feet.
  • May worsen kidney damage.
  • Can increase risk of high blood pressure.
  • Can interfere with anti-hypertensive medications.

Consumption of Alcohol, if you must…

Consult your physician to enquire if alcohol consumption is safe for you. Alcohol if consumed should be consumed only in moderation. People suffering with diabetes if have to consume alcohol should take extra precaution and should follow the below mentioned guidelines:

  • Drink slowly.
  • Restrict binge drinking.
  • Avoid “sugary” mixed drinks or sweet wines.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol when your blood sugar is low.
  • Avoid consuming more than two drinks at a time.
  • Consume alcohol with soda, water or soft drinks.
  • Keep yourself hydrated when consuming alcohol.
  • Light beers are better choices as they contain less amount of alcohol and lesser calories.
  • Consume dry wines instead of dessert wines, sparkling wines or sweet wines.
  • To avoid hypoglycaemic state, consume a carbohydrate containing meal or snack when taking alcohol.
  • Drink occasionally and only when your blood sugar levels are well-controlled.
  • Avoid combining alcohol & exercises as this combination shall accelerate your risk of hypoglycaemia.
  • Avoid taking sauna or hot bath as alcohol with heat can cause the blood pressure to drop to drastic levels.
  • After consumption of alcohol, check your glucose levels before going to bed; if it is low then do take some snacks.
  • Carry glucose tablets or other sources of glucose for emergency management of hypoglycaemia.
  • Consume alcohol only with food. Avoid drinking alcohol on empty stomach as food slows down alcohol absorption into the blood stream.

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