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Alcohol use and diabetes: Here’s why this combination can be dangerous

Published on:3 July 2021, 11:09am IST
Alcohol and diabetes can definitely be termed as a complicated combination. Here’s why you need to avoid booze if you’re diabetic.
Aayushi Gupta
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Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases
You need to be careful with your consumption of alcohol, especially if you are a diabetic. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Diabetes is one of the most common lifestyle diseases, which affects millions of people. It is manageable but comes with its own set of complexities. That’s because it interferes with a person’s blood sugar levels, fat, and metabolism. In fact, high levels of glucose in your blood can cause serious health problems. And because diabetes is a very sensitive health issue, you always need to be careful with what you can consume or not.

Do you have diabetes and want to relax with an alcoholic drink? It’s a known fact that balancing diabetes and alcohol can be a tricky terrain.

For instance, moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of developing diabetes in people who don’t have the condition, particularly women. This is according to a data analysis published in the September 2015 issue of Diabetes Care. And in people who have type 2 diabetes that is well-controlled, a glass of red wine a day as part of a healthy diet, may help improve heart disease risk factors, as revealed by a two-year study published in Annals of Internal Medicine in October 2015.

alcohol and diabetes
Even if you are managing your diabetes with diet and exercise alone, drinking alcohol can stil increase your risk of low blood sugars. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

However, you need to be thoughtful about including alcohol in your diabetes management plan. 

Here are some ways that alcohol can affect diabetes:

1. The reason diabetes and alcohol is such a complicated combination is because your body essentially views alcohol as poison. This means that the liver must process it immediately. And when you drink alcohol, your liver has to work harder to remove it from your blood, instead of working to regulate blood sugar or blood glucose. Therefore with low blood glucose, you should never drink alcohol.

2. Sweet alcoholic drinks contain carbohydrates and may raise blood sugar levels and insulin concentration quickly.

3. Drinking alcohol may cause blood sugar levels to either rise or fall. Plus, it has a lot of calories, therefore it can lead to weight gain.

4. Alcohol interacts with diabetes medications, thus causing diabetics to experience hypokalemia (low blood sugar) shortly after drinking. 

5. Alcohol switches the brain into starvation mode, increasing hunger and appetite. Therefore, you are likely to overeat, and this may affect your blood sugar levels. 

alcohol and diabetes
Diabetes can increase your risk of heart disease. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

6. If you drink large amounts of alcohol, especially on an empty stomach or several hours after a meal, you could experience low blood sugar levels. This may last for up to 24 hours after drinking.

7. Excessive alcohol intake with regular meals may also cause your blood sugar to increase (hyperglycemia). 

8. Alcohol is a dehydrating drink, which increases your risk of dehydration and with diabetes, it is easy to get dehydrated. That’s because high blood sugar increases your urine output.

If you decide to drink alcohol, it is important to check your blood glucose before you drink and eat, either before or while you drink. 

Alcohol consumption dos and don’ts
  • Low carbohydrate and low-alcohol drinks may be better than standard alcohol, but the dangers still need to be considered. Often alcohol is mixed with fizzy, sugary drinks that can impact your blood sugar.
  • Plus, do not have more than two drinks.
  • Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Mix liquor with water or soda.

It is a good idea that you talk to your doctor, so that they thoroughly understand the risks involved.

Aayushi Gupta Aayushi Gupta

Candid, outspoken, but prudent--Aayushi is exploring her place in media world.