When it comes to diabetic diets, it seems like the list of foods to avoid is endlessly long. White carbs, fatty or processed meats, fast food, and most high-sugar or high-salt foods are all a no-go, as are sodas, juices, and other sugary drinks.
But what about alcohol? Should you drink alcohol if you are diabetic — or can doing so be too dangerous to justify? Keep reading to learn more about alcohol and diabetes and discover what you can do to use alcohol safely as a diabetic.
How alcohol and diabetes interact
Diabetes can either cause the body to not make enough insulin or cause it to not use insulin efficiently. Either way, when your body isn’t using insulin properly, it can’t transform glucose into energy. As glucose builds up in the bloodstream, it causes elevated blood sugar levels, which can lead to health issues such as kidney failure, heart failure, foot problems, neuropathy, and even death.
Living with diabetes requires constant and consistent management of blood glucose levels, and this is why so many diabetics avoid foods and drinks that can cause their blood sugar to get too high or too low. Unfortunately, alcohol is one substance that can cause dramatic shifts in blood glucose levels. There are several ways that alcohol can affect blood sugar, such as:
- Sugary alcoholic drinks can increase blood glucose levels.
- Excessive drinking, especially in conjunction with certain medications such as insulin, can cause blood glucose levels to plummet.
- Alcohol inhibits liver function and makes it difficult for your body to create new glucose and regulate your blood glucose level.
- Drinking alcohol may lead to dehydration or nutrient deficiencies.
- Too much alcohol can lead to decreased insulin sensitivity, which can contribute to or exacerbate diabetes.
Should diabetics avoid alcohol?
Refraining from alcohol is the surest way to prevent alcohol-induced health issues. However, in most cases, you can still enjoy certain alcoholic drinks in moderation. If you are diabetic and would like to consume alcohol, one of the most important things you can do is speak to your doctor. A medical care provider can help you determine whether it’s safe for you to drink and, if so, how much you can safely enjoy.
The exception to this is if you are suffering from diabetic peripheral neuropathy or have a history of kidney damage. Alcohol can greatly exacerbate neuropathy and
make you more susceptible to kidney problems or strokes.
How to enjoy a safer drinking experience
In addition to speaking with your doctor, you can also enjoy a safer drinking experience by following these tips:
- Test your blood sugar regularly, especially before and after you drink alcohol and before you sleep. Remember that a single drink can impact your blood sugar levels for up to 12 hours.
- Enjoy low-carb and low-sugar alcoholic drinks that will have less of an effect on your blood glucose levels. Dry wines and light beers are better options than mixed drinks.
- Do not overconsume alcohol. Limit yourself to one serving of alcohol per day for women, or two services per day for men.
- Understand how alcohol can affect you. Drinking may lead to hypoglycemia, which is characterized by dizziness, weakness, sweating, and other symptoms.
- Enjoy your drink while eating a healthy snack. Never consider an alcoholic beverage as a meal replacement.
So, should you drink alcohol if you’re diabetic? Only you and your doctor can decide whether it’s the right choice for you. If you do decide to drink, remember to do so wisely and safely.
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