Diabetes and Alcohol – What You Need to Know

By: Bel Marra Health | Diabetes | Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 12:53 AM

insulinDecades ago, people were simply told if you have diabetes don’t drink alcohol, but now extensive research has shown that under the right conditions, controlled alcohol consumption for some diabetic patients can be safe.

The Dangers of Alcohol – Blood Sugar Levels

According to the Mayo Clinic there are certain conditions associated with diabetes that make it dangerous to drink alcohol. For example, if you have diabetic nerve damage or high blood pressure, alcohol consumption is not a good idea. If your diabetes is not under control you are putting yourself at great risk as well. You are best to discuss alcohol consumption with your doctor because you have no idea what impact it will have on your glucose levels.

Alcohol has the ability to lower blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes you have to keep good track of your blood sugar levels. Some diabetes medications, such as insulin, also lower blood glucose levels. When blood glucose levels are low, alcohol should be avoided.

Here are some of the symptoms of low blood sugar:

• Fatigue

• Disorientation

• Dizziness

Drinking alcohol can also cause blood sugar levels to rise. This is due to the fact that some drinks have carbohydrates in them. Many people eat before or during alcohol consumption so that can create an increase in blood sugar levels as well.

Insulin

Studies show that alcohol use on a social level is still widespread among those who have diabetes. For this reason, researchers continue to investigate the impact of alcohol consumption on diabetic patients, including the effect on insulin levels. Insulin is one of the major hormones responsible for regulating the body’s blood sugar levels. Insulin leads to the uptake of glucose into muscle and fat tissue and is a vital function within the human body. With type 1 diabetes there is often no or very little insulin production. In the case of type 2 diabetes, normal or even elevated insulin production can be experienced.

Just as diabetic diets have to be individualized so should alcoholic consumption for people who suffer from diabetes. One reason for this is that some medications actually cause the pancreas to create more insulin. If you are on such a medication then alcohol consumption can cause major fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. Those fluctuations can be very dangerous. Here are some basic drinking guidelines; however, talking with your physician about drinking alcohol is a must.

• Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach

• Always carry glucose tablets or another source of sugar

• Check your blood sugar level before, during and after drinking

• Never binge drink

• Don’t mix alcohol and exercise, it could lead to low blood sugar

• Have a no calorie beverage beside you to quench your thirst

According to the American Diabetes Association most medical professionals recommend that women drink no more than one alcoholic beverage a day and men drink no more than 2 a day. Many also suggest wine spritzers to reduce the amount of alcohol in the drink.

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability in North America and is associated with a wide variety of complicated ailments, including heart disease, blindness and kidney disease. Having said this, studies show that those who manage their diabetes and maintain their blood sugar levels reduce their risk of any complications by 50 percent.

Part of the management process involves learning the do’s and don’ts of alcohol consumption from your doctor.


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