Diabetes and alcohol can have diverse outcomes on people. Alcohol can drift your blood sugar levels to both ends and any uncontrolled change in glucose levels is likely to pose an adverse outcome. Since the effect of alcohol on diabetes can be confusing, arriving at a conclusive outcome can be tricky.
Some people may continue to drink alcohol without any remarkable adverse effects while others may experience significant side effects of drinking. Usually, occasional drinking may not be concerning with well-managed blood glucose levels.
Since diabetes is a state where blood glucose levels are crucial for healthy living, it is a good idea to discuss alcohol drinking and its effects with your doctor for ascertaining its safety. Right information can equip you better in life.
Alcohol Interaction with Diabetes
Alcohol, which gets processed by the body similar to fat, can raise blood glucose levels if you are diabetic. Upon consuming an alcoholic beverage, alcohol enters the bloodstream. It does not get metabolized in the stomach but in the liver. For an average adult, one drink gets metabolized in about two hours. So if you drink alcohol faster than its metabolism, it enters your blood including other body parts (like brain).
Alcohol effect on diabetes is not restricted to changing blood sugar levels; it can also lead to high blood pressure, flushing, increased triglyceride levels (which may lead to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls thereby increasing the risk of heart attack and heart disease), nausea, overeating (due to increased appetite) and hinder speech. The carbohydrate content of sweet wine and beer can also increase blood sugar.
Another adverse effect of alcohol on diabetes is the increased risk of retinopathy. Diabetic eye disease is a long-term complication of the condition and one of the major factors behind blindness in U.S. Although more studies are needed to clarify the exact relationship between alcohol ingestion and diabetic eye disease, heavy alcohol consumption is likely to increase the risk for developing the disease.
Alcohol can both increase and decrease blood glucose levels. Moderate alcohol consumption can increase blood sugar levels while excessive consumption can decrease the blood sugar levels. Both can be dangerous when reached beyond or below a certain level.
Medical Interactions of Alcohol and Other Risks
Alcohol consumption can interfere with the medicines used for treatment of diabetes. For a person on insulin or an oral diabetic medication (like sulfonylurea, meglitinide, etc. which stimulate the pancreas), alcohol can cause alarmingly low levels of blood sugar. Since the liver now works to remove alcohol from blood, its main task of regulating blood sugar is sidelined.
Diabetics using chlorpropamide (used for treating type 2 diabetes) can experience unpleasant reactions after drinking alcohol. Alcohol can also intervene with another medication, metformin, to cause potentially life-damaging outcomes in people who have poor liver functioning. Troglitazone, which has the ability to impair liver function, is another medicine which can have harmful effects when combined with alcohol.
Diabetics Essentially Do Not Have to Give Up Alcohol In Totality
It is not essential to stop drinking when your are diabetic. Rather, staying in control is more important when diabetes and alcohol go together. There are guidelines which should be followed when diabetics want to continue drinking alcohol. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercisingare primary elements of diabetic care which should also be followed here also.
Diabetics should not regularly drink more than the daily unit guidelines, about 3-4 units of alcohol for men and 2-3 units for women (which is equivalent to about 175 ml). In the guideline, regularly indicates everyday or most days of the week.
Guidelines for Avoiding the Adverse Effects of Drinking Alcohol
When diabetics consume alcohol, they should adhere to certain guidelines for ensuring good health and well being. In order that alcohol’s adverse effects are restricted, the following things have been found useful:
Eating with Drinking
Alcohol drinking should be supplemented with food and should never be done on an empty stomach. But do not substitute alcohol for meals as this can cause hypoglycemia. Eat sufficient carbohydrates to keep the blood sugar level under control. If possible, eat a healthy meal before drinking. When you are drinking, dilute your drink with water or a diet soft drink and drink slowly.
Keeping Track of Drinking
According to the American Diabetes Association, men should have no more than two drinks a day, and women only one. The same guidelines hold for those without diabetes. It is important to keep track of how many units you drink. By noting this, you know how many calories you consume through alcohol and through supplement foods.
Note the ‘ABV’ or just ‘vol’ (Alcohol By Volume) of drinks by reading labels. It tells you the percentage of pure alcohol in your drink. If you are having a strong lager (6% ABV), consuming just one can exceed three units of alcohol. Do not forget to monitor your blood sugar before, during and after drinking alcohol. And never miss to check before going to bed.
Avoiding Unfavorable Situations
Be prepared when you choose to drink. Always keep glucose tablets or another source of sugar handy. Never mix alcohol and exercise as physical activity accompanied by alcohol intake can increase your chances of getting a low blood sugar.
Excessive alcohol and binge drinking can lead to many unfavorable consequences like risk of accident, dizziness, alcohol poisoning, etc. It is a good idea to wear a medical I.D. so that prompt medical intervention can save you from life-threatening situations.
A Word of Advice
If you are overweight, suffer from high blood pressure or high triglyceride levels before drinking alcohol, it is better to avoid drinking. Consult your doctor for arriving at a conclusive and favorable outcome. Alcohol substitutes may also help you when you want to quit drinking.
Having diabetes makes you more vulnerable to the damaging effects of alcohol. The best thing you can do is to avoid it totally. Should you want to drink alcohol, make it a point to discuss it with your health care expert and take prompt measure(s) in case of any adversity. You should essentially refrain from heavy drinking by all means to deter life-threatening situations.