Alcohol and Diabetes

Provided you only drink in moderation, there’s no reason why you should have to give up alcohol just because you have diabetes.

Try to drink less than 2 units a day if you’re a woman or 3 units a day if you’re a man. It is also recommended that you have at least 2 alcohol-free days per week.

HSE recommendations for lower-risk drinking

Low-risk weekly guidelines for adults are:                                     

Up to 11 standard drinks in 1 week for women, and

Up to 17 standard drinks in a week for men

1 unit = ½ pint of beer/lager or 125ml glass of wine or 1 pub measure (25 ml) of spirit

Drink Responsibly

  • Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach
  • Combine spirits with sugar-free mixers
  • Bear in mind that alcohol is high in calories
  • Remember that alcohol can lower your blood glucose level
  • If you are socialising and drinking alcohol, tell someone you have diabetes
  • Carry some form of ID in your pocket/wallet

Hypoglycaemia and Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks contain alcohol and sugar and so will affect your blood glucose.  When you take Insulin to manage your diabetes, drinking alcohol can cause dangerously low blood glucose because your Liver has to work to remove the alcohol from your blood instead of its main job to regulate your blood glucose.

The symptoms of too much alcohol and low blood glucose can be very similar, i.e sleepiness, dizziness, and altered behaviour.

Follow these guidelines to maintain a margin of safety

  • Eat before you take alcohol – food slows down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Also, have a carbohydrate snack (toast or cereal) before you go to bed to reduce the risk of hypoglycaemia in the morning. This risk continues to the next day. You may need to alter your quick acting insulin the day after to prevent ‘Hypos’.
  • Check blood glucose before going to bed – your blood glucose may be abnormally high. Do not take a correction dose of short acting Insulin for this.This is due to the alcohol and will come down during the night. Don’t forget your long acting Insulin if you normally take it at nighttimes

by Joan Kelly

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