According to the CDC, more than 37 million people in the United States have diabetes. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in America. Some people may not even know that they have diabetes. Then mix alcohol into the equation, and it can be a recipe for disaster. People with diabetes have a higher risk of complications when consuming alcohol and are, therefore, encouraged to stay away from alcohol. Drinking alcohol can be dangerous for people with diabetes. Alcohol can raise blood sugar levels, which can lead to serious health problems.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body processes glucose, or sugar. If you have diabetes, your pancreas does not produce enough insulin or your body’s cells do not use insulin properly. This causes blood glucose levels to become too high. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is an autoimmune disorder where the body does not produce insulin at all. Type 2 is often associated with obesity but can also occur in people who are not overweight as well as younger people who may be more likely to develop this form of diabetes later in life. While type 1 diabetes is lifelong, type 2 diabetes can be managed through lifestyle changes.
In both cases, when you eat food with carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta, your digestive system breaks down those carbs into sugars like glucose. Glucose enters your bloodstream through your gut and then travels throughout your body via blood vessels until it reaches muscle cells to be used for energy or stored as glycogen for later use. But if you have diabetes, this process may not work properly because there isn’t enough insulin being produced by your pancreas, in type 1, or because those muscles aren’t responding normally due to insulin resistance, in type 2.
Alcohol and Diabetes Don’t Mix
Alcohol and diabetes don’t mix. Alcohol can cause fluctuations in blood sugar, and trigger low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). It also may lead to dehydration, weight gain, eating more than you should, or eating unhealthy food. If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it is best to stray away from drinking alcohol, as it could make your condition worse.
Some people with diabetes may experience hypoglycemia after drinking alcohol. Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar drops below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L). Symptoms include:
- hunger pains
- dizziness or feeling lightheaded
While there’s no way to eliminate the risks of alcohol consumption when you have diabetes, so it is best to abstain from drinking. Alcoholic drinks can damage your health in many ways, including increasing your risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure. It is best to just keep away from alcohol altogether, especially when dealing with diabetes.
Know the Risk
Drinking alcohol can have significant side effects for people with type 1 diabetes. Alcohol can cause low blood sugar levels by increasing the release of insulin. This is because alcohol causes the liver to release glucose into your bloodstream, which raises your blood sugar level. This constant fluctuation of blood sugar can cause lots of damage to those with diabetes.
Alcohol can cause hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels that often occur after you drink too much alcohol (more than two drinks per day). Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time increases your risk for hypoglycemia, especially if you have an underlying condition such as uncontrolled diabetes or thyroid disease.
Many diabetics take medication that increases the risk of developing alcohol-related health problems when they drink alcohol. Alcohol can affect the way your body absorbs, distributes, metabolizes, and eliminates insulin. It can also affect the way your body uses the insulin that it does make. This can lead to high blood sugar or low blood sugar. High levels of either condition may lead to serious complications such as kidney damage and nerve damage in addition to making you more prone to developing infections such as pneumonia or urinary tract infections.
You may have heard that alcohol can be good for your heart, but it’s important to remember that alcohol is a carbohydrate with 7 calories per gram. When you consume alcohol in excess, it will raise blood sugar levels and then lower them. This raises the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Alcohol also increases appetite and consumption of carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain. Excessive consumption of alcohol is associated with increased risk factors for heart disease including high cholesterol levels and high triglycerides
Alcohol can present a series of dangers if you are managing diabetes. The effects depend on how much alcohol you consume and the conditions of your body. Alcohol may cause low blood sugar and high blood sugar, or one or the other. So, what’s the bottom line?
It’s clear that alcohol and diabetes don’t mix well. If you have diabetes, it’s important to take steps to ensure your health is protected and that you understand how alcohol can affect your body. It doesn’t matter if you are type 1 or type 2, alcohol and diabetes are a dangerous mix. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, please reach out to see if we can help.
Here at Acera, we want to walk this journey with you so you can enter recovery as soon as possible. Call today at, (949) 647-4090.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.