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Alcoholism and Diabetes Complications

diabetes and alcoholism

There has been so many controversies about diabetic patients drinking alcohol. If you are diabetic and drink alcohol, there are some things you need to know about alcohol safety.

Is it safe to drink alcohol?

Check with your doctor to make sure alcohol does not interfere with your medications or complicate any of your medical conditions. Drinking alcohol can lead to serious reactions of low blood sugar, especially if you take insulin or types of diabetes pills that stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas. Alcohol can also affect other medical conditions you may have, such as nerve damage from diabetes, diabetic eye disease, and high blood triglycerides. Obtain guidelines for the use of alcohol by a medical professional.

How much alcohol can I drink?

If ever you choose to drink alcohol as a diabetic patient, it should be as moderate as possible. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one measure per day for women, and no more than two measures per day for men.

A measure of alcohol is equivalent to:

12 ounces of beer (just over half a pint)

5 ounces of wine (about 1 glass)

1½ ounces of distilled beverages (such as rum, whiskey, gin, etc.)

Alcohol and the risk of low blood sugar

If you are managing diabetes with diet and exercise alone, drinking alcohol can still increase your risk of low blood sugar. And if you take insulin or types of diabetes pills that stimulate insulin production, drinking alcohol can lead to even more serious reactions of low blood sugar.

Normally, blood sugar level is maintained with the help of the liver which releases glucose. But when you drink alcohol, the liver is so busy breaking down alcohol that it does a bad job of releasing glucose into the bloodstream. This is dangerous because it can lead to a drop in the level of sugar in your blood; especially when drinking on an empty stomach.

Each alcoholic beverage takes approximately 1-1½ hours to finish processing in the liver. During all that time, there is a risk of low blood sugar. So, if you drink 2 drinks, double that time, and you will be at risk of having low blood sugar for 2 to 3 hours. The more alcohol you have consumed, the greater the risk of a serious drop in blood sugar.

The solution? Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach. If you must drink alcohol, never do it on an empty stomach. Try to consume meals or snacks with high carb content and never substitute a meal for alcohol or skip meals altogether.

Follow these safety tips:

Know the symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and inform others. If you faint, those who are close must know that it is a medical emergency, not just a sign of intoxication.

Use the medical alert ID bracelet at all times.

Bring a source of carbohydrates, such as glucose tablets, with you in case your sugar level decreases substantially.

Check your blood sugar more often. The effects of alcohol can make it difficult for you to detect the symptoms of low blood sugar.

In cases of severe blood sugar decreases, glucagon injections may not work effectively to raise blood sugar, since the hormone glucagon stimulates the liver to release glucose, and alcohol prevents that process.

If you combine exercise with alcohol, the risk of low blood sugar is even greater. Because more exercise lowers blood sugar levels, you should check your blood sugar more often. You may need a high carb snack to avoid low blood sugar.

This video by diabetes specialist Beat Your Diabetes. It answers commonly asked questions regarding diabetes and alcohol.

Take care of the good of your heart and the circumference of your waist

Alcohol has many calories and few nutrients. That’s why it’s often said that alcohol is “empty calories.” When the liver breaks down alcohol, it converts alcohol into fats. That means that drinking alcohol can make you gain weight. At a rate of 7 calories per gram, alcohol has almost the same density of calories as fat (9 calories per gram). That’s where the beer belly comes from! The use of alcohol can also lead to fats, elevated in the blood, which increases the risk of heart disease.

Are some alcoholic beverages better than others?

Here are some tips to keep in mind when managing your blood sugar, body weight and heart:

If you are struggling to lose weight, limit your alcohol intake. Or consider avoiding alcohol to free your diet of empty calories.

Monitor high calorie and carbohydrate blends, such as regular soft drinks, juices and tonic water. Choose diet soft drinks, dietary juices, dietary tonic water and soda/carbonated water instead.

Choose light beer (lower in alcohol/calories) instead of regular beer.

Choose dry wines instead of sparkling wines, dessert wines, sweet wines and wine-based soft drinks.

A great option for healthier alcohol is to look at the SkinnyBooze site. They are a startup who specialise in alcoholic drinks with lower carb, sugar and calorie counts than the average booze. We have tried most of their products and confirm that they still retain the classic flavours.

Skinny Booze

Further info:

Remember to drink safely and responsibly! Never drink and drive. Do not use dangerous equipment or engage in activities that require coordination, concentration or alertness. Do not take a hot bath, Jacuzzi/whirlpool or sauna because the heat combined with alcohol can make your blood pressure go too low.

if you drink alcohol, know what you do to your body.

How much is considered a drink?

This table provides a list of popular alcoholic drinks and shows the average measure, carbohydrate content and number of calories.

DrinksMeasureCarbs (g)Calories
Normal beer340ml13150
Light beer340ml5100
Alcohol-free beer340ml1260
Dry white, red, rose115ml480
Sweet wine115ml5105
Kosher sweet wine115ml12132
Bloody Mary140ml5116
Gin and Tonic210ml16170
Daisy Flower170ml29205
Pina Colada130ml32245
Tom Collins210ml3120
Whiskey Sour100ml14162
Amaretto Sour30ml19118
Fuzzy Naval30ml7120
Mud Slide30ml17160
Tonic Water110ml1141
Juice (orange, grapefruit, pineapple)110ml1560

This table might make you think differently about the type of alcohol you drink. And if you’re diabetic, it is more important for you than most that you track your alcohol consumption. Thanks for reading and happy drinking!

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