For many people, having a drink or two is part of their daily routine. An hour at a pub or a game night with friends usually means having a few drinks. But, for people with diabetes, drinking alcohol is a bit more complicated. Not to mention the confusion caused by there being two types of diabetes.
La Hacienda Treatment Center Accepts People with Diabetes that want to Stop Drinking
Alcohol and diabetes can be a dangerous combination. At La Hacienda we treat alcoholism while also helping people with blood sugar issues, especially those who have digestive and kidney diseases, manage their conditions.
Prior to admission, our medical team carefully examines the patient’s medical history, taking into consideration their alcohol intake as well as blood issues such as diabetes-related lipid abnormalities and elevated triglyceride levels.
Low Blood Sugar and Drinking Alcohol
When you drink alcohol daily or consume alcohol once in a while, the outward effects are similar to low blood sugar. It can be difficult to diagnose an alcohol use disorder in someone struggling with alcohol and diabetes.
Symptoms like flushed skin, increased heart rate, nausea, and most noticeable–slurred speech– can be caused by alcohol consumption or low blood sugar.
If you have diabetes, it is important to know whether it’s safe for you to drink alcohol, what type of alcohol is best, and how much alcohol is safe to consume.
A diabetic person should always imbibe alcoholic drinks in moderation; there’s no way to predict the body’s reaction to the sudden intake of sugar. Also, alcohol interferes with blood sugar levels, so it is best to control consumption to avoid or lessen risks.
Can Alcohol Cause Diabetes?
Alcohol does not cause diabetes, a condition in which the body’s insulin production or use is abnormal. With Type 1 there is no insulin production and with Type 2, the most common form, the body does not use insulin correctly.
While moderate alcohol intake may improve insulin sensitivity, says the American Diabetes Association, heavy or acute alcohol consumption can increase risks to diabetics associated with other factors.
Is it OK for Diabetics to Drink Alcohol?
Alcohol affects people with diabetes in different ways. It is best to consult your doctor about drinking alcohol.
It’s important to consider the impact that drinking might have on blood sugar levels and whether it will cause hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Drinking water or other non-caloric beverages between alcoholic drinks may help prevent blood sugar levels from dropping during or after drinking sessions.
Alcoholism and Diabetes
The general rule of thumb for moderate drinking is one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks for men. More than three drinks for men can put you at risk of developing health complications.
However, for those with diabetes, following this rule may allow for more alcohol than your body can take. It is important to know how alcohol affects your blood sugar. Knowing what alcoholic drink you can and can’t have is tricky, in addition most who are alcoholic cannot keep boundaries when it comes to any sort of alcohol consumption.
With alcohol use disorders and diabetes, one drink is a huge risk factor
What Are the Effects of Alcohol on Diabetes?
The ADA does not forbid or limit those with diabetes to consume alcohol, but it doesn’t advise drinking either. It is generally up to the person. Here are some of the effects of alcohol and diabetes:
It Makes Blood Sugar Control More Difficult
Alcohol has a direct effect on blood sugar levels and can make it more difficult to control diabetes. This is because alcohol contains calories, which the liver converts into glucose. If you drink too much alcohol, it can raise your blood sugar levels.
Drinking too much alcohol also affects insulin levels in the long term, which may cause you to develop insulin resistance. This means that insulin loses its ability to lower blood glucose levels effectively, leading to high blood sugar levels over time.
It Increases the Risk of Complications
Alcohol is known to increase risk of developing diabetes-related complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and nerve damage (neuropathy). People who have diabetes are usually advised not to drink at all or only consume small amounts of alcohol because it could make their condition worse or lead them to develop complications earlier than expected. Severe health consequences can occur even with moderate drinking.
Drinking Promotes Weight Gain
Alcohol contains a lot of calories, and those calories can quickly add up. If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, drinking alcohol can make it more difficult. It also stops your body from burning fat, which can lead to weight gain. Its high caloric content can also increase your appetite, making it harder to stick to a healthy diet and causing you to feel hungry even if you’ve just eaten.
Less Predictable Blood Sugar Levels
Because of the alcohol’s effects on the body as well as how it interacts with medications, blood sugar levels can become harder to predict and control. This can make managing diabetes more difficult, especially if you’re trying to maintain strict blood sugar control. So, if you have diabetes, are taking several medications, and want to continue drinking alcohol, it’s important to speak with your doctor.
Promotes Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Alcohol use disorders or heavy alcohol consumption can compromise the kidney’s function. Aside from increased blood sugar levels, someone that is intoxicated with alcohol also has high levels of ketones in their blood which can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). They are likely to develop kidney and liver diseases as their ability to regulate the body’s fluids is impaired. Alcohol can also affect insulin production for those taking medications.
7 Things to Know About Alcohol and Diabetes
Here are seven things to keep in mind about alcohol and diabetes:
1. Alcohol Can Interact with Diabetes Medications
Alcohol interacts with many medications, including those used to treat diabetes. Some medications, such as insulin, may not work well when combined with alcohol. This can cause low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia) or high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia).
2. Alcohol can Prevent the Liver from Doing Its Job
The liver is responsible for processing alcohol. If you have diabetes, alcohol can put extra stress on your liver, which could lead to a buildup of fat in your liver (hepatitis) or inflammation of your liver (cirrhosis). If you already have damage to your liver, drinking alcohol increases risk factors.
Also, given that the main function of the liver is to store glycogen (a sugar the body uses for energy), it is important to be aware that alcohol can cause the liver to release too much sugar into the bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels.
3. Never Drink on an Empty Stomach
If you have diabetes and drink alcohol, it is important to never drink on an empty stomach. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can cause your blood sugar levels to drop quickly, which can lead to hypoglycemia.
When you start drinking alcohol, your blood sugar levels start to fall. This is because alcohol prevents the liver from releasing sugar into the bloodstream. Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) can cause confusion, dizziness, and in severe cases, a coma or death. After drinking it is important to check blood sugar levels to make sure they are still on target. If your glucose is low, eat a snack to help increase blood sugar levels.
5. Test Blood Sugar When Planning to Drink
It is important to check blood sugar and watch drinking habits. Properly assess blood glucose levels and to make sure they are not too low or too high. If blood sugar is too high, it is best to not drink alcohol. If blood sugar is too low, to drink safely it is best to have a snack.
6. Distilled Spirits vs Club Soda
To drink alcohol or distilled spirits affects your blood glucose level when you have diabetes. Severe health consequences can happen because alcohol impairs both physically and mentally. Try a club soda or diet soda if you feel peer pressure to drink. If you believe your alcohol consumption is not problematic, slowly sipping your drink will help your body process the alcohol better and will help to prevent blood sugar levels from dropping too low.
7. Always Know Your Limits
Even for those who don’t have diabetes, it is important to know your limits when drinking alcohol. Alcohol can cause dehydration, which can lead to other problems such as low blood pressure and fainting.
It is important to drink plenty of water or non-alcoholic beverages and avoid heavy alcohol consumption. Stay hydrated to help prevent your blood sugar levels from dropping too low.
When To Avoid Drinking Alcohol
For some people, drinking alcohol is not a problem. For others, it can lead to a range of serious consequences, including alcohol abuse, addiction, DUI charges, or health problems.
It is also harmful to those with long-term problems with diabetes. People with diabetes are often more negatively impacted by alcohol since they are already at a higher risk for low blood sugar, kidney diseases and heart disease. Alcohol can further damage their blood vessels and increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease.
If you have diabetes you have to be more cautious about your intake of alcohol as drinking can make these cases worse:
This is a type of nerve damage common to those with diabetes. It can cause pain, tingling, or numbness in the hands and feet. Drinking alcohol can intensify these symptoms as well as make them more difficult to treat. Diabetes and alcohol consumption are the two most common underlying causes of peripheral neuropathy.
This is a common complication of diabetes that damages the blood vessels in your retina (the back part of your eye). Drinking alcohol can cause these blood vessels to leak or swell, further damaging your vision. If you are suffering from this diabetic eye disease, it is best to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. As a common complication of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness.
Uncontrollable Blood Pressure
If you have diabetes, your blood pressure is already at an increased risk. Drinking alcohol can make diabetes disease control harder to keep at bay, which can lead to serious health problems such as a stroke.
Alcohol affects the way kidneys regulate fluid and electrolytes in the body. They are less likely to do their job to filter the blood and remove toxins when you drink alcohol. Also, alcohol dries out the body, which can lead to dehydration that results in cells and organs not working properly.
Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood. When you drink, your liver is less effective at removing triglycerides from the bloodstream. This can increase your risk for heart disease. If you have diabetes and high triglycerides, talk to your doctor about the best way to lower them.
Strokes, kidney failure, and high blood pressure are among the many health risks that come with drinking and diabetes. Refrain from drinking while taking medication such as diabetes pills, especially chlorpropamide, as it can cause flushing of the face, arms, and neck. Other signs that you should stop or cut down on drinking are:
- Feeling lightheaded
- Having trouble balancing
- Blurry vision
- Slurred speech
- Upset stomach
Ways To Safely Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Aside from avoiding alcohol, there are some home remedies that you can do to help lower your blood sugar levels. This includes what not to eat, what you can do, and what you can eat.
What Not to Eat
While alcohol is directly associated with diabetes and its risks, some foods can indirectly lead to high blood sugar levels. These include:
Refined sugar is one of the most obvious ingredients that can raise blood sugar levels. It also hides in processed foods under many names, such as corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, and more. When consumed, whether with coffee, in desserts, or any other food item, refined sugar causes a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. Sometimes, even honey and fruit juices can have high levels of refined sugar. It is important to always check the food label for the nutritional content, including sugar levels.
Grains with gluten can cause inflammation in the body, which can lead to insulin resistance. While whole grains have some nutritional benefits, you should limit them when trying to lower your blood sugar levels. Gluten has also been shown to lead to autoimmune diseases.
Another food to limit or avoid is cow’s milk. Milk has natural sugars, called lactose, which can raise blood sugar levels. Just like whole grains, cow milk can trigger the immune system and cause inflammation. Sheep and goat’s milk are a better alternative as they have lower levels of lactose.
Genetically modified organism (GMO) foods are notorious for causing inflammation in the body. They are also full of toxins that can lead to insulin resistance and other health problems including liver and kidney diseases. When shopping for your groceries, be sure to buy organic and non-GMO foods. Non-GMO foods are usually labeled on the packaging.
What To Eat
Just as some foods can raise blood sugar levels, some foods can help lower them. These include:
This spice is effective in lowering blood sugar levels. Make sure to opt for true cinnamon and not cassia cinnamon. It has a bioactive compound that helps you fight and prevent diabetes in two ways: it improves insulin sensitivity by imitating the effects of insulin and increases glucose transport into cells. You can add it to your morning cup of coffee, tea, or a smoothie. You can also have boiled raw cinnamon in a glass of water every day.
Commonly used in cosmetic products and as a remedy for burns, aloe vera can also be used to lower blood sugar levels. It also promotes weight loss and fat control which can be beneficial for those who are conscious of their weight and health.
For most people, consuming vitamin C is the norm as it helps the body fight off infections. However, what most people do not know is that vitamin C can also help with diabetes. Consuming at least 600mg of vitamin C daily can improve blood sugar level control. You can get your daily dose of vitamin C from fruits and vegetables like oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and more.
What To Do
Exercise is the key to good health, and this includes blood sugar levels. Being physically active and taking a walk for 30 minutes daily can help you keep low blood sugar levels. You can also join a gym or take up a sport in which you have an interest. Swimming, jogging, and cycling are all excellent exercises to help with diabetes. Also, drinking water as your primary beverage can help as well.
You can enjoy sobriety with diabetes. At La Hacienda Treatment Center we help patients get on the right track to live a clean and healthy life.
Alcohol and diabetes do not mix well. Those with alcoholism and diabetes need to know the warning signs. Genetic factors contribute to people with diabetes, but a person’s risk increases when alcoholism is added to the mix. If you or a loved one are seeking help for alcoholism or addiction and also have diabetes, please know help is available at La Hacienda.
When about a drink, it’s a liquid that contains ethanol, which acts as a depressant drug. It is produced by the fermentation of fruits, grains, or other sugar sources. Consumption of alcoholic drinks plays a major role in numerous cultures.
An advanced stage of alcoholic liver disease caused by drinking alcohol in which the liver becomes swollen and stiff, and barely functions.
Stomach Ulcer Alcohol
Drinking alcohol does not cause stomach ulcers, but it–like other factors like stress, smoking, and eating spicy foods–can make ulcer symptoms worse.
Alcoholic pancreatitis normally occurs after 5 to 10 years of heavy alcohol consumption, more often in men in their 40s. Symptoms include acute abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, and anorexia.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
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