Can you drink alcohol if you have diabetes?

Can you drink alcohol if you have diabetes? teaser
It’s that time of year and the calendar is filling up with lunches, work parties and celebrations. So if you have type 2 diabetes, is it safe to have a few drinks to celebrate the festive season? The answer is, well, there is no simple answer! It all depends on how much you drink and what else you consume.

Generally speaking the guidelines for alcohol consumption are the same  for people with type 2 diabetes as they are for anyone else:  no more than 2 standard drinks a day with regular alcohol free days.  However, there are a few issues around alcohol consumption that people with type 2 diabetes need to consider.
Drinking alcohol can cause both high and low blood glucose levels.  This is of particular concern if you are taking an insulin or a medication which lowers blood glucose.  Your liver will normally help keep your blood glucose stable throughout the day but it is also responsible for processing alcohol in your system, and this will take priority.  So when there is alcohol present, your liver is too busy dealing with it to worry about your blood glucose levels, leaving them in danger of dropping too low (hypoglycaemia).  This can occur while you are drinking, or hours afterwards.  Some of the ways you can reduce the risk are to measure your blood glucose levels regularly, not drink on an empty stomach and have a snack before bed.  Talk to your diabetes health professional for further advice on how best to manage the risk, and importantly, make sure you know how to manage hypoglycaemia.
Alcohol is high in kilojoules  so excessive consumption can lead to weight gain, which can have implications for blood glucose control.  To reduce the impact you can:
  • Switch to a low alcohol beer or wine (low carb beer is not of any particular benefit unless the alcohol content is reduced also) 
  • Mix spirits with a low sugar, diet soft drink 
  • Sip your drinks slowly
  • Alternate with a non-alcoholic “spacer”
  • drink plenty of water. 

For further information follow the link to the Diabetes WA Alcohol fact sheet:

Enjoy your alcohol in moderation and enjoy the festive season!
Melanie Flynn
Diabetes Educator
360 Health + Community

Diabetes WA
National Diabetes Services Scheme
Diabetes Australia
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