For most, a diabetes diagnosis can be a life-altering event. The disease requires a completely new set of considerations and a clean break with old, now dangerous habits. In many cases diabetes necessitates a fundamental overhaul of one’s lifestyle.
Furthermore, it’s exhausting. There are so many things to learn and keep track of that, for most newly diagnosed diabetics, it’s hard to manage them all at once. One common question new diabetics have, but might forget to look up until the moment arises is, “Can I still drink?” After all, alcoholic beverages are full of carbohydrates.
It might come as a surprise, but the answer to this oft-asked question is “yes!” Most people with diabetes can have a moderate amount of alcohol. But, remember that the key word is “moderate.” If you cross this threshold into excess, the results can be dangerous.
The Dangers of alcohol for diabetics
Alcohol, especially in excess, can prove dangerous for diabetics. Booze can cause blood sugar to spike (or drop precipitously), and can raise triglycerides and blood pressure levels alike. These effects are fine in most, but in diabetics, who have a higher propensity for cardiovascular disease, can prove fatal.
The dangerous impacts of excessive alcohol intake on diabetics can be indirect as well. Alcohol compromises judgment, lowers willpower, and can stimulate appetite. Each of these symptoms can, even alone, cause a person to eat foods hazardous to diabetics.
Alcohol consumption also mimics the symptoms of hypoglycemia—dizziness, disorientation, confusion, etc. The hazard of this mimicry is simple: If you mistake your hypoglycemia for intoxication, and let it go untreated, you put yourself at serious risk.
However, if you know the threats of alcohol, and stick to the golden rule of moderation when it comes to its consumption, you should be fine.
Here are some guidelines to follow if you have diabetes, and would still like to enjoy a drink.
If you have diabetes, do not drink…
- More than 1 drink per day if you are a woman, or more than 2 drinks a day if you are a man. (One drink is twelve ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or one and a half ounces of liquor).
- When your blood glucose is low.
- Heavy beverages or mysterious mixed drinks. Craft beers, for instance, can contain twice the alcohol and calories of regular beers and mixed drinks are, more often than not, made with other unsafe sugary beverages.
When you drink, do…
- Eat. Do not drink on empty stomach.
- Check your blood sugar. Then keep close tabs on it for up to 24 hours after you have consumed alcohol. During this period you are at a heightened risk of hyperglycemia.
- Find someone else to drive, or plan on staying put for several hours.