Tips for Health

Diabetes and alcohol: what you should care about

By on April 2, 2013 in Health with 0 Comments

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Alcohol is not processed by the stomach like foods are: it passes straight into the blood stream initially causing blood sugar levels to rise.   It takes one to two hours for the liver to metabolize  alcohol, with the rate varying from person to person.  If you already consumed alcohol before your diabetes diagnosis, you will probably have a good idea of how fast your liver processes the drinks.  With or without diabetes, you should not drink more than your metabolism allows.

The recommendation from the medical profession is not to exceed two drinks a day for a man, and one for a woman, where a shot of spirits, a glass of wine, or a beer count as a drink.  This applies to diabetics and non-diabetics.  General advice also includes: not drinking on an empty stomach, drinking slowly, and diluting the alcohol with water or diet soft drinks.

Exceeding the limit imposed by your liver can be very serious for a diabetic as the liver is so busy processing the alcohol that it fails in its other function of regulating blood sugar, and levels can fall dangerously low.  This is exacerbated by exercise. What is worse, very low blood sugar can lead to symptoms very like intoxication.

It makes very good sense, therefore, to wear a medical alert bracelet indicating that you are diabetic, and to carry glucose tablets or some other source of sugar.  Another precaution is to monitor your glucose levels frequently when drinking alcohol: before, during, and after, and one last time before going to bed.

Alcohol can affect the person with diabetes in other negative way as well:

  • Alcohol stimulates the appetite, which may lead to overeating and weight gain.
  • Alcohol may interfere with insulin or oral medicines given to control diabetes.
  • Alcohol may increase blood pressure and triglyceride levels.

Talk to your doctor, and discuss the effects that alcohol may have on your level of diabetes.

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