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Alcohol Use and People with Diabetes

Alcohol and diabetes

Alcohol consumption can lower blood sugar levels to the point of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), causing significant symptoms. A person with diabetes should keep careful track of his or her blood sugar levels when drinking alcohol. This is because certain diabetes medicines, including insulin, also lower blood glucose levels. If blood glucose levels are too low, or if the stomach is empty, alcohol consumption should be avoided.

The symptoms for alcohol intoxication and hypoglycemia are similar. Symptoms may include fatigue, disorientation, and dizziness. To make sure that a person with diabetes receives proper medical care for hypoglycemia, he or she should carry a card, wear an identification bracelet, or wear a necklace indicating that he or she has diabetes.

Alcohol sometimes can also cause blood glucose levels to rise, due to the carbohydrates in certain drinks. Consuming alcohol while eating, or right before eating, can cause blood sugar levels to rise. This may be dangerous to the individual. People with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar closely before and after drinking alcohol. 

If you are using carbohydrate counting for adjusting insulin doses, do not count the alcohol as grams of carbohydrate.

If you want to drink alcohol, check with your healthcare provider to see if it is safe for you. Your healthcare provider or dietitian can also explain how to fit alcohol into your diet plan. In addition to the above concerns, alcohol interacts with a number of medicines. If you already drink, it is important to be honest about the frequency and amount of your alcohol use when talking to your healthcare provider.

Be sure not to drive for several hours after you drink alcohol. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Hurd, Robert, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2016
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