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Diabetes and Alcohol

If you have diabetes, drinking alcohol will cause your blood sugar to rise. Plus, alcohol has a lot of calories. 

If you drink, do it occasionally and only when your diabetes and blood sugar level are well-controlled. If you are following a calorie-controlled meal plan, one drink of alcohol should be counted as two fat exchanges.

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In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our January-February 2011 issue, we asked WebMD's diabetes expert, Michael Dansinger, MD, to answer a question about the link between prediabetes and diabetes. Q: At my last checkup, my doctor told me I have prediabetes. Does that mean I'll ultimately develop diabetes? A: Almost everyone who develops type 2 diabetes develops prediabetes first. But not everyone who has prediabetes...

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It is a good idea to check with your doctor to see if drinking alcohol is safe for you.

Effects of Alcohol on Diabetes

Here are some other ways that alcohol can affect diabetes:

  • While moderate amounts of alcohol can cause blood sugar to rise, excess alcohol can actually decrease your blood sugar level -- sometimes causing it to drop into dangerous levels.
  • Beer and sweet wine contain carbohydrates and may raise blood sugar.
  • Alcohol stimulates your appetite, which can cause you to overeat and may affect your blood sugar control.
  • Alcohol may also affect your judgment or willpower, causing you to make poor food choices.
  • Alcohol can interfere with the positive effects of oral diabetes medicines or insulin.
  • Alcohol may increase triglyceride levels.
  • Alcohol may increase blood pressure.
  • Alcohol can cause flushing, nausea, increased heart rate, and slurred speech.

These may be confused with or mask the symptoms of low blood sugar.

Diabetes and Alcohol Consumption Dos and Don'ts

People with diabetes who drink should follow these alcohol consumption guidelines:

  • Do not drink more than two drinks of alcohol in a one-day period if you are a man, or one drink if you are a woman. (Example: one alcoholic drink = 5-ounce glass of wine, 1 1/2-ounce "shot" of liquor or 12-ounce beer).
  • Drink alcohol only with food.
  • Drink slowly.
  • Avoid "sugary" mixed drinks, sweet wines, or cordials.
  • Mix liquor with water, club soda, or diet soft drinks.
  • Always wear a medical alert piece of jewelry that says you have diabetes.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on December 29, 2013

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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Normal
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Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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