Your Holiday Wellness Guide for Type 1 Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on September 20, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

What's the best way to manage your type 1 diabetes during the holiday frenzy? Slow down. Give yourself plenty of time to get your errands done. Eat the foods that make your holidays special, but be aware of what and how much you enjoy so you can adjust your insulin.

While changes from the usual routine create a challenge for blood sugar control, feeling anxious just makes matters worse. "Any time you're under stress, the body is going to make these stress hormones that fight insulin," says George Grunberger, MD, president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

Instead, use these tips to make your holiday season as healthy and fun as possible.

Easy does it. That mantra applies both to what you eat and drink, and to how you control your blood sugar. Consider all your food choices before picking the ones you really want, says diabetes educator Tami Ross, RD, LD. "It is all about moderation," she says.

If you see that your blood sugar is rising or falling, don't overreact, Grunberger says. You need to respond, but be aware that the extra glucose or insulin will take some time to fully take effect.

Know your numbers. Mobile apps provide carbohydrate counts for common holiday foods, which helps you adjust your insulin.

Check your blood sugar often, especially if you drink alcohol. Limit yourself to no more than one drink on any given day if you're a woman, or two if you're a man. One drink means 5 ounces of wine or champagne, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

Alcohol can lower your blood sugar, so you should have it with food. If you have several drinks at a party, check your blood sugar before you go to bed, and even set an alarm to check it later in the night, Ross says.

Consider the weather. Being out in the cold lowers your blood flow, which means insulin acts more slowly. And if you spend the holidays in the tropics, the heat will speed up your insulin response, Grunberger says.

In any case, keep your insulin and supplies safe from temperature extremes. Don't leave them in the trunk of the car or in checked luggage, which is exposed to temperature changes in a plane's cargo hold.

Keep moving. As much as you may love to lounge on the sofa, try not to sit more than 90 minutes at a time. And don't go more than 2 days without moderate exercise, such as brisk walking.

Ask Your Doctor

What adjustments should I make if my main meal isn't at my usual dinnertime?

What should I do if I overindulge?

How often should I check my blood sugar if I'm drinking alcohol?

How should I manage my blood sugar during a long car ride or flight?

What should I do if I get sick during the holidays?

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American Diabetes Association: "Six Holiday Tips," "Recipes for Healthy Living: Take Some of the Stress Out of the Holidays," "Alcohol," "When You Travel."

George Grunberger, MD, chairman, Grunberger Diabetes Institute, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; president, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

Tami Ross, RD, LD, diabetes educator and author, Lexington, Ky.

Cleveland Clinic: "10 Holiday Survival Tips if You Have Diabetes."

American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care January 2015.

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