Alcohol. Yep, some people with diabetes drink it. I do, on occasion. Some argue that drinking alcohol with diabetes isn’t the healthiest choice, but I could say the same thing about diet soda. Whatever your stance on it is, it is something that should be handled with care, especially when you are dealing with diabetes.
As anyone with diabetes (or someone who loves a PWD) knows, it is a balancing act. Between food, exercise, hormones and the like, we are constantly chasing that elusive 100 mg/dl on the meter. Alcohol can really throw your blood sugars into a tailspin. Let’s not even start on carbohydrates in your drink. Your liver and its functions are a very big player in how you manage diabetes while drinking. Instead of helping to regulate your blood sugar, your liver is busy metabolizing the alcohol, which can result in some scary lows. Be prepared with glucose tabs and make sure to check regularly if you are having a drink.
What to Drink?
I like to stick to drinks that don’t have carbohydrates in them: a good red wine, vodka and club soda or Fresca, or an occasional martini are predictable for me. Plus, I don’t have to take any insulin with them which makes it easier. If I am having a beer or something fruity like rum punch, I make sure to limit how much I am having. I once had an endocrinologist tell me that after every 3 drinks make your fourth one with carbs. I don’t know how good that advice was, I don’t follow it… But I do stick to what I know, I test very often, and I make sure to eat something while I am drinking.
Yes, you should be cautious before bed even when not drinking but you need to be even more on track of what your blood sugar is when you are. I cannot stress enough to test right before bed (and before you brush your teeth) to make sure you are in a healthy range. I usually have a little snack like bread and cheese or something with fat, carbs and protein to make sure that I stay safe.
If you don’t live alone make sure that your spouse/roommate/partner, etc. knows what your blood sugar level is and that you have had a drink (or two). If they really love you they will keep their eyes out for you so you are ok.
The Day After
Since the effects of drinking alcohol can last for 24 hours after (not just a hangover but diabetes wise) it’s important to make sure you test a lot the next day. From your liver working to process the alcohol, it is not unlikely you will be low. Again, test a lot, wear a CGM if you can, and keep on top of it. Eat something a little carby if you like- I am a big fan of a bowl of Pho- and take it easy. Don’t plan on any big workouts. I have been there and had to sit out of many runs and yoga classes eating glucose tabs because I was constantly low. That is no fun either.
I find that an occasional drink can be a fun way to relax with friends or to enjoy with a meal. I make sure to make diabetes my top priority with drinking so that I can remain healthy and in control. Do you drink alcohol with diabetes or do you find it doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle? I want to hear all about both sides! If you do drink, what do you find works best for you? Any tips you can share to safely drink with diabetes?
Photo Credit: Anders Adermark
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And guess what Im another one that loves a glass of wine or three