During the holiday season, many of my patients with diabetes ask about safe consumption of adult beverages. Alcohol can either make blood glucose too high or too low. It is important to know when and how to drink to keep diabetes under control. It is also important to know when and if it is safe to drink alcohol.
Here are also some guidelines developed by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for safe consumption of alcohol to keep you safe and satisfied during the holiday season.
Alcohol and Blood Glucose
When no alcohol is in the blood, the liver keeps blood glucose from going too low by releasing glucose into the blood. If the liver is busy breaking down alcohol, it cannot release glucose into the blood. If insulin or oral diabetes medications are used, the blood glucose may go too low when alcohol is consumed because the medicine and alcohol both lower blood glucose.
The alcohol and sugars in many drinks can also cause blood glucose to go too high. Alcohol can also increase blood triglycerides (fats)
Tip: Check blood glucose after drinking to see how alcohol affects blood glucose level.
Tips for Safe Consumption
- It is best to drink alcohol only when blood glucose levels are well controlled.
- Discuss alcohol consumption with your diabetes care team and follow safe consumption guidelines.
- Sip slowly to make the drink last. Try a wine spritzer (wine and club soda) or mix liquor with plenty of water, club soda, or diet soda to make it last.
- Limit yourself to 1 or 2 drinks.
- Drink alcohol with food, not by itself. Munch on pretzels, popcorn or crackers if you are drinking apart from a meal.
- Alcohol can change your judgment. Be careful with medicine, food, and test blood glucose more frequently after alcohol is consumed.
- Do not drive after drinking alcohol.
Linda Tilton, MS, RD, CDE, is a Clinical Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at The University of Vermont Medical Center. In 2013, The UVM Medical Center earned national certification in diabetes education. Learn more about The UVM Medical Center’s Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition practice. Linda is also the coordinating board chair for the Vermont Association of Diabetes Educators.