Correlation Between Diabetes And Alcohol

Problems arising from mixing diabetes and alcohol can range from minor to severe, depending on the health condition of the diabetic and the amount of alcohol consumed. While those suffering from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can safely consume alcohol, some safety measures should be taken before they consume several glasses of wine or a mixed drink. Not only do blood alcohol levels substantially interact with diabetic conditions, but also the adverse reactions may arise because of medications taken by the diabetic who drinks alcohol.

Drinking Safely With Diabetes

Several suggestions for the person with diabetes and alcohol hankerings who wants to drink alcoholic beverages safely are:

  • Never drink on an empty stomach. Eat before or while you are drinking. Good snacks to eat while drinking are raw vegetables, popcorn, pretzels and baked potato chips.
  • Check glucose levels before drinking and several hours afterwards. A level considered safe is between 100 and 140 mg/dL.
  • Be aware that alcohol can induce hypoglycemia up to 12 hours following consumption of a few drinks.
  • Remain vigilant of hypoglycemic symptoms that resemble being drunk, such as drowsiness, being disoriented and feeling dizzy. Take your blood glucose count if you suspect alcohol is not the cause of experiencing these symptoms.
  • Always have some kind of I.D. on your person that states you are a diabetic, such as a card, necklace or bracelet. Even if you are careful about drinking and eating, mixing diabetes and alcohol can always present unpredictable medical conditions.
  • Diabetic women are advised to abstain from drinking more than one alcoholic drink each day. A drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1-1/2 ounces of whisky, gin, vodka or bourbon.
  • Diabetic men should drink less than two alcoholic drinks per day.
  • Do not drink if you have had trouble regulating your blood glucose.
  • Never plan to drive if you drink. A small amount of alcohol can seriously affect a diabetic’s cognitive state.

The reason why diabetes and alcohol can be a volatile mixture lies in the effect it has on the liver, the organ responsible for metabolizing alcohol. When someone drinks more alcohol than the liver can metabolize, the alcohol enters the blood and quickly moves into all areas of the body. The liver knows that excessive amounts of alcohol can be toxic to the body and attempts to metabolize it as quickly as possible.

However, while the liver is trying to perform this difficult task, its ability to release glucose is severely restricted. As a result, a diabetic’s glucose level will drop, even if they are taking medication to regulate insulin. Unless food is available for the body to use as energy, a potentially harmful hypoglycemic condition may result within 6 hours to 40 hours after drinking alcohol.

Medical Conditions

hypoglycemic symptoms

Several serious medical conditions result from the diabetes and alcohol interaction including:

  • Pancreatitis, whereby the ability of the pancreas to secrete insulin is compromised
  • Exacerbation of existing nerve damage caused by diabetes, resulting in the increase symptoms of numbness, burning and tingling of peripheral nerves
  • Glaucoma and other eye disorders related to chronic diabetes are exacerbated
  • Interferes with the ability of the liver to eliminate fats from the blood, causing spikes in triglyceride amounts
  • Weight gain leading to obesity

Additionally, heavy drinkers will eventually suffer from diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), due to excessive alcohol consumption, neglect of proper diet control and not taking medication in a timely manner.

DKA occurs more often in those with type 1 diabetes, but it can happen to type 2 diabetics. When a diabetic suffers DKA, he or she has little to no insulin in their blood. As a result, energy is extracted by burning fats, which produces ketone bodies that are now used for essentially “staying alive” instead of traditional fat stores. Symptoms of DKA include:

  • Dehydration
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble breathing, resulting in gasping, deep breaths
  • Disorientation
  • Coma, if not treated in time


Chronic drinking can cause diabetes because of the deteriorating effect excessive amounts of alcohol have on human physiology. Alcoholics tend to exhibit damaged livers, pancreatic inflammation, digestion issues and unhealthy weight gain that directly provokes glucose intolerance, inhibition of insulin response, hypoglycemia and poor eating habits leading to malnutrition. All of these factors detrimentally interacting with each other can make diabetes and alcohol a potentially deadly combination if not approached in a well-informed and sensible manner.



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