Type 2 Diabetes and alcohol. Is it Safe for me to Drink?

I get a lot of questions about drinking alcoholic beverages and type 2 diabetes. I want to first begin with what research shows, then I will end with my own experiences. If you have any type of diabetes you and your doctor need to decide if drinking is something you should be doing.

Research

According to a study published in Revista panamericana de salud pública (2012) found that the risk of diabetes is higher for people who are heavy drinkers and for people who abstain from alcohol altogether versus people who are light drinkers. That’s right. If you only drink one to two drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week you are less likely to have diabetes than those who drink more than that or do not drink at all. The study does state, though, “the empirical evidence is not extensive, and the studies are not usually well controlled (e.g., there is no separation between lifetime abstention and former drinkers, and no control for volume when the effects of binges are assessed)” (Babor, et all,  2012). The study also states that measures are often inconsistent and do not take into consideration other health issues. So that this with a grain of salt.

This study also found that heavy drinkers do not typically take their medications or follow prescribed therapies. It is recommended that health care professional routinely ask patients who have diabetes about their drinking habits. Whether patients will be truthful or not is under debate. Many patients consistently lie about self-managed health practices.

Why would non-drinkers be at a higher risk for diabetes than moderate drinkers? Because alcohol (other than beers) lowers blood-sugar levels. Of course, this depends on the mixers you use with liquor. It stands to be cautious. If you are taking insulin your glucose level could become dangerously low (hypoglycemia).

Healthline.com states, “People with diabetes should be particularly cautious when it comes to drinking alcohol because alcohol can make some of the complications of diabetes worse. For starters, alcohol impacts the liver in doing its job of regulating blood sugar. Alcohol can also interact with some medications that are prescribed to people with diabetes. Even if you only rarely drink alcohol, talk with your healthcare provider about it so that he or she knows which medications are best for you.”

Here’s my take:

When I talked to my doctor and then my dietician about alcohol consumption both told me a drink now and then was okay but it depends on what you drink. Beer has a lot of carbohydrates so it will increase your glucose levels. Even light beer has carbs in them. White wine and sweet wines have carbohydrates but dry, red wines (Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet, etc.) do not have carbs. Whiskey’s have not carbohydrates but rum does. And if you are mixing liquor with fruit juice or cola, then there are carbs associated with what you are mixing it will.

So I did my own test because I like a drink every once in awhile and if I had to cut it out of my diet that was fine but frankly, if I can have a drink once in awhile that is great too. Here is what I found related to my diabetes and health. Let me first state that I do not have any other health issues. My heart, lungs, kidneys and all other organs are fine. I exercise and I diet and control my glucose level. I am also rarely sick.

I checked my glucose level and it was normal. I drank two beer (12 oz. bottle of an IPA) and checked my glucose level about two hours later. My glucose level was at 250. So beer for me was not a good idea. Sometime later (not that day) I had a glass of pinot noir because that is the wine I really like. Again, my glucose level was normal and I had to glasses mainly because it is so good one is not enough. I checked my glucose level two hours later and it did not go up. So, for me, red, dry wine is fine. Sometime later one evening I decided to have 4oz. of whiskey on ice (I sipped it slowly. I didn’t chug it!). Again, my glucose level was normal when I started and normal two hour later. Then I went to bed. About 2:00AM I woke up shaking, sweating and my heart was pounding. My glucose level was at 45! Way too low.

 

So, I know I must be careful. Whiskey can dangerously lower my glucose level. What if I had not woken up? That scared me.

When drinking alcohol;

  • Talk to your physician first! See how your medication reacts to alcohol. Most medications for diabetes recommend no alcohol while taking the drug. Your doctor will know how alcohol reacts to your medication and also knows all your health issues.
  • If you and your doctor are okay with having a drink, do what I did. Test your body’s reaction first. If you are on insulin, have it handy in case your glucose level goes up. And have sugar pills handy in case it goes down.
  • Drink moderately. Don’t binge drink and don’t overdo it.
  • IF YOU HAVE LIVER OR KIDNEY PROBLEMS, alcohol will worsen these issues.

 

I am not recommending that you drink. I do drink occasionally. Not every day and I do not get intoxicated. It scares me to think what would happen if I became intoxicated, passed out and then my glucose level drops and I don’t wake up. Diabetes is a serious disease and should not be taken lightly. If your doctor says you shouldn’t drink then… don’t drink.

Live long and prosper (Spock, 1967).

References:

Babor T, Rehm J, Jernigan D, Vaeth P, Monteiro M, Lehman H. Alcohol, diabetes, and public health in the Americas. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2012;32(2):151–5.

Healthline.com (2016). http://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/facts-diabetes-alcohol

2 thoughts to “Type 2 Diabetes and alcohol. Is it Safe for me to Drink?”

  1. Hi Hillard,

    I looks like you’re doing great work here, helping people with valuable information.

    I made the personal decision to give up alcohol completely a couple of years ago, for the sake of my overall health and well being. I’ve never been happier. Having said that, it’s interesting to note that certain kinds of alcohol lower blood sugar levels. However, beer was my weapon of choice, so I’d have been sunk there.

    You’ve provided a thorough and thoughtful overview that I’m sure will help your visitors. In general, I’d just offer this: Usually, if you have to stop and ask yourself, “Is this good for me?” … you already know the answer.

    Keep up the great work!

    Kevin

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