An estimated one-third of people born after 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in their lives. Diabetes occurs when the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use insulin effectively. Insulin is a hormone that lets the body use glucose (sugar) for fuel. When insulin is not doing its job, too much glucose stays in the blood where it can cause damage to the body over time.
While high blood sugar levels are what indicates diabetes, blood sugar can also dip too low, usually in response to medications taken to manage blood sugar or to insulin taken by people with diabetes to lower their blood sugar to healthy levels. Low blood sugar causes symptoms like dizziness, fainting, coma or death. It is important for people to recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar so they can quickly eat or drink something that contains fast-absorbing carbohydrates, like orange juice, hard candy or glucose tablets.
How Alcohol Affects Blood Sugar
Drinking alcohol can impact blood sugar in unpredictable ways. Typically, drinking alcohol will result in an immediate spike in blood sugar. However, at some point later it can cause blood sugar to fall too low, depending on many factors. Experiencing low blood sugar is most likely when multiple drinks are consumed, and when combined with insulin. Also, diabetes drugs interact with alcohol and can sometimes cause problems.
Insulin dosage is based on eating a certain amount of carbs and protein. When alcohol is consumed, the amount of insulin your body needs will be less, but people do not always know how and when to adjust their insulin to keep their numbers at the right level. When just one or two drinks are consumed, the effect will probably not be enough to cause a dangerous low, but moderate or heavy drinking will cause this risk to rise.
What Diabetics Can Do to Use Alcohol Safely
It is possible for people with diabetes to stay safe when consuming alcohol. One step to take is to limit your alcohol intake to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Another good step to take is to test your blood sugar more often for 12 to 24 hours after consuming alcohol, particularly if you drink more than one or two drinks per day.
Individuals living with diabetes can also consume alcohol with food, which slows alcohol’s absorption, and carry snacks with them to bring their blood sugar level up if it does become low. These steps will likely be less effective with heavy alcohol consumption since the effects of alcohol will be more pronounced. Heavy drinking, such as what occurs with alcohol use disorder, will make you less aware of what the signs your body is relaying to you and will make it hard to detect a low blood sugar level.
Wearing a bracelet identifying you as having diabetes is also helpful because the symptoms of low blood sugar can sometimes be mistaken for drunkenness, which means those around you might not know what is happening if there is no clear indicator that you’re experiencing low blood sugar levels.
If you are concerned about your heavy alcohol use and how it could impact your health, contact The Recovery Village Palmer Lake today to discuss treatment options.
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The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.