Diabetes and Alcohol: Caution When Mixing
If you have diabetes, you may know what foods to eat and which to avoid. But what about alcohol? Can you have a glass of wine with dinner or a few drinks after work with friends? And what are the effects of alcohol on your body if you have diabetes?
First, let's look at your liver. Your liver makes and stores glucose (sugar). This glucose will be released when your body needs to raise your blood sugar levels. The liver also metabolizes, or breaks down, alcohol. When your liver breaks down alcohol, its glucose production is impaired.
Now let's look at medicines you may be taking. Insulin and other diabetes medicines, like sulfonylureas ( glipizide , glyburide ) and metformin , decrease your blood sugar levels. Regular meals and a medicine plan will help you keep your blood glucose at healthy levels. However, habits like skipping meals can cause low blood sugar levels.
Combining already low blood sugar levels with alcohol-impaired liver function will put you at risk for dangerously low blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can occur shortly after drinking. The effect can continue for 8-12 hours afterwards. The symptoms of hypoglycemia and being drunk are similar—confusion, anxiety, and feeling faint. Be careful not to mistake hypoglycemia for drunkenness. Doing so may mean that you do not get the proper help if your blood sugar levels drop too low. (Wearing a medical emergency bracelet can be very helpful to alert the people around you that you have diabetes.)
Last reviewedMay 2012by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.