Alcohol and Diabetes

What happens to your body when you drink alcohol?

  • Your body considers alcohol a toxin and wants to get rid of it.

  • Your liver starts working to break down the alcohol.

  • Your liver stores sugar and can usually jump in to help if your blood sugar gets extremely low. However, if your liver is busy breaking down alcohol instead, you have a much higher risk of having a severe low blood sugar when drinking. In fact, this risk of lows can continue for 24 hours after drinking alcohol.

  • You are at greater risk for severe lows if you are taking insulin or other hypoglycemic medications. Ask your doctor if you are unsure of whether or not low blood sugars are a side effect of your medication.

10 Ways to Drink Alcohol Safely*:

1. Never drink on an empty stomach.

2. Eat a carbohydrate meal or a snack while drinking. DO NOT TAKE EXTRA INSULIN TO COVER THE CARBS IN DRINKS.

3. Don't drink within 2 hours of exercise. This will further increase your risk for low blood sugars.

4. Drink only in moderation. Remember it takes two hours for your body to process one drink (5 oz wine, 12 oz beer, 1.5 oz liquor).

5. Check your blood sugar frequently. Keep your continuous glucose monitor on you at all times if you use one.

6. Wear your medical ID.

7. Drink with friends who know you have diabetes and can recognize the symptoms of a low blood sugar.

8. Check your blood sugar before you go to bed and have a carb snack if you're <130.

9. Set an alarm to wake you up in the morning so that you can check your blood sugar. Sleeping in the next morning without this alarm may also put you at greater risk for a low.

10. The safest way to avoid a low blood sugar caused by alcohol is to avoid alcohol altogether.

Resources: American Diabetes Association (*The staff of Houston Thyroid and Endocrine Specialists does not endorse or encourage the consumption of alcohol for individuals under the legal drinking age of 21.