10 Things to Remember About Alcohol and Blood Sugar
Most diabetics can consume moderate amounts of alcohol. Just follow these guidelines to imbibe safely.
Have only one glass of wine or one beer
If you can keep your alcohol consumption to one drink or under, you’re probably okay, since most studies don’t show increased risks for a single glass. Skip mixed cocktails, since they tend to be loaded with sugar, calories, and carbs, and don’t drink on an empty stomach because it can spike blood sugar.
Role-play difficult situations
If you dread being asked about why you won’t eat cake or drink alcohol, you feel like you can’t ask the doctor the questions you want answered, or you have an overbearing family member you don’t know how to confront, practice how you’ll handle the situation next time with a close friend or a counselor playing the other part. This way you can fine-tune your approach before you have to use it.
If you’ve had a beer, have a healthy snack, too
If you’ve enjoyed so much as a glass of wine or beer in the hours leading up to your bedtime, do a quick check of your glucose levels. If your blood sugar is low, have a small snack if you need one before crawling under the covers. Alcohol makes it difficult for your body to recover from low blood sugar; having a bite to eat will moderate its effects.
Be careful if you’re making love after you drink
Alcohol and vigorous sex both lower blood sugar, and combining the two could cause a dangerous low. Be sure to monitor your blood glucose if you’re having ‘a glass of wine and thou.’
How and when do I take my medications?
This is critical, and the instructions for you might be different than for somebody else, so pay careful attention, and take notes. Make sure you know if you should take your medication or insulin before or after meals, at night or in the morning, with or without food, etcetera. Do you need to avoid alcohol? Are there potential interactions with other drugs that you should know about? This health information will be in the bag when you pick up your prescription, but the language can be hard to understand, so it doesn’t hurt to ask while you’re in the office.
Can I drink alcohol?
If you choose to drink alcohol, the general guideline is no more than one drink a day for an adult woman and a maximum of two drinks per day for an adult man. (One drink is 5 ounces of wine or one 12-ounce beer.) If your doctor has concerns about your kidneys or liver, he may suggest that you abstain from alcohol.
Tips for dining out
Alcohol has different effects on people with diabetes than it does on other people. It can cause low blood sugar for one thing. The good news is that light to moderate alcohol intake (a maximum of one serving for women and two for men per day) is associated with a lower risk of dying of heart disease. Follow these guidelines, and a mug of beer or a glass of wine can be part of your dining experience.
Have a glass of wine or beer only if your blood sugar typically falls within your target range
If you check your blood sugar regularly, experts say that it’s fine for both men and women to order up to two drinks at dinner. But if your levels are more erratic, take a pass – alcohol could cause you to experience hypoglycemia and will make it more difficult for you to get your blood sugar into your target range.
Ask the waiter to serve your cocktail with your meal
Having it before dinner is not a good idea, particularly for those who take insulin or other diabetes medications. Without food in your stomach, your blood sugar levels are likely already low. Drink your alcohol with food – or better yet, at the end of the meal – to lessen your chances of developing hypoglycemia.
Decide whether you want wine or dessert
It’s easy to forget that beverages contain calories, just as solid foods do. If your blood sugar levels are within a healthy range, it’s fine to indulge in a glass of wine with dinner, but you’ll need to modify your food intake. A 5-ounce glass of wine contains about 120 calories, for example, two glasses contain roughly the same amount of calories as a 2-square-inch brownie. If you’re counting calories, you’ll need to plan ahead and decide whether a drink or a sweet treat is more appealing. If you are on insulin, you can’t substitute alcohol for the carb-filled dessert. Your insulin dose is based on the amount of carbs you eat. Alcohol has calories but you don’t need insulin to cover it.
Originally published as 10 Things to Remember About Alcohol and Blood Sugar on ReadersDigest.com.