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Sipping Alcoholic Drinks When You Have Diabetes

Upon your diabetes diagnosis, you were probably given an overwhelming amount of brand new information including what to eat, what not to eat, new medications, exercise recommendations, and even alcohol consumption regulations. Talk about overwhelming! You may have left the doctor’s office with even more questions than you came with.

Alcohol and type 2 diabetes

Was drinking alcohol one of the habits that needed to change with your diabetes diagnosis? Although there are some benefits to drinking alcohol such as reducing the risk of heart disease, drinking can also be problematic when you have diabetes.“Drinking alcohol can cause a drop in blood glucose because alcohol blocks the production of glucose in the liver.” 1

Health benefits of reducing alcohol

A study was done in January of 2018 with 800 participants who stopped drinking alcohol for the entire month. Research found that there were many benefits including better sleep patterns and more energy. Over half of the participants lost weight and most decreased the number of drinking days for months to come. The small act of cutting out alcohol provided health benefits that people are always trying to achieve; weight loss, better sleep, and more energy.2

Alcohol consumption guidelines

The American Diabetes Association has provided guidelines for the safest consumption of alcohol. It is important to check your blood glucose frequently while drinking alcoholic beverages. It is also extremely important to eat food when consuming alcohol. If you do decide to continue to have alcoholic beverages, please speak with your physician for recommendations and follow the strategies below:

  • “If you have diabetes, do not drink on an empty stomach or when your blood glucose is low, since your risk of low blood glucose increases after drinking.
  • If you choose to drink, follow the rules above and have it with food. This is mainly important for those on insulin and other diabetes pills that can lower blood glucose by making more insulin.
  • Don’t skip a meal if you are going to drink. (If you use carbohydrate counting to plan meals, it is important to understand how the drinks you choose affect your blood glucose and often your insulin dose will need to be decreased if having more than one drink)
  • Wear an I.D. that notes you have diabetes. If you are in a setting where people are drinking alcohol, hypoglycemia may be mistaken for being drunk.
  • Watch out for craft beers, which can have twice the alcohol and calories as a light beer.
  • For mixed drinks, choose calorie-free drink mixers like diet soda, club soda, diet tonic water or water.
  • As with anyone with or without diabetes, do not drive or plan to drive for several hours after you drink alcohol.”1

Carbohydrate content for alcoholic drinks

The approximate carbohydrate content of popular alcoholic drinks are below and should help when you meal plan and count carbohydrates:

  • 1 can of light beer contains 2-6g of carbohydrates depending on the brand
  • One 5 oz serving of wine contains 4g of carbohydrates
  • 1 shot of vodka contains 0g of carbohydrates

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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