Back to Related Health Issues

Alcohol and Diabetes

Did you know that alcohol lowers the blood sugars?
Well, it does and naturally this can result in a hypo. The tendency to hypo after alcohol can last up to 4-6 hours and after a real ‘binge’ blood sugars can remain low for a couple of days. The carbohydrates that the drink may contain do not offset the blood sugar lowering effect of the alcohol, so do not count these as part of your carbohydrate consumption and assume you will be OK.

In addition to the risk of hypos, alcohol impairs your judgment so you may not realise that you are having a hypo and therefore you will not treat it with sugary food. Furthermore, your friends may not realise that you are hypo and may simply assume your ‘odd’ behaviour is because you are drunk. This is a dangerous situation and can result in a severe hypoglycaemic attack, unconsciousness, seizure and hospitalisation.

Having diabetes does not mean that you cannot or should not drink alcohol because this can seriously affect your social life. However, it does mean that you should:

  • Only drink in moderation – sensible advice whether you have diabetes or not.
  • Learn by experience how alcohol affects you – everyone is different.
  • Take the appropriate steps to prevent a hypo and if necessary lower your insulin dose at the meal prior to going out for a drink.
  • The best time to drink is with a meal.
  • If you are not having a meal with your alcohol, then it is a good idea to nibble carbohydrate [eg crisps] throughout the evening.
  • Never drink alcohol before a meal.
  • Have an extra bedtime snack before going to bed. Remember the alcohol could lower your blood glucose during the night while you are asleep, resulting in a night hypo. The alcohol may also make you sleep more soundly and so hypo warnings may not wake you.