The biggest concern of alcohol in diabetes is hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose), which can happen when consuming alcohol combined with some diabetes medication. This happens because the liver is responsible for stabilising glucose levels by storing carbohydrates and releasing them into the bloodstream between meals and overnight, but when you consume alcohol, your liver prioritises the metabolism of alcohol, which means that the job of releasing stored glucose is halted and this can lead to hypoglycaemia.
Many symptoms of hypoglycaemia, such as slurred speech, drowsiness, confusion, or difficulty walking, are also symptoms of being drunk, so it can be difficult to tell the two apart. Timing can also be unpredictable, as hypoglycaemia can strike hours after your last drink.
Your risk of having a hypo doesn’t go away after you stop drinking, it can last up to 24 hours.
So, the most important thing to remember is never drink alcohol on an empty stomach, preferably consume with your meal, or otherwise with a snack.
Drink in moderation; one unit/drink a day for women and up to two per day for men.
A drink is 140ml of wine, or a 330ml beer, or 40ml tot of 80-proof spirits. A 14% ABV 750ml bottle of wine will contain approximately 10,5 units and 750 calories.
If you have one too many, keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, don’t skip breakfast, and check your blood glucose regularly the next day. Symptoms of a hypo are similar to feelings of a hangover, so no matter how awful you feel, you need to treat a hypo straight away. Don’t ignore it.
DID YOU KNOW?
Consuming alcohol can interfere with the positive effects of oral diabetes medicines or insulin.
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