Should you drink alcohol if you have type 2 diabetes? If so, how much?
In this article we seek to cover the great alcohol debate and shed some light on safe alcohol consumption for people living with type 2 diabetes.
The most important rule, and this goes without saying, is to keep alcohol consumption moderate. Studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption may have positive health effects like raising HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may even reduce risk of type 2 diabetes. The American Heart Association defines moderate alcohol consumption as 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men. For reference, a single drink is measured as a 12 oz. beer, a 5 oz. glass of wine, or 1 ½ oz. of distilled spirits i.e. vodka, whisky, gin etc.
However, excessive alcohol consumption or binge drinking in which a person consumes more than 5 drinks in a two hour span of time for men and 4 for women, can increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Alcohol in excess can further increase your weight, which can lead to insulin resistance making glucose control more challenging.
A person living with type 2 diabetes is free to consume alcohol if desired, however, additional safety measures should be taken. Some alcoholic beverages are better than others for type 2 diabetics and other tips should be followed in order to stay safe. The American Diabetes Association recommends that individuals living with diabetes be able to recognize and manage delayed hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when drinking alcohol especially if these individuals use insulin or other medications that can cause blood sugar levels to drop. Since alcohol consumption can result in increased insulin production, which can lower blood sugar levels, education is vital for safety.
What you shouldn’t drink
Diabetics should avoid sugary drinks mixed with processed juices, added sugars and artificial syrups, which can add high doses of processed sugars. Such beverages can cause blood glucose spikes and weight gain if consumed in excess.
What you should drink
Alcoholic beverages like wine, champagne or distilled alcohol mixed with seltzer water or club soda are better options for diabetics. So instead of ordering that vodka cranberry, try vodka with club soda with a squeeze of lime.
Drink with food
Should you decide to consume alcohol occasionally, never drink on an empty stomach. Have your drink with a meal or eat right before you drink to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia. Your food should include carbohydrates so that some glucose will be in your system when you drink, lowering your risk of hypoglycemia. Feel free to consume as many carbohydrates as you need while drinking and never replace food with alcohol or count alcohol as part of your daily intake of carbohydrates.
If you are taking insulin or other medications that can lower blood sugar, prepare ahead of time and have some snacks on hand. Meals can have a delayed reaction in the body so snacks can come in handy. This can come in the form of a piece of whole grain toast, an apple or a bowl of oats with berries. These foods have also shown to help type 2 diabetics manage blood glucose and weight.
Drink with water
If you think you might drink more than 1 or 2 alcoholic beverages in a single night, drink a glass water or club soda in between each drink. The more hydrated you are, the less alcohol you will drink.
Wear your medical ID
Wearing your medical ID at all times is ideal in case of a medical emergency health professionals will know about your condition. However, if you prefer not to wear your medical ID wherever you go, at the very least wear it while you drink.
The most important rule to follow when drinking as a diabetic is to put your safety first.
Monitor blood sugar
In the end, the only way to know what works for you is to monitor your blood sugar more often while drinking alcohol. Even 24 hours after drinking, alcohol can cause a drop in blood sugar.
So, safety first and bottoms up.
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The statement and product mentioned in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.