Having diabetes doesn't mean alcohol is off-limits. However, there are a lot of questions you should know the answers to before you imbibe. How many calories does a margarita have? Does a glass of wine spike blood sugar? Will a beer derail your diabetes meal plan? From wine and spirits to beer and cocktails, caution and knowledge are key to enjoying your favorite adult beverage safely and responsibly.
In general, diabetes experts recommend that most people with diabetes can drink alcohol in moderation without compromising their health and blood glucose control. In fact, in some cases there may even be a few health benefits of regular moderate alcohol intake. Here is some advice on drinking alcohol with diabetes.
- Don't drink on an empty stomach. Don't skip meals when you drink alcohol, particularly if you take a blood glucose-lowering medication. Always
plan to eat when having a drink, and know what your blood sugar level is before you start drinking.
- Limit extra calories and carbohydrates with alcohol. Avoid high-calorie and high-carb mixed drinks, such as margaritas and daiquiris. Try light beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of distilled spirits on the rocks or mixed with a noncaloric beverage like water, club soda, diet tonic water, or diet soda.
- Test, test, test. Your blood sugar should be at a safe level before you drink alcohol. The best way to learn how your body responds to alcohol is with frequent glucose checks.
- Carry emergency glucose. If you're at risk of hypoglycemia, make sure you carry glucose tablets, gel, or liquid. Hypoglycemia treatments such as juice or regular soda might be available where you are consuming alcohol, but it's best to have treatments on hand.
- Educate companions to provide an assist if needed. Alert friends and family about the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia and how these signs could differ from overconsumption of alcohol. Let them know how to check your blood sugar if you can’t. If you are unconscious and experiencing severe hypoglycemia, encourage them to call 911.
- Wear diabetes ID. Signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia can be similar to the effects of excess alcohol consumption. Wear a diabetes ID to help people quickly identify that your blood sugar is low and provide you with the proper care.
Finally, always remember that not drinking is the best option and you should always have clearance from your doctor before doing anything that you think may jeopardize your health and well-being.