To your health! Enjoying a drink with diabetes
Any time you get together with friends or family, especially during the holidays, you may feel inclined to raise a glass. Why not? Living with diabetes does not mean you can't enjoy a cocktail or some champagne. Just know how alcohol can affect your blood sugar numbers or interact with insulin or medications before you start pouring, so you can avoid any surprises.
Nobody wants a holiday low
Drinking alcohol can affect you in a few ways:
- When your liver is processing alcohol, it does not produce sugar to regulate your blood glucose levels.
- If you take insulin or some oral medications, drinking alcohol can put you at even greater risk of a low blood sugar. This can last for 24 hours after drinking.
- When you drink, you may not be aware that your blood sugar is dropping. You may also lose track of how much you've had to drink and overindulge.
- Other people may mistake the signs of low blood sugar for being tipsy.
- If you live with type 1 diabetes, glucagon won't work if you have alcohol in your system.
Tips to keep your blood sugar steady
The most important tip is to drink alcohol in moderation. Diabetes Canada recommends no more than 2 drinks for women per day or 3 for men, assuming you don't have another issue that restricts alcohol even further.
In addition, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Sip alongside food. Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach—make your way over to the buffet or appetizer spread before you pour. Keep the carbs coming if you're dancing and before you go to sleep.
- Know your numbers. Test your blood sugar before, during and after drinking. If you're going low, eat a carbohydrate-rich snack.
- Wear a medical ID. And have a friend keep an eye on you. If you lose consciousness, you'll need an ambulance in a hurry.
Now that we've covered the most important points, here are some extra tricks to consider:
- Pour your own drinks. You can use less alcohol and stretch your drinks with ice and mixers.
- Keep it light. Skip the sugary, creamy cocktails and opt for a glass of champagne, low-carb beer or spirits with sugar-free soda.
- Go slowly. Take your time and have something alcohol-free between drinks.
- Garnish your water. A slice of lime on your ice water or club soda feels festive and can keep people from pushing drinks on you.
- Enjoy yourself. It's a celebration, after all!
Diabetes Canada (2018). Alcohol and diabetes. Retrieved from: https://guidelines.diabetes.ca/docs/patient-resources/alcohol-and-diabet.... Accessed June 4 2021.
Diabetes Quebec (2014). Alcohol and diabetes. Retrieved from: https://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/understand-diabetes/practice/warned/drinks. Accessed June 4 2021.
HealthLink BC (2019). Diabetes and alcohol. Retrieved from: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/abg8758. Accessed June 4 2021.
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