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To Drink Or Not To Drink: That Is The Question

Alcohol is often on the guest list at everything from family reunions to evenings with friends, but it doesn’t always mix well with diabetes. Still, unless otherwise specified by your doctor, nothing is stopping you from having a drink as long as you follow some basic guidelines.

First, what effect does alcohol have?

When you drink some, your liver goes into “cleaning” mode: instead of producing glucose, it works at eliminating alcohol from your system. This puts you at risk of having a low blood sugar episode which may manifest up to 24 hours later. By the way, glucagon, like certain medications, does not work when there is alcohol in your blood.

Is it a good idea to have a drink?

A few conditions should be met. You need to have your diabetes under control, you shouldn’t have any problems that may be exacerbated by alcohol (liver or pancreas diseases, high blood pressure, etc.), you must be able to prevent and treat low blood sugar and, just as importantly, you shouldn’t go overboard.

What does moderation look like?

The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends that women drink no more than two glasses a day, or a total of ten drinks in a week, and that men drink a maximum of three glasses a day or fifteen in a week.

How can you drink wisely?

  • Before drinking. Stick to your diet plan, take your medication and check your blood sugar. Prepare for low blood sugar—by bringing glucose tablets along, for example.
  • While drinking. Eat carb-rich foods, especially if you’re engaging in physical activity (yes, dancing counts). Drink slowly and watch how much you imbibe, and dilute your drinks with non-sweet liquids such as soda water, tonic or diet soda. Light beers and dry wine are often preferable to cocktails and microbrews, which can contain more calories and alcohol.
  • After drinking. Measure your blood sugar before going to bed and eat a snack to regulate it if it is lower than usual. If you drank a lot of alcohol, it would be wise to set an alarm for testing your blood sugar during the night.

Is it frowned upon to abstain?

Certainly not. Alcohol is not an obligation, nor a guarantee of fun. Whether by choice or for health reasons, it’s perfectly possible to enjoy social activities fully without drinking a drop. So, to drink or not to drink… that’s your decision!


American Diabetes Association, “Alcohol”: Accessed February 15, 2016.
Canadian Diabetes Association, “Alcohol & Diabetes”: Accessed February 15, 2016.
Diabetes Québec, “Alcohol and Diabetes”: Accessed February 15, 2016.
Roche, “Making The Right Choices About Alcohol and Tobacco”: Accessed February 15, 2016.

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