Alcohol can get a bad rep, but research has shown that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol can have certain health benefits, like potentially reducing risks of heart disease and stroke. Yes, even for people with diabetes!
The most important thing to remember, though, is that moderation is key. Any health benefits of alcohol are washed away if you drink too much. Excessive drinking is bad for your health and a leading cause of preventable death.
So what does moderation amount to? Not a lot. Moderate drinking is usually defined as one drink per day or less for adult women and two drinks per day or less for adult men. This is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, each of which have about 15 grams of alcohol.
It’s also important to note that alcohol can cause hypoglycemia shortly after drinking and even up to 24 hours after drinking. This is especially true for people using insulin or oral medication. This happens because your liver focuses on removing the alcohol from your blood instead of helping to regulating blood glucose. If you experience a low, proper treatment may not be offered, as the signs and symptoms of consuming too much alcohol and hypoglycemia can be similar (dizziness, sleepiness, etc.). So when you drink, make sure those around you are aware you have diabetes.
If you decide to drink alcohol, make sure to check your blood glucose before, during and up to 24 hours after drinking. Also test before you go to bed to make sure it is at a safe level. If your blood glucose is low, treat the hypoglycemia and recheck often.
Here are some other tips to sip by:
- Do not drink on an empty stomach or when your blood glucose is low.
- Always have alcohol with food. Never omit food from your regular meal plan and replace it with alcohol.
- Wear a medical I.D. that notes you have diabetes.
- Sip your drink slowly to savor it and make it last.
- Have a zero-calorie beverage by your side to keep yourself hydrated, like water, diet soda or iced tea.
- Watch out for heavy craft beers, which can have twice the alcohol and calories as a light beer. Try a light beer or wine spritzer made with wine, ice cubes and club soda.
- Many mixed drinks, like margaritas and daiquiris are very high in calories, choose a “skinny” version or use calorie-free drink mixers such as diet soda, club soda, diet tonic water or water.
- Do not drive or plan to drive for several hours after you drink alcohol.
Drinking is an individual choice, but for people who choose to consume alcohol, the safest and healthiest way to drink is a moderate amount daily, preferably with meals. Remember that everybody responds differently to alcohol, so the effects aren’t predictable, whether or not you have diabetes. Check your blood glucose to find out how alcohol affects you. If you have any questions about whether alcohol is safe for you, check with your doctor.