If you are using insulin, you will need to be particularly careful about how much alcohol you drink. Some medications (metformin, in particular) interact with alcohol, which can cause problems. Alcohol is also high in calories, so it is a good idea to cut out alcoholic drinks if you are trying to lose excess weight. Your diabetes healthcare team will be able to give you more information and advice about alcohol. There are also some simple steps you can take towards sensible drinking.
Why is it dangerous to drink too much alcohol?
Alcohol hinders your liver's ability to produce glucose, because your liver is kept busy breaking down the alcohol instead of making new glucose. Alcohol also decreases the amount of some of the hormones that help to boost blood glucose. These biological factors come together, making the risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) much greater after drinking. The effect of alcohol will last the entire time it takes your liver to break down the alcohol in your body. Therefore, if you drink during the evening you could be at risk of hypoglycaemia all night as well as the morning after.
If you are using insulin, speak to your diabetes healthcare team about how to adjust your dose after drinking alcohol. They may advise a lower dose both at bedtime and before breakfast, to avoid hypoglycaemia. You need to be able to think clearly so you can take the correct amount of insulin at the right time. It is also important to be capable of recognising if you are feeling unwell because your insulin levels are low or you are becoming hypoglycaemic. It is hard to keep track of these things if you are drunk, in exactly the same way as you cannot drive a car safely.
Everyone should be careful about how much alcohol they drink and if you have diabetes you must take extra care. Follow our steps to sensible drinking and you will be able to enjoy a drink whilst reducing the likelihood of the complications alcohol can cause.