Diabetes and Alcohol: to drink or not to drink
The life of a diabetic is full of challenges and they have to face it in each and every day of their lives. Each day seems like a struggle and this tussle takes a heavy toll on diabetic physically and emotionally.
The Everyday Dilemma
One of the major concern among diabetic is what kind of items they can have and what needs to be avoided. And with this problem, a question arises of diabetes and alcohol relationship;
Can a diabetic drink alcohol?
Are they prone to more risk of complication with alcohol?
Can diabetes and alcohol go together?
What is the safe limit for a diabetic to have alcohol?
These are all valid questions as:
A large chunk of population consume alcohol in some form or another;
Consumption of alcohol is only rising due to stressful life and increased depression related cases;
Our films have also promoted alcohol intake, they have developed a sense of perception that late night partying and boozing around is a way for happy and successful life;
Reports claiming health benefits of alcohol have confused people whether it is good or bad for health;
Before coming to a straight answer, we should understand how our body reacts with alcohol intake.
Click here to read about different form of diabetes
The food we eat get metabolize and digested in the stomach.
But the case is different with alcohol; our liver is responsible for Alcohol metabolism.
The liver has basically two functions:
1. It stores and secretes glucose to cells in order to fuel them when we are not eating
2. Remove toxicity from our body
So whenever we take alcohol, it is not considered as food by our stomach but identified as toxic material that has to be removed by the body.
That’s why within 5 minutes, alcohol enters our blood stream without getting metabolized by our stomach. Now it’s the job of the liver to detoxify the body and metabolize the alcohol.
Let’s understand about diabetes and alcohol relation in detail.
Problem for diabetic
If you are diabetic, be cautious about your alcohol consumptions as it can create following issues:
As I said earlier, the liver performs dual functions of secreting glucose and detoxifying body.
When you consume alcohol, the liver forgets everything and shifts its focus to metabolize the alcohol you put inside your body.
It stops paying attention to his task of regulating the blood glucose of body whenever it falls below the certain limit. This can be dangerous for a person taking insulin or pancreas stimulating medicines.
Let me explain in a simple way:
You have taken your long acting insulin (Basal) as part of your daily regime;
Now, in late evening, you decided to have some alcohol and watch TV;
After that, you went to sleep without eating anything;
your liver is working to metabolize alcohol you put in your body forgetting that it also has to produce some glucose to compensate for the food you have not taken;
At midnight, your long acting insulin gets in full action and as there are no carbs in your body (either from food or liver) you get in hypo condition.
A research states alcohol as one of the recognized risk factor for hypoglycemia in people with type 1 diabetes. An estimated one fifth of severe hypoglycemic episodes are attributed to alcohol consumption. The results of the study confirmed that evening consumption of alcohol causes low blood glucose in the morning after. This increases the risk of hypoglycemia after breakfast
Click here to read about normal blood sugar that a diabetic should target
2. Difficult to identify Hypoglycemia
As I have mentioned above, diabetics are prone to hypoglycemia condition when they involve in alcohol drinking, but there is a more dangerous side of alcohol consumption.
A diabetic who is “high” face similar situation like that of hypoglycemia:
- Memory loss
- Blurred vision
- Unsteady movements
- Passing out
- Slurred speech
The similarity of symptoms confuse the person and make it difficult to diagnose whether it’s happening because of hypoglycemia or due to his intoxication.
If you fail to make a proper judgment (which is more likely) and don’t treat yourself with the desired carbs, that night would be your last night.
Also, Glucagon, the medication that is carried by emergency medical personnel to increase blood sugar rapidly, does not work when alcohol is in the system and it can lead to a very quick death.
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3. High blood sugar
Many types of alcohol are high in sugar. If you are type 2 diabetic on a medication be careful with the type and amount of alcohol you take.
Indulging in binge drinking will raise your blood sugar and increase the risk of hyperglycemia. Sustaining high blood sugar for longer duration may arise serious complications which are not reversible and hampers the lifestyle badly.
Hence before drinking, it’s better to understand the relationship between diabetes and alcohol.
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4. Stimulating Hunger:
Excessive drinking adds a lot of empty calories and sugars that can cause their blood sugar to increase. Also, drinking too much alcohol can stimulate your appetite and cause you to eat foods that your body does not need.
5. Makes complication worse
If you have nerve damage as a result of diabetes, drinking alcohol can make it worse and increase the pain, tingling, numbness and other symptoms.
Click here to read diabetic neuropathy in detail
6. Premature Ageing
Can also lead to saggy skin and premature aging and in some cases certain cancers, heart disease.
In a survey, it was found that the person who consumes alcohol is less likely to remain disciplined with respect of exercising, taking medications on time and eating healthy
Click here to read how I reduce my HbA1c from 12.9 to 5.5
Guidelines to manage this diabetes and alcohol problem
From the above points, we can conclude that diabetics have everything to lose while taking alcohol and hence, should be carefully consumed.
I am not asking someone to completely abstain from alcoholic drinks right away;
and I understand how difficult it would be to for habitual drinker who now got diabetic to make a decision to stop alcohol.
Alcohol has been ingrained deeply in our lifestyle and now it has become an addiction; And when you get addicted it takes time to get over it.
Now you are aware of the alcohol induced problem, it’s time to make a smaller step to reduce your alcohol intake.
First, try to be under government stated threshold, that is two drinks of alcohol in a one-day period if you are a man, or one drink if you are a woman.
Try to reduce quantity week by week until you completely remove it from your life.
I would like to state some tips that would make your diabetes management easier:
Take note of the things which gives you stress and because of it, people take resort to alcoholic drinks to escape away from their sadistic tendencies even for a short duration.
Try to meditate regularly for 15 minutes and take a note of situation which gives you stress.
And next time when you get in the stressful situation say to yourself that “I am damaging my body right now, I have limited time on this earth and the problem will not going to stay with me forever. I should think about the solution and try to find the next step”
How Buddhist monk manage their diabetes? click the link to read
2. Find your passion
Figure out your passions and try to find out things which you can do tirelessly whole day.
you can join a gym in your locality or photography class or may be cooking that helps you to de-stress and makes you feel happy.
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3. If you are diabetic, be cautious before drinking
a. Always have something to eat before you drink.
b. Ditch the rounds. Rounds encourage you to drink at the speed of the fastest drinker
c. Carry medical ID or wrist bands to identify your condition in case of medical emergency
you can buy diabetes ID band from Amazon by clicking this link
d. Do not drink empty stomach: Food slows down alcohol absorption by blood and keeps you on your senses
e. Check sugar level before and after drinking
f. Modify your insulin dosage as per requirement
Final word about Diabetes and Alcohol relation
If you got diabetic, it’s better that you stay away from booze. Diabetic is already a complicated problem and taking alcohol only make it more complex to handle.
You may have come across different articles stating the health benefit of alcohol but there is research that state that the risk imposed by it outweighs its benefit by a huge margin.
I know it’s easier said than done but start taking small steps in right direction and one day you will reach your target; as its rightly said “Journey of thousand miles began with one step”.
Please share you diagnosis story to add value to our diabetic community. Your experience may help our fellow diabetic to learn and make fewer mistakes in their diabetes management journey.
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