Alcohol, Diabetes, and Blood Sugar

Is it safe to drink alcohol if you have diabetes? Get the information you need to balance alcohol, diabetes self-care, and blood sugar.

Alcohol, Diabetes, and Blood Sugar

If you have diabetes, there are a couple of things to consider when it comes to drinking alcohol.

Alcohol's Effect on Your Blood Sugar
Think about the effect alcohol will have on your blood sugar. Will that beer or cocktail raise or lower your glucose level? High-carb drinks (such as beer) and sugary drinks (such as pina coladas, daiquiris, and margaritas) are likely to raise your blood sugar. If you eat sugary foods while you drink, the effect will be even greater. Unsweetened alcoholic beverages (such as vodka, scotch, or gin served straight or with a sugar-free mixer) may be a safer choice. But these drinks may lower your blood sugar, raising your risk of hypoglycemia if you don't manage your blood sugar while you drink.

Alcohol's Effect on Your Safety
It's also important to be aware of the effect alcohol can have on your thinking and safety. Will you be able to monitor your blood sugar and make wise decisions about food and medications while you drink? Will the people you're with know how to help you in a blood sugar emergency? The symptoms of hypoglycemia can look a lot like intoxication. In some cases, people might assume you're just a little tipsy and not realize that you actually need help. If you're unable to treat yourself, this could delay the treatment you need.

Smart Tips for Drinking with Diabetes
The good news? There is a safe way to enjoy a drink now and then, even if you have diabetes. To help prevent your blood sugar levels from getting too high or too low, follow these smart tips. 

  • Limit yourself to one or two drinks only.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and mixers.
  • Pair your alcohol with healthy foods (never drink on an empty stomach).
  • Monitor and manage your blood sugar levels while you're drinking.
  • Wear your medical ID bracelet when you drink, in case of an emergency.
  • When possible, abstain from drinking and be the designated driver for your friends instead. 

Written in partnership with TCOYD - Taking Control of Your Diabetes. Medically reviewed in October 2018.

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