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Thursday, March 26, 2015

All You Wanted to Know About Diabetes and Alcohol but Were Embarrassed to Ask

All You Wanted to Know About Diabetes and Alcohol but Were Embarrassed to Ask

Siva Vallabhaneni March 23, 2015

Can diabetics have alcohol? If yes, how much is safe? Can heavy drinking lead to diabetes?
This article will try to answer common questions about diabetes and alcohol.

Can heavy drinking lead to diabetes?
Yes it can. Heavy drinking reduces insulin sensitivity. If you’re a heavy drinker, you are also amassing huge amount of calories. For example, a pint of lager beer contains as many calories as a slice of pizza. Too many calories inevitably result in weight gain. Obesity has been linked to insulin resistance and insulin resistance is the stepping stone to type 2 diabetes.
Heavy drinking also causes pancreatitis – the inflammation of pancreas. Most heavy drinkers report shooting pain in the upper abdomen, nausea – sometimes during eating, and vomiting. These are the symptoms of a swollen pancreas. Pancreatitis can lead to type 2 diabetes.

I’m a Teetotaler, what’s my risk?
Crazy as it sounds, drinking in moderation can actually prevent type 2 diabetes. That’s unfair to teetotalers but true. There is only one explanation for that. When you are drinking, your liver drops all other activity and just focuses on breaking down the alcohol. While your liver is doing that, the blood glucose levels drop, but not dangerously in a normal, healthy person.
Over a period of time, drinking in moderation can actually improve insulin sensitivity. We’re not lying. A review of 15 studies found that moderate drinkers were at lower risk of diabetes than teetotalers and heavy drinkers.

What is drinking in moderation? 
Good question. If you’re a woman, you shouldn’t drink more than three units a day. If you’re a man, stop at fourth unit. But what is a unit?
One unit of alcohol is 10 ml of pure alcohol. But you don’t drink pure alcohol – you drink beer, wine or bourbon, rum, or whisky. So how can you know how many units are there in a pint of lager? Here’s a guide:
  1. One pint of lager – 2 units
  2. A shot (25ml) of hard spirits (whisky, rum, or vodka) – 1 unit
  3. A glass of wine (125ml) – 1.5 units
It takes an average person about an hour to breakdown a unit of alcohol. The processing times varies according to gender, age, weight, height, among others. The more you drink, longer it will take your body to process it.

Can a diabetic have alcohol?
No two cases of diabetes are alike. Some diabetics can enjoy alcohol in moderation while to others it could be life-threatening. There is scientific evidence that shows that consuming alcohol may reduce your chances of following to a diet plan, exercise routine or medication regimen. Consuming alcohol also raises blood pressure which may worsen some complications such as neuropathy, retinopathy.
Diabetes and alcohol are uneasy bedfellows. That said, some diabetics can have alcohol in moderation, but it pays to follow some guidelines, such as:

Consult your doctor: If there’s a social call where you know drinks will be served, tell your doctor about it. Your doctor is the best judge to determine whether or not alcohol will interfere with your medication. If you take insulin shots or other medicines, consuming alcohol can make your blood sugar dangerously low. The chances of hypoglycemia are very real.

Declare your diabetic-status – There is a blurred line between signs of hypoglycemia and being inebriated. If you’re drinking in a public event, make sure you inform couple of people that you have diabetes and if you pass out, it could be due to hypoglycemia and you might need medical attention. We know it’s uncool, but necessary.

Check blood sugar before and after the drink – Monitoring your blood sugar can prevent unfortunate incidence of hitting a low. Most importantly, you should check your blood sugar before sleeping. If it’s under 100 mg/dl, make sure you eat something to avoid hypoglycemia during the sleep.

Never drink on empty stomach or after exercise – It is important to have normal blood sugar levels before drinking. Food also slows down the absorption of alcohol. Keep eating snacks with your drink. It is a good idea to drink really slowly. Drinking slow reduces the pressure on your liver. Never drink immediately after exercising as your blood sugar levels are usually low after exercising.

Watch the Calories – Is that JD with coke? Is that cocktail loaded with sugar syrup and artificial juice?  Watch out for empty calories. Keep hydrated while you’re drinking. Keep water handy.