Diabetes and Alcohol

Overview

People who have diabetes need to be more careful with alcohol. Before you drink, consider a few things: Is your diabetes well controlled? Do you know how drinking alcohol can affect you? Do you have high blood pressure, nerve damage, or eye problems from your diabetes?

If you take insulin or another medicine for diabetes, drinking alcohol may cause low blood sugar. This could cause dangerous low blood sugar levels.

Too much alcohol can also affect your ability to know your blood sugar is low and to treat it. Drinking alcohol can make you lightheaded at first and drowsy as you drink more, both of which may be similar to the symptoms of low blood sugar.

Drinking a lot of alcohol over a long period of time can damage your liver (cirrhosis). If this happens, your body may lose its natural response to protect itself from low blood sugar.

If you are controlling your diabetes and do not have other health issues, it may be okay to have a drink once in a while. Learning how alcohol affects your body can help you make the right choices.

If you drink

  • Work with your doctor or diabetes expert to find what's best for you. Ask if it's safe to drink if you use insulin or another medicine for diabetes.
  • In general, limit alcohol to 1 drink a day with a meal if you're a woman, and 2 drinks a day with a meal if you're a man.
  • Choose drinks wisely. Use sugar-free mixers, like diet tonic or water. Pick drinks with less alcohol, like light beer or dry wine. Or dilute wine with club soda.
  • When you drink, check your blood sugar before bed. Have a snack before bed so your blood sugar does not drop during sleep.

When not to drink

  • Never drink on an empty stomach. Drink only with a meal or snack.
  • Don't drink alcohol if you have trouble noticing the signs of low blood sugar.
  • Don't drink after you exercise.
  • Don't drink if you have nerve damage, high blood pressure, or eye disease.

Credits

Current as of: April 13, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Colleen O'Connor PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian

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This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.