National diabetes week runs from the 13th – 19th of July. This blog will be focused around alcohol consumption and diabetes. Check out my recent blog on ‘diabetes and carbohydrates’ for more information.
People with diabetes have to be particularly careful when drinking alcohol – this is due to the interaction it can have with some medications. To ensure safety, it is best to first discuss alcohol consumption with your diabetes care team.
In saying the above, it is still possible to safely consume alcohol if you have diabetes. However, the following recommendations should be kept in mind. They are the same recommendations set for all healthy adults and they apply to both men and women:
- No more than 2 standard drinks on any day(1).
- No more than 4 standard drinks on any one occasion(1).
- Binge drinking should be avoided all together(1).
- Alcohol free days should be included each week.
For more detailed information on the recommendations/ what classifies a standard drink, follow this link: Alcohol guidelines
Important points for individuals with diabetes
- Alcohol has a high calorie/ kilojoule content. Alcohol has 20kJ per gram opposed to 16-17kJ per gram of carbohydrate and protein. These are empty kilojoules due to its lacking nutritional value. This means that alcohol can easily encourage weight gain. This is an issue because weight gain can make the management of diabetes harder and it can increase the risk of developing lifestyle related disease.
- Excessive alcohol intake can increase the risk of complications associated with diabetes. For example, alcohol can increase blood fats (triglycerides) and can also increase your blood pressure.
- Those who are taking medication for their diabetes (insulin or oral medication) need to be cautious of alcohol related hypoglycaemia. A hypo can even occur hours after drinking alcohol and it can be very serious if left untreated. Carbohydrate containing food should always be consumed when drinking alcohol. Have a snack before bed and eat breakfast soon after waking.
- If you are planning to drink, whether at home or out, tell your friends or family members. A hypo could easily be mistaken for drunkenness and can result in unconsciousness. Ensure they are aware of the signs of a hypoglycaemic attack.
- Carry a form of fast acting carbohydrate with you to use in the case of a hypo e.g. jelly beans
- Limit very sugary beverages e.g. mixes with full sugar soft drink. Opt for wine, beer or spirits mixed with soda water and lime.
- Choose low alcohol drinks and drink plenty of water.
Why does alcohol cause hypos?
Alcohol is processed by the liver in preference to the liver producing glucose. It therefore can have a glucose lowering effect – this can last for many hours after consuming your last drink! This is why people who are on medication to manage their glucose levels are at risk of experiencing a ‘hypo’.
The risk is even greater when glucose stores are low, for instance, if it has been a long time since you have eaten following exercise or during the night/ morning. Ask your diabetes educator or doctor about alcohol and your insulin/ medication.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have questions about alcohol and diabetes or other nutrition related issues, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns.
Contact us today.
1. eatforhealth.gov.au. Alcohol. National Health and Medical research Council. Available from: Fat salt sugars and alcohol