The following is a story from a Reframe user. All experiences are their own. If you have diabetes or another medical condition, please consult with a physician for proper treatment and guidelines on alcohol use.
After a stunning holiday in Phuket, Thailand, I realized something was off. I had been drinking a ton of water but I brushed it off, thinking I was just trying to stay hydrated in the heat. After dropping weight instead of piling it on from feasts of pad thai, I mentioned it to my nurse practitioner and provided urine and blood samples.
Turns out my blood sugar was 33 mmol/L. After I was diagnosed with diabetes, I had to relearn how to live my life, including socializing with a few drinks.
If you have diabetes, you can still enjoy a few drinks here and there, but remember alcohol’s effect on blood sugar. However, it's important to take precautions. Always drink in moderation and stay within the CDC’s definition of moderate drinking (1-2 standard alcoholic drinks per day for males, and 1 for females).
If your physician has recommended that you abstain from alcohol use altogether, follow their advice. Quitting alcohol isn't necessarily easy — but understanding how it affects your diabetes may make it easier. Before taking a drink of alcohol, consider how quitting will affect your health and how hard it might be to quit later if you don’t begin the process now. Can a type 2 diabetic drink alcohol safely? By following these guidelines while drinking, diabetics can safely enjoy a few drinks without worrying about their condition worsening.
Make Conscious Decisions
Living with diabetes often requires making extra conscious decisions about how you take care of your body. If you choose to drink alcohol, remaining conscious includes watching how much and how often you drink.
Even though there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume when living with diabetes, many people are still unsure of whether they should quit because of how hard it will be or because they aren’t aware of how their health could improve after they make that change. Maintaining a healthy diet, incorporating physical activity into your weekly routine, and being mindful of alcohol consumption are all ways to manage diabetes.
Quitting alcohol or cutting back is no easy feat — especially if you’ve had a long-term relationship with drinking. It's important to understand how life before and after quitting alcohol could change and how the journey looks.
If you’ve been drinking for a while, you may already be keenly aware of how mixers, like sugary beverages or club soda, affect your blood sugar levels and how that ties into your cardiovascular health. Beer raises blood sugar levels, both from the alcohol and the carbs. With the right awareness and modifications in alcohol consumption, each person has the power to improve their overall health in the long run.
Take on New Roles
Role playing can be an effective way to prepare for difficult conversations regarding your changing relationship with alcohol. Whether you're dealing with family members, doctors, or other people who may ask why you no longer participate in activities that involve drinking, practicing the conversation beforehand with a close friend or counselor can help you approach these situations with confidence. Not only will practice give you an edge on formatting and controlling the conversation, but it will also help you prepare everyone involved for how your life might look after quitting alcohol.
Monitor Alcohol and Blood Sugar
It can be difficult to quit drinking when dealing with diabetes, as alcohol can have an exaggerated effect on your blood sugar levels, both low and high. Although a beer or a glass of wine can help you unwind before bedtime, it’s important to remember to have a healthy snack if your glucose readings drop. Ingesting food while the effects of the alcohol are still present helps moderate how much it affects your body and allows you to recover quickly from any potentially dangerous troughs that could occur. Remember, alcohol and insulin resistance have a close relationship, and that extra drink can be extra dangerous with diabetes.
Bring Your Identification
Wearing an I.D. that states you have diabetes is important in making sure you get the help you need should a situation arise where someone mistakes your hypoglycemia for intoxication. Making people aware of your medical condition ensures your safety in risky situations and could make all the difference between being taken care of and being ignored during times of confusion or dizziness.
Knowing the how and when of taking your medications can be tricky, and abstaining from alcohol may complicate the already difficult task of managing your health. Depending on your condition and how many medications you take, it can be hard to predict how alcohol will interact with them.
That’s why it’s important to ask your doctor if you have any questions about how — and when — to consume alcohol. Your doctor should be able to provide all the necessary information for balancing medications with other lifestyle choices.
Moderate drinking is considered up to two drinks a day for men and up to one for women. Keep in mind that many craft beers contain twice the alcohol and calories of light beers. Before deciding whether alcohol consumption is right for you, it's important to consult your doctor, especially if you have existing concerns with the kidney or liver.
Be Mindful During Social Occasions
Dining out can be difficult if you have diabetes, especially when it comes to moderating your alcohol intake. However, many people find that when they reduce how much they drink or make an effort to quit completely, their blood sugar levels return to target range. This means that it's potentially safe for men and women to have up to two drinks at dinner so long as their blood sugar levels remain within target range.
Experts highlight the risk of hypoglycemia due to how alcohol can cause a dip in blood sugar, even up until 24 hours after consumption. If your blood sugar levels are already inconsistent, it's best not to drink, but if you do, frequent checks should be made before drinking, while drinking and during the night. As you’re figuring out how alcohol affects type 1 diabetes, remember to pace yourself, be mindful, and never drink on an empty stomach.
Before you ask your waiter to serve a cocktail before your meal, remember that drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can cause hypoglycemia — low blood sugar levels. It’s best to drink alcohol after you’ve eaten something or at the end of the meal. Consuming alcohol with food also helps slow its absorption into the body, making for a less intense experience and even potentially reducing unwanted side effects like hangovers. Having your cocktail on a full stomach can help minimize risks and make your meal more enjoyable.
Diabetes is nothing to take lightly! It can mean making some pretty serious decisions and changes in lifestyle, among them decisions in your relationship with alcohol. Deciding whether you want wine or dessert is an important step in the journey towards better diabetes management and health, so consider these decisions carefully!