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Alcohol and Health

Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol With Type 1 Diabetes?

August 8, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 8, 2023
9 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
August 8, 2023
9 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
August 8, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
August 8, 2023
9 min read

It's a sweltering Saturday afternoon, and there's a barbecue in the neighborhood. Burgers are sizzling, laughter is bubbling, and a game of lawn darts is in full swing. The cooler is packed with cold beverages, and for many, a frosty beer or chilled glass of wine seems like the perfect addition. But wait! You've got Type 1 Diabetes, and you've been making a commitment to cut back or quit alcohol. Should you hold back? Let's find out!

A Beginner's Guide to Diabetes

Diabetes, which affects millions of people worldwide, is like a supply delivery system that's gone haywire — it's all about the body's ability (or inability) to manage blood sugar levels. Blood sugar, or glucose, fuels our body's cells, giving them the energy they need to perform their tasks.

So what makes Type 1 different from the others? Let’s break it down.

  • Type 1 Diabetes: the non-stop balancing act. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune condition that results from the pancreas’ inability to produce insulin, a hormone needed to help glucose enter the cells. Imagine a delivery worker needing a key to open a mailbox, but the key is missing — the package (glucose) is there, but it can’t be delivered to the cells.
  • Type 1 Diabetes can occur at any age, but it’s often diagnosed in children and young adults. Management is a 24/7 job, requiring insulin injections, regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, and careful meal planning.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: the sneaky neighbor. In Type 2 Diabetes, the body either doesn't use insulin properly or can't make enough of it. The key is there, but it's a bit rusty and struggles to turn the lock. While it’s typically diagnosed in adults, Type 2 Diabetes is increasingly seen in younger people. Lifestyle changes like diet and exercise are the front line when it comes to management. Medications and insulin therapy may also be required.
  • Gestational Diabetes: a temporary visitor. This type of diabetes occurs during pregnancy and usually goes away after childbirth. Monitoring blood sugar levels, eating a balanced diet, and staying active are typically the strategies here.

Whether it's Type 1, Type 2, or gestational, diabetes is a complex condition that requires ongoing care and attention. However, with the right tools, knowledge, and support, it's completely manageable, allowing those affected to live full, vibrant lives.

The Intersection of Alcohol and Type 1 Diabetes

When it comes to Type 1 Diabetes, alcohol can spell trouble. Since the body does not produce insulin, keeping blood sugar levels balanced is a daily challenge. Alcohol reduces the liver's ability to release glucose, which can lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

This adds another bottleneck to the supply delivery system: not only are the “packages” not getting to their destination, they’re held up at the holding facility and can’t even get on the truck. Things can get chaotic quickly!

A Closer Look at the Risks

Alcohol consumption for those with Type 1 Diabetes comes with some additional risks:

  • Alcohol and medications. Many medications for Type 1 Diabetes — such as insulin injections — focus on controlling blood sugar levels. Adding alcohol into the mix makes for a tricky combo, since it tends to reduce their effectiveness.
  • The weight factor. Alcohol contains calories, and those extra calories can affect weight management and overall health.
  • Blood sugar spikes. Mixed drinks or cocktails often contain sugary syrups or sodas, leading to a sudden spike in blood sugar levels. When there’s already an issue in balancing glucose levels, this unexpected rise can wreak havoc.

Potential Long-Term Effects

Down the road, consistent alcohol consumption by a person with Type 1 Diabetes may contribute to other chronic issues:

  • Neuropathy. This is a fancy term for nerve damage, which can cause tingling, pain, or numbness, often in the hands and feet.
  • Heart disease. Those with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart diseases such as coronary artery disease and heart failure. Moreover, diabetes often comes hand in hand with high blood pressure — another factor that puts strain on the heart. Alcohol can increase blood pressure and heart rate, contributing to the problem.
  • Liver disease. The liver manages many bodily tasks, including blood sugar regulation. In Type 1 Diabetes, the absence of insulin means the liver might not get the signal to stop releasing glucose, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Over time, this can lead to hepatic steatosis — a condition that causes fat to build up in the liver. Though more common with Type 2 Diabetes, it can occur with Type 1 as well. The build-up of fat can eventually lead to liver inflammation and scarring. Since alcohol is notorious for its tendency to strain or damage this vital organ, long-term complications are more likely.

What You Can Do

Here's where the rubber meets the road! If you're committed to quitting or cutting back on alcohol, especially with Type 1 Diabetes, these steps can be your guide:

  • Educate yourself. Knowledge is power. Keep learning about your condition and how alcohol affects it.
  • Communicate with healthcare providers. Talk to your doctor or other medical professionals about your specific situation.
  • Choose alternatives. Grab that lemon water or a non-alcoholic beer. There are plenty of delicious options!
  • Monitor blood sugar. Keep a close eye on your levels, especially if you decide to consume alcohol. There's a variety of blood sugar meters out there, and your healthcare provider can help you pick the one that best fits your needs.
  • Join supportive communities. Surround yourself with friends and family who support your decision, or find groups that share your goals. It can make all the difference!
  • Create a personal plan. With the guidance of healthcare professionals, create a plan that works for you.

Finding Balance

Life with Type 1 Diabetes is complex, but it doesn't have to be confusing. Whether you’re at a barbecue or having a quiet night at home, understanding how alcohol interacts with your body is essential to maintaining health and happiness. Choosing how to manage alcohol with Type 1 Diabetes is a personal decision that requires careful thought, planning, and communication. But rest assured, you've got this, and we're here cheering you on from the sidelines!

Starting Your Journey to Better Health? Reframe Can Help!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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