Alcohol & Diabetes

A frosty beer or icy margarita can relax and refresh, but happy-hour beverages can be risky for someone with diabetes.

Drinking too much alcohol isn’t  healthy. Alcohol can lower your blood sugar or cause swings in your blood sugar. It can affect diabetes and blood pressure. It can also raise the chance of getting liver disease, heart disease and cancer. Alcohol may change how your medicines work.

Many people with diabetes can drink alcohol if they are careful about how much they drink. If you have diabetes, ask your doctor if it’s okay for you to drink.

If your doctor says it’s okay, remember these tips:

  • Do not drink on an empty stomach or when your blood sugar is low.
  • Drink only one serving. One drink is a 12-ounce beer (one regular can), a 5-ounce glass of wine or 1½ ounces of spirits (like vodka, whiskey or gin.)
  • Choose light beer or wine spritzer made with ice and club soda.
  • Avoid high-calorie alcoholic drinks like dark beers or mixed drinks with a lot of sugar.
  • In case of an emergency, carry or wear an I.D. that says you have diabetes.
  • Check your blood sugar before drinking, while you drink and for 24 hours after having alcohol. If your blood sugar is low, eat something to raise it.
  • If you use carbohydrate counting to plan meals, don’t count alcohol in your plan as a carbohydrate choice.

Drinking three or four drinks daily isn’t safe for anyone, but especially for a person with diabetes. A person who is drinking this much should get medical help to find ways to cut back or stop their alcohol use.

Remember to never drink and drive.

What are the risks of drinking for people with diabetes?

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar reaction)
  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels)
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nerve damage, which is more common in people who drink more than the recommended daily amount
  • Changing how your medicine works

The best drinks for your body do not have alcohol, such as water, unsweetened tea or the occasional diet soda.