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Home » Blog & News » Excessive Alcohol And Diabetes, Effects, Guidelines, Hints and Tips
According to a report by the CDC, in the US alone around 100 million people are now living with diabetes or prediabetes, but many are unaware of this condition. What many don’t understand about this disease is its sensitivity to pretty much anything one excessively consumes. Alcohol is one such thing that can influence diabetes greatly when excessively consumed.
Does Excessive Alcohol Impact Diabetes? Yes, excessive alcohol consumption can reduce the overall effectiveness of your liver and insulin. As a result, the stability of blood sugar levels is disturbed. Excessive alcohol also interferes with the hormones needed to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Alcohol has become a part of a daily lifestyle for many. Be it from relieving a stressful day to sharing a special evening with friends and family. So this article will give you key insights and useful advice regarding the relationship between alcohol and diabetes, along with some helpful hints and tips for type 1 and type 2 diabetes sufferers.
Also, take a look at our article on 7 Ways to Save Money on diabetes Medication
Different alcoholic drinks have different compositions of sugar. This will give varying impacts on your blood sugar level. A single alcoholic drink of about 330ml bottle of beer or medium glass of wine will not have a huge impact on your blood sugar. However, when you consume alcohol on a daily basis, it will gradually increase your blood sugar. Typically beers, lagers, wines, sherries, and liqueurs will have this effect.
This is the general and the simplest explanation of how alcohol affects diabetes. However, to give you a more medical view of these influences, the following is a detailed explanation on this topic.
The liver is one of the most important organs for blood sugar. The liver acts as the network that circulates blood sugar levels and other body fuels steadily and constantly. It is the liver that stores and manufactures glucose depending on the body’s need.
However, it is the insulin that signals the liver when to store glucose (when the blood sugar level is high) and manufacture i.e. release glucose (when the blood sugar level is low). As such when alcohol is excessively consumed, the insulin loses its effectiveness in signaling the liver. This will thereby affect the liver is doing its job effectively, in turn, worsening the diabetic condition.
Similarly, when excessive alcohol is consumed, the liver focuses on removing the alcohol from the body. This will redirect the focus of the liver in managing the blood sugar levels of the body.
This unattended focus can usually lead to unawareness on a diabetic condition.
Alcohol also has the potential to interact with medications prescribed to diabetes patients. Also, each person’s body has different reactions to alcoholic drinks. So even if you rarely drink alcohol, it’s better to consult with your doctor regarding this.
On the other hand, as we all know, alcohol damages the liver, be it excessive consumption or not. This is because excessive alcohol tends to damage the liver cells, reducing its overall performance.
This also limits the liver from doing its job, even if insulin signals are delivered accurately. As such the liver will not be able to store or release glucose as per the body’s requirements. This will also worsen the condition of diabetes.
Following are a few symptoms of excessive alcohol disrupting your blood sugar levels,
However, these influence of excessive alcohol consumption on diabetes varies, depending on the type of diabetes you have. In fact, this could be a common question many tend to have. So below, we have a clear breakdown of how excessive alcohol affects the two most common types of diabetes.
When a person with type 1 diabetes consumes excessive alcohol the risk of its influences are greater. This is mainly because excessive alcohol can cause hypoglycemia (a ‘hypo’) in type 1 diabetic patients. This is where the liver mistakes alcohol to be a toxin that needs to be processed.
And as mentioned previously, this redirects the focus of the liver in getting rid of the alcohol. This will keep the liver busy with a lack of focus in releasing glucose when the body needs it. In fact, the liver will completely lose focus on releasing glucose until the alcohol is completely processed. This will reduce the BGL (Blood Glucose Level) leading to hypoglycemia.
Sometimes your BGL can be raised by the amount of sugar composition in the alcoholic drink. However, the BGL level then reduces along with the liver processing the alcohol.
The risk of hypo occurring can be either during the time you consume alcohol or after many hours of consumption. But all in all excessive alcohol intake worsens the hypo.
The few common symptoms of a hypo include shaking, sweating, dizziness, headaches, crying, grumpiness, hunger and numbness around the lips and fingers. But these symptoms are not easily recognizable by oneself or the people around. In fact, these symptoms may even end up with people assuming a person is drunk.
When experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s always recommended to check the glucose level. If the BGL is below 4mmol/L it means you’re experiencing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). In such situations, the following is recommended.
As such the influence of excessive alcohol on type 1 diabetes needs is unavoidable. Now let’s take a look at type two diabetes and its relationship with alcohol.
Type 2 diabetes, as you may know, is a condition caused by insufficient insulin. This is either where the body resists the effects of insulin or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels.
You might also know that type 2 diabetes is more likely to develop in people who are overweight. In fact, many believe it is the excess weight that disrupts the balance of effective supply of insulin. This is why most of type two diabetes patients are advised to exercise regularly, diet and follow therapies to lose weight.
Alcohol, however, has a high composition of sugar and carbohydrates. As such when excessive alcohol is consumed it naturally promotes weight gain. In parallel, the sugar composition in alcohol increases the BGL.
However, rising blood sugar cannot be reduced effectively in type two diabetic patients. This is because as mentioned, the core reason behind type two diabetes is the inability to sufficiently supply insulin to reduce BGL. As such excessive alcohol worsens the condition of type two diabetes inescapably.
In contrast, a study has stated a moderate level of alcohol consumption can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is roughly about two glasses per day. Yet again not recommending excessive alcohol consumption. However, the study is said to have had many limitations which could contradict the findings.
As it is clear, be it type 1 or type 2 diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption is not recommended. In fact on a general level, alcohol consumed in large quantities is never recommended for a healthy lifestyle. This is because as we all know, alcohol has enormous physical and psychological side effects.
Alcohol also poses many risks for longer life. However, despite the warning, drinking alcohol has become a common culture in modern times. So the best recommendation here is to follow standard guidelines on alcohol consumption limits. This will ensure diabetes patients consume alcohol only within the recommended healthy level.
It’s always good practice for diabetic patients to keep checking their blood sugar levels. Especially checking blood sugar levels before and after drinking (up to 24 hours) is highly recommended.
If not, diabetic patients are also advised to check blood sugar levels before going to bed after drinking alcohol. This will ensure they have a track of their blood sugar levels, helping to maintain stability.
The government highly recommends for anyone not to regularly be engaged in drinking alcoholic drinks as it can, of course, be addictive. Specifically, diabetic patients are never recommended to regularly drink more than 14 units a week. This is the minimum limitation stated to reduce the health risks of alcohol effects on diabetes at a lower level. This minimum consumption level applies to both men and women.
As a maximum level, one is recommended not to have more than six medium glasses of wine. This is in fact, recommended in case one is caught up with a party and a family or business dinner. Other than that, diabetes patients are strongly recommended to stick to the minimum alcohol consumption level stated.
However, the size of the glass and the type of alcohol can also influence these minimum levels. So it’s always recommended to consider such factors before consuming alcohol.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one standard drink in the U.S. is equal to 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Whereas drinks such as beer and wine tend to have alcohol content anywhere between 2-20 percent. On the other hand, drinks such as spirits or liquor tend to have alcohol content anywhere between 40-50 percent. They also can have more alcohol depending on the brand.
For a better understanding, below is the alcohol content in common alcoholic drinks (equal to one drink). These numbers are listed according to the CDC.
As such identifying the alcohol content in the drink can help limit the alcohol intake to the minimum recommended. Also by following the other guidelines explained above, it can be easier to control healthy BGL’s when alcohol is consumed.
And to make controlling your alcohol intake even easier for you, below are few tips you that you can consider.
Although it’s impossible to follow the minimum consumption and other standard guidelines appropriately all the time, patients are highly recommended to follow simple tips that minimize the intake or impacts.
Its clear excessive alcohol consumption is never really recommended for a healthy life in general, even without considering the effects on Diabetes conditions.
Especially the influence of excessive alcohol in the liver and other hormones such as insulin greatly affecting or exacerbating diabetes. This is because the liver is the network for controlling blood sugar levels and thereby – diabetes. Similarly, insulin is what signals the liver to do its job.
Basically, the insulin signals the liver to release glucose when the BGL is low and signals to store glucose when the BGL is high. As such when excessive alcohol limits the performance of the liver, it greatly affects the overall healthy BGL’s, which is highly risky for patients with diabetes.
On the other hand, the impacts of alcohol on diabetes varies depending on type 1 or type 2 diabetes. However, their impact has the same dangerous outcomes with excessive consumption.
Also, don’t forget to take a look at our article on 7 Ways to Save Money on Diabetes Medication to find out some great ways to save.
Although alcohol consumption cannot perhaps be totally eliminated, it’s best to follow the minimum government stated consumption levels. This minimum level is about 14 units a week. Alongside this, it makes sense for those with diabetes to follow simple, sensible tips that can help them control or regulate their BGL’s.
Ultimately, it’s about adopting a commonsense approach to one’s own health and future wellbeing. Rather than an attempt to sail as close to the wind as possible. You don’t really want to ‘game the system’ with your health, and your life. If you have any questions about this or other articles, or if you’re having trouble affording any of the medications you’ve been prescribed, contact us, or call us at 1-877-296-HOPE(4673) and speak to one of our representatives, we’d be happy to help.
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