Alcohol and Type 2 Diabetes: Is Alcohol Safe For Diabetics?

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Alcohol and Type 2 Diabetes: Is Alcohol Safe For Diabetics?

There is a common belief that consuming alcohol moderately provides some health benefits like raising good cholesterol (HDL) levels and cutting down the risk of cardiovascular diseases in particular individuals. Well, does alcohol consumption provide the same benefits to people suffering from type 2 diabetes?

There are some studies that prove that moderate drinking and diabetes can exist together without any complications. These studies have proven that moderate drinking can even bring some positive health effects on diabetes patients. Red wine has been rated the best among all types of alcohol.

The most important thing in the process is "moderation". Having alcohol in excess amounts can raise the risk of heart diseases and metabolic syndrome. Even overconsumption of alcohol can cause type 2 diabetes by raising your weight and promoting insulin resistance.

Definition of Moderation

As per the federal guidelines:

● Women are permitted one drink a day while men can have two drinks in a day

● One drink should not contain more than 14 grams of pure alcohol. Here are some of the reference beverages that are equivalent to one alcoholic drink: 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol). (vodka, whiskey, gin, etc.)

● Overconsumption or binge drinking is defined as having over five alcoholic beverages within a time span of two hours. It is relevant for both men and women.

It is really important to understand the possible effects of the type of alcoholic beverage you are consuming while suffering from type 2 diabetes. This way, you would be able to find out the best drink for you and the appropriate amount to maintain optimal health.

Impacts of Alcohol on Type 2 Diabetes

Drinking alcohol in isolated episodes over a short period of time while suffering from type 2 diabetes can potentially enhance insulin production in your body, which eventually lowers your blood sugar levels. This is the reason some studies have suggested that diabetes patients who have their blood sugar levels under control should have a drink along with a meal to reap temporary benefits.

Some experts also suggest diabetes patients to know and manage the symptoms of hypoglycemia while having alcohol. It becomes even more important when you are taking insulin or other diabetes medications to keep your blood sugar levels in control.

Alcohol consumption often leads to missing the symptoms of hypoglycemia. People who keep their blood sugar levels under control through insulin and other medications often fail to recognise the symptoms of low blood sugar, which can lead to serious side effects.

Glucagon kits, which are widely popular for handling low blood sugar in type 1 diabetes, become ineffective when the person has alcohol in their body. Eating food helps in controlling this problem.

Consuming alcohol for a longer period of time may be very harmful to diabetes patients as it may cause raised blood glucose levels, which is also known as hyperglycemia. Regular drinking has also been proven to increase insulin resistance, which results in poor glycemic control in people suffering from diabetes.

What to Drink and Not to Drink?

Apart from consuming alcohol in moderation, diabetes patients should also pick the alcoholic beverage that has low amounts of sugar and carbohydrates. Some alcoholic beverages like champagne, dry wines and distilled alcohol are naturally low in sugar than the drinks. You, however, should ensure that these drinks are being served straight up or with a sugar-free mixer.

Beer, despite containing low levels of sugar, contains high amounts of carbohydrates.

You should avoid having spiked cider and hard lemonade as they contain rich amounts of carbohydrates and added sugars. You can pick spiked or hard seltzer or club soda or plain seltzer water with a squeeze of lime.

The same logic applies to the mixed drinks which are combined with juice, syrups or added sugar.

Margarita vs. Straight Tequila

● Frozen margarita - 2 ounces tequila, 1 ounce triple sec, 1 ounce lime juice, and 3 cups fresh/frozen fruit) - 187 calories and 42g sugar

● Tequila on the rocks with a twist of lime (made with 1.5 ounces tequila) - 100 calories, 0g sugar.

Savings: 87 calories and 42g sugar

How to Drink Safely?
If you are a diabetes patient and planning to consume alcohol, here are some of the steps you should take to keep your blood sugar at the optimal levels:

1. Identify yourself: The people you are heading out for a drink must be aware that you are suffering from diabetes so that in case of any complications, they would be able to inform the doctor before the start of your treatment.

2. Hydrate: You must ensure that for each alcoholic beverage, you should consume an equal amount of water. This not only helps you in staying hydrated but also restricts your alcohol consumption.

3. Drink with food: You should never drink alcohol on an empty stomach. You should start having a snack or meal right at the beginning of your drink or even before it to cut down the chances of hypoglycemia. You are recommended to have some snacks that have sufficient amounts of carbohydrates to make sure your body has enough glucose. This reduces the chances of you suffering from hypoglycemia.

4. Bring your own snacks: The snacks being served at the party or the bar may not be sufficient to help you cope with low blood sugar. Hence, you are recommended to carry some kind of carbohydrates such as a piece of fruit, meal replacement bar, whole grain cracker, etc. with you to consume if your blood glucose levels drop below <70mg/dL.

5. Test your blood sugar: Alcohol consumption can reduce your blood sugar levels even after 24 hours. Hence, you are advised to check your blood sugar right before going to sleep. As per the experts, you should ensure that your blood sugar levels are between 80 mg/dL and 130 mg/dL before you head to bed. If it is below the recommended limits, you should consult your doctor immediately.

If you have been put on a meal plan that binds you to consume a specific amount of carbohydrates per day, then you may require to eat a little extra when you consume alcohol. This is because alcohol consumption may stimulate your appetite. However, you are advised not to replace food with alcohol and never try to complete your carbohydrate intake with alcohol.

Alcohol consumption while suffering from diabetes can be helpful for your health if you do it in moderation, and take every other precaution suggested above. If you are suffering from type 1 diabetes, you should not have alcohol without consulting with your doctor. You should always check for the symptoms of hypoglycemia when you consume alcohol

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