Diabetes and alcohol – safe amount to drink if the condition is explained to you

People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are advised to strictly control their own diet, but it’s not always clear how, when and what you can eat without affecting your blood sugar levels. So if you’re at a party, should you refuse this drink?

If you’re going out drinking and you have diabetes, you better be prepared

Anyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes, whether type one or two, must make dietary decisions every day to ensure their blood sugar levels don’t fluctuate too much. But what does that mean when it comes to drinking alcohol?

It’s important to remember that if your blood sugar drops too low or gets too high, your body can go into shock – the symptoms of which can easily be mistaken for drunkenness.

Many alcoholic beverages are also calorific, meaning the amount of glucose in your body can vary wildly during a drinking session and even lead to “hypo,” or hypoglycemic shock.

Despite this, if you have diabetes, you can still drink alcohol. Charity DiabetesUK says drinking is part of everyday life and while it can be “difficult”, a diagnosis shouldn’t stop having fun responsibly.

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You should try to avoid heavy drinking and monitor your blood sugar regularly, but the NHS has a comprehensive list of advice if you’re looking to get out and party.

Your body will react differently to alcohol than to other drinks because alcohol will further reduce your body’s ability to react to spikes in blood sugar, so check your levels regularly.

If you follow these tips and keep an eye on how much you drink, as well as your blood sugar, the only limit to the number of glasses you drink is your level of preparation.

What does the NHS say about drinking alcohol with diabetes?

Although it insists you should stay within the 14 weekly units of alcohol recommended by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, the NHS provides good advice for any diabetic considering a drink.

  • Eat a meal with carbohydrates (like pasta) before drinking
  • Make sure your friends can recognize a hypo – a hypo can make you look drunk
  • Wear a diabetes identification bracelet or carry a diabetes ID card so others know you have type 1 diabetes if needed
  • Choose diet soda mixers whenever possible
  • Check your blood sugar regularly, especially if you dance
  • Check your blood sugar before bed and the next day
  • Eat something if your blood sugar is normal or low
  • Regularly check your blood sugar the next day – a hypo feels like a hangover
  • Drink plenty of water the next day

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

The main difference between the two types of diabetes is that “type 1” is a genetic condition that some people are born with, although it does not show up immediately.

The immune system of people with type 1 diabetes attacks cells in their pancreas that produce insulin and prevent their body from regulating sugar levels.

Type two is usually triggered by a variety of environmental factors, such as obesity and excessive alcohol consumption, as well as certain biological factors.

Type 2 accounts for about 90% of all diabetes cases and is when your body stops producing insulin. Many cases of type 2 diabetes can be controlled or even cured with a strict diet.

Type 1 diabetes is, so far, incurable.

What are the symptoms of a “hypo”?

Hypoglycemia, also known as “hypo”, occurs when your body goes into shock due to low blood sugar.

When you’re drinking, these symptoms can overwhelm you, because dancing and drinking alcohol can make it easier for your body’s blood sugar to drop.

You and anyone you drink with should be aware of these symptoms and be prepared to respond.

  • sweat
  • Feeling tired
  • dizziness
  • I am hungry
  • itchy lips
  • feeling shaky or trembling
  • a fast or pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
  • become easily irritated, watery, anxious, or moody
  • turn pale

If these symptoms are not treated, they will start to get worse. Signs of severe hypoglycemic shock can easily be confused with severe drunkenness, they are:

  • weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • unusual behavior, slurred speech, or clumsiness (such as being drunk)
  • Feeling tired
  • convulsions or convulsions
  • collapse or pass out

If you develop these symptoms, it is important to sit down and consume something with sugar and without alcohol.

Consume sugar water, a biscuit or glucose tablets if you have prepared and brought them with you.

If you’re at a bar and not sure what to do, you can ask for a glass of milk which will slowly release sugar and hopefully bring you back into a healthy range.

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