Alcohol: To Drink or Not To Drink?

Many people enjoy a glass of wine or beer with dinner, but is it safe to drink if you have diabetes? The answer depends on whether your diabetes is controlled well and how much you drink.

Not everyone with diabetes can drink safely. If you do not have good control of your blood sugar levels, you should avoid alcohol. Steer clear of drinking alcohol if you have diabetic eye or nerve disease, are pregnant, or have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Also, do not drink if you have had an alcohol problem in the past.

For everyone else, safe social drinking with diabetes is possible if you follow these guidelines:

  • Test your blood sugar before drinking, and then again before bedtime. Alcohol can cause a drop in blood sugar for eight to 12 hours after your last drink. If your numbers are low before bed, have a light snack.
  • Women and people over age 65 should have no more than one drink per day. Men may have up to two per day. One “drink” is considered 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. It is very important to eat a meal or at least a snack with your alcoholic drink to prevent low blood sugar. Make sure the meal or snack is a healthy one – drinking can weaken your commitment to eat healthy foods.
  • Never drink right after taking insulin or pills to lower your blood sugar.
  • Be aware of the signs of low blood sugar. And make your companions aware, too, because the signs of low blood sugar – feeling tired, dizzy, or confused – are similar to someone who has consumed too much alcohol.
  • Avoid sweet drinks like sugary wines, mixed drinks, and sweetened or heavy beers. Better choices are dry wines or light beers.
  • Watch your diet. One drink of wine or beer has between 100 and 150 calories. Be sure to calculate those calories into your daily allotment.