Alcohol is essentially a toxin, and your body treats it as such. Alcohol requires no digestion and rushes to your brain within a few minutes. Peak levels are reached in your bloodstream 30-90 minutes after having a drink. The suggested consumption level of alcohol is one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men, provided:
- You know how alcohol affects you and your diabetes
- Your diabetes is well controlled (moderate use usually doesn’t affect sugar levels when your diabetes is well managed)
- Your doctor has confirmed that you have no nerve damage or high blood pressure that could become worse with alcohol intake
There are certain drinks which are more sensible for diabetics, e.g. light beers and dry wines – they have less alcohol and carbohydrates, and fewer calories. If you have mixers with your drinks, rather choose ones that are sugar-free (diet soft drinks). This way, your blood sugar levels will not be affected as much as they would be with ‘normal’ soft drinks.
WHY DOES ALCOHOL CAUSE LOW BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS?
When your sugar levels dip under normal circumstances, your liver would start converting stored carbohydrates into sugar, which is released into the bloodstream. This would then raise your sugar levels.
Things change when alcohol enters your body, as your body recognises it as a toxin and your liver’s most important task now becomes that of getting rid of the toxin. The liver won’t even start converting the carbohydrate to sugar until it has taken care of the alcohol. You could experience hypoglycaemia very quickly if your blood sugar level starts to fall and you are drinking alcohol. If you are going to consume alcohol, make sure it is not on an empty stomach. If you have been drinking in the evening, check your blood sugar levels before you go to sleep, to prevent a hypoglycemic reaction while you are asleep.
“Alcohol is a depressant, so if you suffer from depression, as many people do, then alcohol is not your drink of choice!”