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Alcohol and diabetes

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Alcohol can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It also makes it difficult to manage your blood sugar level if you are already diabetic.

Alcohol interferes with your body’s ability to keep your blood sugar level stable. This is because alcohol affects both the liver and the pancreas, which help to regulate blood sugar. 

Alcohol can prevent the liver from producing glucose, which can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia). Different types of alcoholic drink have different levels of carbohydrates. Alcohol also affects people in different ways, so it’s important to check your blood regularly if you're drinking.

One problem with becoming hypoglycaemic when you have been drinking is it may go unnoticed and untreated by the people around you, because the symptoms of low blood sugar are similar to drunkenness. You may also not manage your diabetes well when your judgement, coordination and self-control are affected by alcohol. 

Managing alcohol if you are diabetic

Avoid alcohol or stay within low-risk drinking guidelines

Drinking can make it more difficult to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. Alcohol lowers your blood sugar but at the same time you might also be more inclined to snack. Also, you may become careless about counting carbs and checking and correcting your blood sugar when you are under the influence. Staying within the low-risk drinking guidelines can help to avoid these problems.

Control your drinking

Drink alcohol only with food and never on an empty stomach. Drink slowly and dilute spirits with plenty of diet soft drinks. Avoid sugary drinks like cocktails, sweet wines or cordials, as it can be hard to know the carb content and they can raise your blood sugar level very fast.

Manage your blood sugar while drinking

Check your blood sugar levels while you are drinking and before you go to sleep, to avoid problems with the fluctuations in blood sugar that alcohol can cause.

Let people know you have diabetes

Make sure the people you are with know the symptoms of low blood sugar such as confusion, slurred speech and drowsiness, so they don’t think you are drunk. Wear a piece of medical alert jewellery that says you have diabetes, in case you do pass out and make sure to bring your emergency kit and some sugars with you.

Talk to your GP or the care team at the hospital

Ask about the best ways to keep safe and control your blood sugar when you drink alcohol.

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