Alcohol - friend or foe?


I recently discovered something and have been refusing to believe it’s true. I must be mistaken. Diabetes wouldn’t do this to me… surely not? As another weekend rolls around, a few wines in the evening is followed by a day of hypos (low blood sugars). I can’t deny it any longer…

Alcohol can cause Hypoglycaemia (hypos)!

There – I’ve said it, now what? There are many things that cause my sugar levels to drop, such as missed meals, exercise, rushing around, too much insulin and now alcohol. I knew diabetics had to be careful with alcohol, but I thought this was only because we could confuse the signs of a hypo with being drunk. Only now after 16 years have I realised it can actually cause hypos too. Gutted. According to Diabetes UK, the alcohol can inhibit the liver’s ability to release glucose into the blood. This is dangerous for diabetics because the liver is unable to release enough glycogen, to keep our blood glucose levels from going too low under the influence of the insulin in our body.

Let me put this into perspective – New Zealand produce some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. In fact, our Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Rose and Pinot Noir are pretty amazing too. Even though my alcohol consumption has certainly decreased since becoming a parent, I still love nothing more than a couple wines at the end of the week to celebrate we survived or when catching up with friends and sharing a bottle of vino.

What does this mean for my diabetes? Is this the end of a beautiful relationship? No more booze. I suppose if I’m on a quest to master diabetes, I can hardly pick and choose which rules to follow. As I prepared to cleanse the liquor cabinet and wine fridge I received the latest Diabetes Wellington newsletter. There on page one was an article about drinking safely to avoid hypos.

When it comes to mixing diabetes and alcohol, Diabetes Wellington suggest:

  • Drink sensibly and stick to the recommended daily guidelines (I’ve noticed guidelines vary between countries. NZ recommend 2-3 units for women and 3-4 units for men)

  • Never drink on an empty stomach

  • Enjoy your drinks slowly and keep track of how much you’re drinking

  • Let the people you’re drinking with know you have diabetes, especially as hypos can often be mistaken for drunkenness

  • Eat a snack containing carbohydrates before bed

  • Make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

I was thrilled to discover I didn’t need to go cold turkey and eliminate all alcohol from my life. I can continue to enjoy alcohol however moderation is the key. I can look forward to celebrating Christmas and New Years with my family and friends, complete with good food washed down with a good glass of plonk - of course ;)

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