By: Sue Cotey and Andrea Harris, RNs
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Most people with diabetes may enjoy alcohol in moderation, but you should always check with your healthcare provider first. Your condition or the medications you are taking could be affected by alcohol consumption.
You’ll want to follow these five safety tips:
1. Know if it’s all right for you to drink
Check with your doctor or healthcare provider before you choose to drink. We cannot stress this enough. You need to know if your medications or any diabetes-related conditions you have could be seriously affected by alcohol consumption.
2. Stay in control of your blood sugar
Make sure your diabetes is well controlled before you drink. Check your blood glucose levels before, during and after you drink to know how you are doing. NEVER drink on and empty stomach. Alcohol consumption can lead to a decrease in your blood sugar. This is because too much alcohol can block production and release of glucose from the liver.
And remember that the effects of alcohol can last up to 24 hours so regular monitoring of your blood sugar–and eating a snack even hours after the holiday merriment is over–may be necessary to avoid dangerous lows.
3. Drink in moderation
If your healthcare provider says it’s ok for you to drink, follow the same rules of moderation recommended for all people. Moderation is considered up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. One drink is equal to:
- 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol content).
- a 12-ounce beer (5 percent alcohol content).
- 1½ ounces of distilled spirits such as vodka or gin (80 proof alcohol).
Remember, guidelines are by day – you cannot save up all your drinks for the weekend!
4. Avoid certain types of drinks
Alcohol contains calories and has no essential nutrients. Consider these extra calories and sugars and always avoid liqueurs, sweet wines, tonic, regular soda, fruit juice and sugary drink mixers. Also avoid drinks that are higher in alcohol content such as craft beers and spirits that are more than 80 proof.
5. Stop drinking when you need to and make sure you can get help
If you experience a low blood glucose reading while drinking, stop drinking. Have something to eat and drink water. Remember that you could get to the point that you are not aware that you’re having low blood sugar symptoms. Being drunk and low hypoglycemia cause the same symptoms of sleepiness and dizziness, and this means your treatment could be delayed. Remember to monitor your sugar and always wear your diabetes identification when drinking to avoid this problem.
So to sum it up, the key to safe drinking if you have diabetes is to drink in moderation and to monitor your blood sugar regularly. This will keep you healthy and safe when you enjoy a toast with friends and family this holiday season.
Diabetes treatment guide