As a person with diabetes you’re used to watching what you eat, being physically active, checking glucose levels and in some instances, giving up or drastically reducing, things you love. One of the toughest things for some people with diabetes to get a handle on is alcohol — whether it’s an occasional beer with friends on Friday, a champagne toast at a celebration, or a glass of wine at dinner with friends. Alcohol can be one of hardest “foods” for people with diabetes to manage because social drinking is such an omnipresent part of our culture.
Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches which basically means carbs and more carbs.
Alcohol affects every organ in the body. It is a central nervous system depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. Within five minutes of having a drink, there’s enough alcohol in your bloodstream to measure.
Alcohol is metabolized in the liver by enzymes. The liver treats alcohol as a toxin and works to rid the body of alcohol as quickly as possible. However, the liver can only metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, leaving the excess alcohol to circulate throughout the body. If you drink alcohol faster than your body metabolizes it, the excess alcohol moves through your bloodstream to other parts of your body, particularly your brain, causing the “buzz”. The intensity of the effect of alcohol is directly related to the amount consumed.
When blood sugar levels drop, the liver usually begins to produce glucose from stored carbohydrates to compensate. But drinking alcohol blocks the liver’s ability to produce glucose. The liver will not produce glucose again until the alcohol has been processed and cleared from the body.
Some people who have diabetes can safely drink moderate amounts of alcohol, but for others any amount of alcohol intake can have negative health consequences.
There are some circumstances under which diabetics should not drink alcohol in any amount. The key for those with diabetes is to understand what conditions can be worsen if they consume alcohol.