It’s a new year, and that means it’s time to set your resolutions (and stick to them). If you’re looking to improve your health, learning more about diabetes and alcohol can keep you on track for a better year.

Drinking with Diabetes

Diabetes can affect your heart, liver, and nerves. When your blood sugar isn’t under control, mixing diabetes with alcohol may cause side effects. If you have other illnesses and you don’t have a plan to manage below-average blood sugar levels, you may be putting yourself in danger.

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to pop some champagne, enjoy a beer at a BBQ or have a glass of wine with friends. Understanding how to safely engage in drinking with diabetes will help you protect yourself while enjoying a night out.

Diabetes and Alcohol 

Practice moderation

Surprising as it may be, moderate alcohol consumption could actually help diabetes. Some studies even show moderate drinking can lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

One standard drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

WOMEN
No more than one drink per day for women of any age
MEN
No more than two drinks per day for men age 65 and younger

When you do drink, it’s important to start slow. Heavy alcohol consumption in a short amount of time can inflame the pancreas, causing pancreatitis. Pancreatitis affects the body’s ability to produce insulin. Too much alcohol can affect the liver’s ability to make more glucose, which can cause serious side effects.

The liver stores glycogen, a form of glucose used while resting. The liver is also responsible for removing bodily toxins. Excessive drinking steers your liver toward processing alcohol in your blood instead of regulating glucose.

Read about medication reactions

Alcohol can react poorly with certain medications, limiting the liver’s functions and damaging its ability to process those medications. Too much alcohol causes a serious drop in blood sugar levels. Heavy drinking in conjunction with some diabetes medications, such as sulfonylureas and meglitinides, could greatly increase the risk of hypoglycemia when dangerously low blood sugar levels become a medical emergency.

Eat before drinking

Don’t ever drink alcohol on an empty stomach. The dramatic decrease in blood sugar means the body will be unable to release glucose because it’ll be focusing on processing the alcohol first. When you plan on drinking with diabetes, eat a meal or a protein-rich snack. Consume carbohydrates and fats to counter the effects of alcohol, such as a sandwich, yogurt, cereal with milk, cheese with crackers, or apple with peanut butter.

Avoid sugary drinks

Mixed drinks often contain a lot of sugar, in addition to certain kinds of wine or cordials. Interlace your drinks with water to offset the rush. When choosing mixed drinks, you can also use calorie-free mixers like club soda, diet soda, or tonic water. Some craft beers may also have twice the alcohol and calories as lighter beers, so remember to be mindful of that.

Check your blood sugar

Always bring your glucometer so you can monitor your blood sugar levels. Because alcohol can cause hypoglycemia for up to 24 hours after drinking, you should check your blood sugar before drinking, while drinking, before bed, and regularly after the next 24 hours. Before sleeping, blood glucose should be between 100 and 140 mg/dL. If it’s below the recommended levels, be sure to have a snack before heading to bed.

Make your condition known

Make sure your friends and family know how to provide support if a hypoglycemic episode occurs. Help to educate companions about the symptoms of low blood sugar, and what steps to take to help get your diabetes back to normal.

Hypoglycemia is sometimes mistaken for drunkness. Be sure your family and friends know to be aware of hypoglycemic symptoms, which include sleepiness, dizziness, and confusion. They will need to call 911 if you are unconscious.

Another way to stay safe in the event of a low blood sugar episode is to wear a medical identifier. Bracelets, necklaces, apps, and physical I.D. cards are all potential options. This way, emergency personnel can better assist.

Maintain self-care

An April 2013 study published in the journal Acta Diabetologica showed drinking may affect diabetes-related self-care. The study, which included 66,000 patients, found the more diabetics drank, the less likely they were to maintain self-care. Diabetics who drank regularly didn’t engage in exercise and were more likely to smoke. They also didn’t eat a healthy diet or take their diabetes medications.