Drinking alcohol to excess is bad for everyone. However, for people with diabetes, alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be especially dangerous. Here’s a closer look at why people with diabetes should drink in moderation, and what can be done for those who may be struggling with problem drinking.
About Diabetes and AUD
The human body is complex, with many interlinked mechanisms. This holds true when it comes to the link between diabetes and alcohol. “The liver normally releases stored sugar to counteract falling blood sugar levels. But if your liver is busy metabolizing alcohol, your blood sugar level may not get the boost it needs from your liver. Alcohol can result in low blood sugar shortly after you drink it and for as many as 24 hours more,” explains the Mayo Clinic.
People who are in control of their diabetes may be able to drink alcohol in moderation (which actually causes an increase in blood sugar) if their doctors approve it as safe for them. However, when the disease is not well-managed and/or if alcohol is consumed to excess, it can affect diabetes in other ways, too.
Drinking can also affect people with diabetes in less obvious yet equally detrimental ways. For starters, it can stimulate the appetite leading to overeating, thereby compromising blood sugar control. Because alcohol is caloric, drinking can make it harder to manage your weight. Factor in the loss of judgment and willpower that often accompany drinking and the result can be poor food choices and impaired management of the condition.
Other complications which may arise from consuming alcohol with diabetes? It can increase triglyceride levels and blood pressure as well as potentially aggravating complications of diabetes, including eye disease, nerve damage and hypertension. Because of this, the consumption of alcohol is not usually recommended for people with these conditions. It can also lead to a number of physiological responses, including nausea, flushing, slurred speech and increased heart rate, which can obscure the symptoms of low blood pressure.
Lastly, alcoholic can also interfere with the ability of insulin, the medication which helps regulate blood sugar, to do its job.
The Road to Health and Wellness
As mentioned earlier, moderate drinking is fine for many people with diabetes, as long as their doctors agree. “Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than one drink a day for women of any age and men over 65 years old and two drinks a day for men under 65. One drink equals a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits,” says the Mayo Clinic.
Additionally, there are other things people with diabetes can do to consume alcohol more responsibly, including avoiding drinking on an empty stomach, choosing drinks with fewer calories and carbohydrates like light beer and wine, including calories from alcohol in their daily calorie counts, and checking blood sugar levels before bedtime.
Unfortunately, many people with diabetes imbibe more than the specified moderate amount of alcohol. Not only do they fail to realize that they’re drinking to excess, but also the degree to which they’re hurting their health and wellness in doing so. In fact, according to Dr. Karen Vierra, Ph.D. MSM, for the Coalition Against Drug Abuse, people with diabetes who abuse substances may not only be doing serious harm to most major organs of their bodies, but also have much higher mortality rates than those without diabetes.
Substance abuse treatment, too, is complicated by diabetes. “Drug dependent diabetics can experience painful and debilitating withdrawal symptoms upon stopping the consumption of alcohol or taking illicit drugs. Depending on substance type, a range of withdrawal symptoms exists and may include: hyperhidrosis (heavy sweating), myalgia (pain throughout the body), fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and intense cravings. When faced with symptoms such as these, it can become impossible for people with diabetes to properly control their condition,” notes Vierra.
While avoiding, or at the least limiting, alcohol consumption is the best course of action for people with diabetes, AUD is a fact of life for many people with diabetes. The good news? Seeking treatment by qualified professionals at the first sign of abuse can support the best outcomes. Harris House, a leading alcohol treatment center in St. Louis, has been helping people suffering from AUD and other addiction and substance abuse issues for more than 50 years. Contact us today to learn about admissions.