This article is part of a series from our Diabetes Educators to answer questions we are frequently asked.
Can I still enjoy a drink now that I have diabetes?
As with most things, moderation is the key! Guidelines for alcohol consumption are the same for people with diabetes as they are for the general population. Try not to have more than 2 standard drinks per day for both men and women, while having regular alcohol free days.
Drinking alcohol can have an impact on your blood glucose level (BGL) – causing both high and low blood glucose levels.
Alcoholic drinks can be quite high in sugar which can raise your blood glucose level. Some beers, ales and ciders have more carbohydrates than spirits and dry wines. If you like mixed drinks, you could choose to try diet mixers or soda water.
For people using insulin or certain types of diabetes medication, hypoglycaemia (blood glucose levels less than 4 mmol/L) is a risk with alcohol consumption. Because our liver is so busy trying to deal with the alcohol, it cannot release stored glucose to prevent us going too low as it normally would. This effect can last for many hours after we drink.
Alcohol may also mask the symptoms of hypoglycaemia, meaning you and others around you may not realise you are having a hypoglycaemic event. In order to avoid hypoglycaemia, you may wish to monitor your blood glucose levels more frequently. It is always a great idea to eat a meal beforehand, and carry some quick acting carbohydrate with you (like jellybeans) just in case you experience a hypo.
Drinking excessively can contribute to weight gain as alcohol is high in kilojoules, and hence increase our risk of diabetes related complications and other health conditions.
One standard drink of alcohol provides the same kilojoules as a small steak!
If you are uncertain about other alcohol choices, talk to your GP, diabetes educator or dietitian about drinking alcohol safely.
So yes – people with diabetes may be able to safely enjoy alcohol if it is done sensibly and with a few precautions! Cheers!
If you have any questions or concerns, call us on 1300 001 880 and ask to speak with a DIAL diabetes educator. We will put you through to a credentialled diabetes educator for a confidential chat.
For more information, visit NDSS fact sheet about alcohol.