Low Sugar Alcoholic Drinks for Diabetics & the Effect of Alcohol on Diabetes
Last updated on July 3rd, 2017
Alcohol and diabetes can be two things that don’t go well together. Alcohol is basically a simple sugar that is processed like table sugar and will, of course, raise the diabetic’s blood sugar. This doesn’t mean that diabetics don’t have the opportunity to drink at all. There are many low sugar alcoholic drinks that diabetics can make use of that will be similar to the high-sugar drinks non-diabetics can drink but will have a lesser effect on the blood sugar.
Most experts say that it’s perfectly okay for a type 1 or type 2 diabetic to have a beer or two, or a glass of wine with their meal and won’t face any major complication as long as they are otherwise vigilant about taking care of their blood sugar and don’t have other health problems, such as hypertension, which may be adversely affected by drinking too much.
According to the American Diabetes Association, one alcoholic beverage a day—even for diabetics—may have benefits for their heart although it isn’t necessarily recommended that a diabetic patient start drinking alcohol if they don’t already drink some form of alcohol.
Research has borne out the fact that small amounts of alcohol in diabetics can actually help reduce diabetic complications. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health studied women who had type 2 diabetes who drank less than two alcoholic beverages per day. What they found was that this small amount of alcohol actually lowered the women’s risks for heart disease over women who completely abstained from drinking alcohol. Another study done on men showed the same effect when men drank small amounts of alcohol each day.
The recommendations for drinking alcohol in diabetics is no different than the recommendations for people without diabetes. The basic recommendation is that women drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day and that men drink no more than two alcoholic beverages per day. That translates into twelve ounces of beer per day, five ounces of any type of wine, or a shot glass of hard liquor, such as vodka, gin, or scotch.
Diabetics who also like to drink alcohol must incorporate their alcohol consumption into their daily intake of carbohydrates each day and must count the alcoholic beverage as a carbohydrate in their daily carb count. This may mean taking in lesser amounts of other carbohydrates per day to account for drinking an alcoholic beverage instead.
Simple Tips for Drinking Alcoholic Beverages as a Diabetic
There are some simple things a diabetic can do to make the drinking of alcohol an experience that is still enjoyable while making the most of options that don’t raise the blood sugar. Some of these tips include the following:
- Try mixing hard liquor with water or with sodas that contain no calories instead of high-calorie and high-carbohydrate alcoholic mixers or sodas that contain sugar.
- Stick to the maximum number of allowable drinks per night. Take your one to two drinks per night and then switch to sparkling water or no-calorie sodas for the rest of the night.
- Keep track of what you’re eating when you are drinking an alcoholic beverage. Don’t eat a high carbohydrate meal when you are drinking an alcoholic beverage because the alcohol counts as a carbohydrate. Make use of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as a high protein meal that will offset the high carbohydrate count of an alcoholic beverage.
- Never drink before you’ve had something to eat because alcohol can be quickly processed by the body’s insulin so you will suffer an increased risk of getting hypoglycemic from drinking on an empty stomach.
- Remember that alcohol is a sedative and a relaxant. After drinking alcohol, you may make poorer choices with regard to what you eat or drink for the rest of the night.
- Make sure you have a diabetes wrist bracelet on if you’re going to drink. Your risk for hypoglycemia is high and you’ll want any medical professionals who may need to care for you to know that you’re a diabetic should you go into a hypoglycemic state.
Effects of Alcohol on Diabetic Health Problems
There are a few diabetics who really shouldn’t be drinking at all. Drinking can worsen any diabetic’s diabetic neuropathy if they have this complication. Diabetics with increased pain in their feet, burning toes, tingling of the extremities and numbness of the legs should avoid drinking alcoholic beverages whatsoever.
Patients with diabetic retinopathy should avoid drinking alcoholic beverages as drinking can make this problem worse. A drink or two a day probably won’t make a big difference but those diabetics who drink more than three drinks a day face a worsening of their diabetic retinal disease as the alcohol seems to affect the small vessels of the retina. Alcohol can also markedly raise triglyceride levels, which can contribute to small vessel disease in both type 1 and type 2 diabetics.
Diabetics who drink tend to not have good diabetic self-care. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to drink too much and avoid doing things like getting enough exercise or eating a diet that isn’t high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Good health habits involve having a strong mind and a strong cognitive ability to make the right kinds of dietary and lifestyle choices that are so necessary in managing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
If you decide to drink as a diabetic, you need to take the time to understand the effect that alcohol has on your diabetes. Things like light beer and dry wines are considered much better for diabetics than regular beer, mixed drinks containing sugary mixers, and sweet wines. Regardless of the type of alcoholic beverage you drink, you should be testing your blood sugar before and after drinking to see exactly what alcohol does to your blood sugar. Keep this in mind any time you decide to have an alcoholic beverage.
Finally, understand that alcohol can have a sugar-raising and a sugar-lowering effect on the blood. Alcohol on an empty stomach is quickly processed, causing a temporary rise in blood glucose levels that is acted upon by the body’s insulin in such a way that the end result can be a hypoglycemic effect that could cause confusion, sweatiness, disorientation, and lack of coordination. Drinking doesn’t have to be the enemy of the diabetic. You just need to make the right decisions around drinking alcohol and always drink in extreme moderation.