The role of blood sugar in your overall health is extremely important to understand for quite a few reasons, and it’s also helpful to know how alcohol affects blood sugar. Below are specific facts about alcohol and blood sugar, as well as an explanation of how alcohol affects blood sugar.
What’s Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar, also called blood glucose, is sugar that’s carried to the cells through the bloodstream. Blood sugar is a measure of the amount of sugar being moved by the blood over a specific period of time.
We get sugar from the foods we eat, which is normal, and it’s the job of the body to regulate blood sugar levels, so they don’t go too high or low. When a person has balanced blood sugar, it’s called homeostasis.
Throughout the day, it’s not uncommon for blood sugar levels to go up and down, based on when you eat primarily. If you’ve just eaten your blood sugar levels will go up, and then they’ll settle back down. If you have diabetes, however, your blood sugar levels have to be specially managed.
If your blood sugar is always high, you may have something called hyperglycemia, which can happen in people who don’t have a good handle on their diabetes. If your blood sugar is below normal, it’s called hypoglycemia, and this can happen in diabetics as well.
So, what role does alcohol play in all of this and how does alcohol affect blood sugar?
Alcohol and Blood Sugar, If You Have Diabetes…
First, the liver’s functionality is an important part of understanding how alcohol affects blood sugar. Your liver is a key component when it comes to regulating your blood sugar levels throughout the day. When you drink, it impacts the liver and more specifically, its ability to release glucose into your bloodstream as it’s supposed to. Alcohol impairs the functionality of your liver, and it can keep your liver from being able to release enough glycogen to keep your blood glucose levels from going too low when you take insulin for diabetes. So, if you have diabetes and you drink alcohol and also take insulin as a medicine, you may experience hypoglycemia.
With alcohol and blood sugar, blood sugar can both increase and decrease levels to a dangerous point. For example, if you drink a moderate amount of alcohol your blood sugar will rise, because of the sugar content of the alcohol. If you drink excessively sometimes, it can bring your blood sugar level to very low, dangerous levels, especially if you have type 1 diabetes. Alcohol and blood sugar can also interact with one another because consuming alcohol can cause an imbalance in hormones that control and moderate blood sugar levels.
If you have diabetes, it’s really important you understand alcohol and blood sugar in general. Along with the potential for your blood sugar level to go too high or low, many medicines for diabetes aren’t compatible with drinking alcohol. If you do have diabetes and you’re concerned with alcohol and blood sugar interactions, you should plan on checking your levels both before and after drinking. It’s also important to check levels before going to bed to make sure that you don’t enter into a period of hypoglycemia while you’re asleep.
The American Diabetes Association does have guidelines regarding alcohol and blood sugar, and how alcohol affects blood sugar. Some of their recommendations include:
- For women when it comes to alcohol and blood sugar, the advisement is no more than one drink per day and for men, it’s two drinks per day
- If you have diabetes, you shouldn’t drink when your blood sugar levels are low, or you have an empty stomach
- People with diabetes shouldn’t count the calories in an alcoholic drink as a carbohydrate choice in their meal plan
- Certain types of alcoholic beverages may be more detrimental for people with diabetes, including heavy craft beers
The amount of carbs and sugar varies in every alcohol, so it’s important to pay attention to labels and serving sizes when considering safe alcohol and blood sugar practices.
Alcohol and Blood Sugar, If You Don’t Have Diabetes…
So, what should you know about how alcohol affects blood sugar if you don’t have diabetes? Some of the ways how alcohol affects blood sugar include:
- Alcohol is high in sugar and calories, which can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes. Of course, drinking moderately isn’t likely to lead to type 2 diabetes, but excessive drinking over time can be a trigger for the development of this type of diabetes.
- If you do drink, it’s important to factor in those sugar and calories when you’re looking at your overall diet.
- Even if you don’t have diabetes and you drink excessively, it can cause low blood sugar because drinking increases insulin secretion.
These are all things to be aware of with regard to alcohol and blood sugar and how alcohol affects blood sugar.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.