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Can I drink alcohol if I’m diabetic? Helpful tips for diabetics drinking alcohol.

Can diabetics drink alcohol?

A little, yes. As long as your blood sugar is in good control, you know how the alcohol will affect you, and you don’t have an additional condition that is affected by alcohol (like high blood pressure). This is the recommendation from the American Diabetes Association.

Overall, the recommendations for people with Type 2 diabetes are the same as the general health guidelines for alcohol consumption:

  • No more than two drinks a day for men, no more than one drink a day for women.
  • These drinks should meet the standard serving size of 350ml beer, 150ml wine or 45ml hard liquor like whisky, scotch or brandy.
  • It’s also important to realise that mixers are often where hidden sugars and carbohydrates lie: always ask for sugar-free mixers or water.

Another essential to keep in mind is that if alcohol is consumed with food, the effect on blood sugar will be less dramatic, so never drink on an empty stomach! Alcohol can have a very rapid blood sugar lowering effect, which is why diabetics drinking alcohol have to be very careful.

And finally, remember that the symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can very closely resemble those of being drunk – so be sure that whoever you’re with knows you’re diabetic.

Here’s what one of our community members from Diabetic South Africans had to say.

Helpful tips for diabetics drinking alcohol

Do you drink alcohol? Do you know how it affects your blood sugar? Here’s some fantastic advice from community member Ane on how to deal with drinking and diabetes.

I’m a second year student in Stellenbosch, which is not very helpful with all the beautiful wineries etc here for a type 1. I do, however, prefer to either drink nothing or drink something I know will not have an impact on my sugars too much. The problem with alcohol is it makes your sugar drop rapidly when too much alcohol is in the blood without sufficient carbs to keep levels stable. This is a confusing concept since 275ml of beer = 5 slices of white bread = carb overload!

Six essential tips

  1. Do not drink cocktails. Nor shots. Ever. Try to avoid cloudy drinks as well.
  2. I would recommend not drinking and drinking Coke Light or water (much much cheaper) or if you have to drink and want to, have some whiskey or champagne. (Whiskey is your best option, and champagne is regarded the best type of drink for ladies with Type 1 diabetes.)
  3. Always always have a friend with you that will not get drunk. In the (hopefully) unlikely event of a hypo, people will think you are drunk since it looks 100% the same in a club at 2am…
  4. Keep carbs with you at all times, and never drink on a empty stomach.
  5. Set alarms in the morning to make sure that you don’t get a hypo. Rather run your blood sugar a little higher than too low.
  6. Wear something to say that you have Type 1 diabetes.

    Remember, we are all curious at some point in time about alcohol (and a lot of other things that have an influence on our levels) We try things, make mistakes, learn and educate others. Everyone is different, this is my opinion since I have experience.. Hope it helps!

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  1. Mervyn Wratten Mervyn Wratten

    Alcohol like any other foodstuff will affect you differently than it does me. So all comments are generalizations. Much will depend on your current medication. I use insulin and drink only Castle Lite beer because it’s the only one I can find with a carbohydrate value on it. It is quite low actually, a 340ml can is 6.5 Carbs or less than half a slice of bread so you make your choice. Red wine I find has no effect on my Blood Glucose but white does. Champagne/Sparkling Wine has had it’s sugar component removed when it is ready for corking so is also OK. Spirits I have no idea, I don’t like them but if you do, take a small amount and test your BG level. I have read that alcohol can delay BG rise so maybe it alters the GI of the food your eating. I personally have not recorded this.
    Like the recommendation I only drink alcohol when eating and the amount is very limited (2). If you are a Type 2 and not on insulin per meal you will be quite restricted with the alcohol intake unless you want to give up eating. The choice is yours but always test after.

    • Absolutely, Mervyn – some great suggestions here. I think the value of a community blog like this is that we can all share our experiences and see where they overlap – while being careful to monitor our readings. Thanks for these tips – I had no idea Castle Lite was so low in carbs!

  2. Awesome blog. Thank you for all of the topics that yoursite provided. It is clear that you have taken a lot of effort to make this site. Keep it Up.

    • Richard Richard

      For type 1’s the question will always come down to whether or not the drink has carbohydrates. Carb-rich drinks include alco-pops, beer, stout and many of the cocktails where sugar is added. Low-carb drinks include clear spirits, wine and whiskey.

      In my experience, up to three drinks (I stick to beer and wine) usually requires a jab of insulin, but if I have a big night I don’t use insulin.

      This is because alcohol is processed by the liver and interferes with the normal process of glucose release by the liver if blood glucose levels fall. This effect can last up to 24 hours, which is worth knowing!

  3. Masedi Mokgolobotho Masedi Mokgolobotho

    I found this group more helpful since I’m also T1 diabetic and I’m taking pills (metformin 500) and I also drink Castle Lite and when I taste the following day normally my BG level will be around 7.5 or 8.9 after drinking so for me I prefer drinking Castle Lite or red wine

  4. Revelation Revelation

    Thanks for sharing good advice.

  5. Johan Botha Johan Botha

    Is there maybe a facebook group which i can join please type 2. Since 2018-04-03

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.