People with diabetes are recommended to limit their alcohol intake, as are the rest of the population.
If you use insulin or other diabetes medicines you may be at more risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) when you drink alcohol. This is also called 'hypo'.
If you’re not sure whether your medicine can cause a hypo or if they're affected by alcohol, speak to your healthcare team.
Symptoms of a hypo include:
- slurred speech
The effect of drinking alcohol on diabetes can be different depending on whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Alcohol and type 1 diabetes
You can still drink alcohol with type 1 diabetes. But drinking alcohol may cause you to have a hypo, even as long as 24 hours later.
Alcohol can make you less aware of your hypo symptoms. Talk to your diabetes team about how to drink alcohol safely.
You may need to adjust your insulin doses. Discuss this with your team and be prepared.
If you are going to drink alcohol and have type 1 diabetes:
carry your glucose meter and a hypo treatment with you
try to eat a meal with carbohydrates such as rice or pasta before you drink
make sure your friends know how to recognise and treat a hypo – a hypo can look like you're drunk
choose diet soft drink mixers where possible
check your blood glucose regularly, particularly if you're dancing
check your blood glucose before you go to bed
eat something extra if your blood glucose is normal or low
check your blood glucose regularly the next day - a hypo feels similar to a hangover
drink plenty of water the next day
do not drink excessive amounts of alcohol
do not drink on an empty stomach
do not ignore the signs of a hypo - test and treat it immediately
Check your blood glucose regularly while you are drinking and before you go to sleep.
Alcohol and type 2 diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes are recommended to limit their intake of alcohol.
Alcoholic drinks such as beer, cider, stout, cocktails, wine and sweetened spirit drinks contain a large amount of carbohydrates. These can raise blood glucose.
Sweetened mixers added to alcohol may also contain carbohydrates. If you choose to drink these, pick those labelled diet, light, zero, slimline, or check the label. The amount of carbohydrates stated on the label should be almost zero.
People with type 2 diabetes who take insulin or certain diabetes tablets may be at risk of developing a hypo or low blood glucose. Alcohol can increase the risk of a hypo when taking these medicines, so it is advised to not drink on an empty stomach.
Talk to your GP or diabetes team about how to drink alcohol safely.