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Alcohol and diabetes

Alcohol can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Alcohol affects the liver and the pancreas. These help to regulate blood sugar. Alcohol can prevent the liver from producing glucose. This can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia).

Different types of alcoholic drink have different levels of carbohydrates. The effects of specific drinks on your blood sugar levels will vary.

Alcohol also affects people in different ways.

Check your blood regularly if you're drinking.

When you have been drinking, the symptoms of hypoglycaemic may go unnoticed by the people around you. This is because the symptoms of low blood sugar are like drunkenness.

Managing alcohol if you have diabetes

Drinking can make it more difficult to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level.

Alcohol lowers your blood sugar but at the same time you might also be more inclined to snack.

You may be careless about counting carbs and checking your blood sugar when you are drinking.

Staying within the weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines can help to avoid these problems.

Related topics

Weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines

Control your drinking

Drink alcohol only with food and never on an empty stomach. Drink slowly and dilute spirits with plenty of diet soft drinks.

Avoid sugary drinks like:

  • cocktails
  • sweet wines
  • cordials

These can raise your blood sugar level very fast.

Manage your blood sugar while drinking

Check your blood sugar levels while you are drinking and before you go to sleep. This will help avoid problems with fluctuations in blood sugar from drinking alcohol.

Let people know you have diabetes

Make sure the people you are with know the symptoms of low blood sugar. For example, such as confusion, slurred speech and drowsiness, so they don’t think you are drunk. Wear a piece of medical alert jewellery that says you have diabetes. This is in case you do pass out and make sure to bring your emergency kit and some sugars with you.

Talk to your GP or the care team at the hospital

Ask about the best ways to keep safe and control your blood sugar when you drink alcohol.

Related topics

Alcohol and the pancreas

page last reviewed: 08/11/2019
next review due: 08/11/2022