Type 2 diabetes: How to drink alcohol while preventing blood sugar problems

Diabetes is a condition which happens when a person has too much sugar in their blood. It can be controlled with medication, but it’s also essential to follow a healthy diet in order to prevent complications from occurring. Complications associated with diabetes involve problems with the heart, kidneys, nerves, eyes and feet. People with type 2 diabetes are advised to eat a healthy, balanced diet that is low in sugar, calories and fat.

While this means cutting down on unhealthy foods, this also means controlling your alcohol intake, as drinking too much alcohol can cause problems for people with the condition.

“For some people, having a few drinks at home or in the pub is part of everyday life. And having diabetes shouldn’t get in the way of this,” said Diabetes UK.

“But when you have diabetes, it’s a bit more complicated.”

Depending on the type of alcohol, alcoholic drinks can be high in sugar and calories, which can cause weight gain and blood sugar rises.

But it can also do the opposite and cause blood sugar levels to drop to dangerously low levels.

The latter is especially true in people who take medication to keep their blood sugar low, as drinking alcohol can cause it to drop even lower, causing hypoglycaemia, or a hypo.

Drinking a lot or on an empty stomach makes it even more likely you’ll have a hypo.

“Your liver works twice as hard when you drink, because it’s trying to keep your blood sugar steady and at the same time trying to get rid of the alcohol. It just can’t keep up,” said Diabetes UK.

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“So your blood sugar might drop and stay low until your liver has dealt with the alcohol. That’s why you might crave carbs and wake up the next morning with a headache.”

The charity also warns on mistaking having a hypo with being drunk, so you should always carry hypo treatments with you, wear medical ID and ensure whoever you’re with knows you have diabetes.

Alcohol can also contain a lot of calories, leading to weight gain. Being overweight is a big risk factor for people with type 2 diabetes and increases the possibility of complications.

In addition, some types of alcohol can be high in sugar, such as sweet sherry, sweet wine and liquer, which can cause blood sugar to rise.

Some drinks are advertised as ‘diabetic drinks’, such as low-sugar beer and cider. But Diabetes UK actually advises against drinking these as while they are lower in sugar, they contain more alcohol.

On the other hand, low-alcohol wine should also be avoided, as it often contains more sugar than normal.

In addition, some drinks like beer, ale and cider contain carbohydrates and will too increase blood sugar levels.

So what can you drink if you have diabetes?

Diabetes UK advises sticking to spirits, dry wine and Prosecco. But make sure you mix spirits with diet or sugar-free mixers.

The morning after the night before, ensuring you eat breakfast will help to manage blood sugar, while drinking lots of water to keep hydrated will also help.

“If you’ve got a blood sugar meter at home, check your levels regularly the next day. The symptoms of having a hypo are similar to feelings of a hangover, so you need to know if you’re having one,” warned Diabetes UK.

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The UK government advises drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, which equates to six medium glasses of wine or six pints of lager.

Diabetes: Four common symptoms

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high.

There are two main types – type 1, when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin producing cells, and type 2, when the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin.

Type 2 is more common that type 1, with 90 per cent of all diabetics in the UK having type 2.

Frequent urinating

Going to the toilet a lot more than usual, especially at night, is a common sign of diabetes.

Urinating frequently is also a sign of other medical issues, such as prostate problems, so be sure to visit your GP to have diabetes confirmed.


Excessive thirst, otherwise known as polydipsia, is a classic sign of diabetes. It is linked to frequent urination.

As excess glucose builds up in the blood, the kidneys are forced to work extra hard to filter and absorb the excess sugar, and if they can’t keep up, the excess sugar is excreted in to urine, taking along fluids from body tissue.

This triggers more urination, which may leave diabetics dehydrated.

Blurred vision

High levels of blood sugar can cause the lens inside the eye to swell, which can result in blurred eyesight.

Very low blood sugar levels can also cause blurred vision.

Weight loss

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If you aren’t trying to lose weight, and you notice a loss of muscle bulk or the numbers on the scales drop, this could be a sign of diabetes.

This happens because insufficient insulin prevents the body from getting glucose from the blood to the cells to use as energy.

The body will then start burning fat and muscle for energy, causing weight loss.



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