For people with diabetes, drinking can cause a number of issues when it comes to maintaining blood sugar control. This doesn't necessarily mean you can't drink alcohol, but if you or a loved one is affected by diabetes, you should be aware of how drinking during the holidays can affect a person's health.
Moderation is key and according to the American Diabetes Association, women should have no more than one drink per day and men should have no more than two.
One drink is equal to a 12-oz beer, a 5-oz glass of wine or 1½ oz of distilled spirits (vodka, whiskey, gin, etc.).
What should you do if you plan on drinking?
If you are going to drink alcohol, check your blood glucose before you drink, while you drink and for up to 24 hours after you've had a drink. You should also check your blood before you go to bed to make sure it's at a safe level – between 100 and 140 mg/dL. Make sure your bedside stand is adequately stocked in case your blood sugar drops during the night.
Hypoglycemia is the most significant concern when drinking alcohol, so it's important to eat a regular meal within an hour of having alcohol. You may want to have another snack scheduled between the time you finish your drink and the 2-hour mark, the time when many individuals notice a significant drop in their blood sugar.
You can also dilute drinks to minimize the effects of the alcohol. Have water, tea, or calorie-free drinks nearby to help enhance hydration. Also, consider 'lite' versions over regular versions of malted liquors and always have some food with fiber and protein when consuming alcohol. Avoid regular sodas and juices as mixers.
The differences between the social and the everyday drinker
When a person consumes alcohol regularly, they develop an enzyme in their body called alcohol dehydrogenase. This helps utilize and reduce the effects of alcohol very effectively, making the drinker feel less drunk.
When one doesn’t drink but once a year, there is little to no alcohol dehydrogenase available. These individuals may notice alcohol affects them more quickly and harshly compared to those who drink more often.
It is very important to point out here that the effects of a low blood sugar - slowed motor skills, slurred speech, tiredness, and more - can easily be mistaken for the effects of drunkenness. Make sure those around you know you're diabetic.Telling them and wearing a diabetic bracelet or necklace is extremely important. Many times, this information can help prevent low blood sugars from dropping even more.
Finally, be sure to carry your glucometer to holiday gatherings. The holidays can be stressful and staying on top of your blood sugar can give you the opportunity to be more engaged in a party than tending to the side effects of low blood sugar.
Happy holidays and safe celebrations!