30. Alcohol and Diabetes

Diabetes Planned Visit Notebook

This fact sheet addresses whether patients with diabetes can consume alcohol. Care providers give it to patients during diabetes planned visits, and it is part of the Diabetes Planned Visit Notebook.

Alcohol and Diabetes

Question: Can I drink now that I have diabetes?

Answer: It depends. Let's have a closer look.

  • Alcohol, depending on the type, can either raise or lower your blood glucose (sugar) level.
  • If your diabetes is treated by:
    • Diet Only—the concern is extra calories.
    • Pills or Insulin—the concern is low blood sugar reactions.
  • Discuss the use of alcohol with your doctor. Some medications or conditions such as pancreatitis, stomach ulcers, liver damage or high triglycerides may be affected by the use of alcohol.

Food Considerations

  • Never drink on an empty stomach.
  • If you want a 'before dinner' drink, choose a starchy appetizer like crackers, breadsticks, or mix your drink with a juice (from the fruit and vegetables group) to reduce your risk of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose or sugar).
  • Alcohol does not replace food. Don't skip your meals or snacks.
  • Have food available in case you need it when you're away from home.
  • Wear or carry I.D. When your blood glucose (sugar) is 'low', the way you act could make people think you've had too much to drink. Then you may not get the help you need.
  • If you use insulin - check your blood glucose before bed. This will let you know if you need an extra snack to get safely through the night.
  • Sweet wines, liqueurs and sweet mixed drinks contain a lot of concentrated sugar. Alternatives are dry wine or drinks using diet pop or water as the mix.
  • Regular tonic water and Tom Collins mix are not sugar-free.
  • Be creative! You can halve the alcohol and calories of a glass of wine by making a spritzer (mix half wine and half soda water).
  • Try alternating, one drink with alcohol and one drink without.
  • Moderation in all things... alcohol is no exception.
  • And always remember...

When you have alcohol—you need food too!

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Page last reviewed January 2008
Internet Citation: 30. Alcohol and Diabetes: Diabetes Planned Visit Notebook. January 2008. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/education/curriculum-tools/diabnotebk/diabnotebk30.html