I Take Insulin, Can I Drink Alcohol?

Man Checking Glucose
If You Take Insulin, Don't Drink Alcohol. © Getty Images

Question: I Take Insulin, Can I Drink Alcohol?

Answer: No. People with diabetes who take medication to control their blood sugar -- insulin shots or oral diabetes pills -- run the risk of low blood sugar levels if they drink alcohol.

When blood sugar levels drop, the liver normally begins to produce glucose from stored carbohydrates to compensate. But drinking alcohol blocks the liver's ability to produce glucose.

Alcohol Blocks Glucose Production

Because the liver processes alcohol the same way it would a toxin, it works to remove the alcohol from the body as soon as possible. Therefore, the liver does not produce glucose again until all of the alcohol has been metabolized and removed.

Even diabetes patients who are not on insulin, but take oral medications should not drink alcohol to excess due to the chance of low glucose levels.

If You Drink, Take Precautions

For diabetics that do drink, the American Diabetes Association recommends that they never drink on an empty stomach in order to protect from low blood sugar -- drinking only after a meal or a snack.

The association also recommends that diabetics who drink alcohol check their blood sugar before going to bed. And "eat a snack before you retire to avoid a low blood sugar reaction while you sleep."

There are more reasons that people with diabetes should not drink alcohol.

Please see: Diabetes and Alcohol.

American Diabetes Association. Alcohol. Accessed February 2008.

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