Diabetes or diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder characterised by hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose levels) caused by impairment in insulin secretion and/or action. Alcohol can interfere with the management of diabetes.
Alcohol provides extra kilojoules/calories, which can lead to increases in bodyweight and blood fat levels. Alcohol consumption can also cause irritation of the stomach lining, dilation of blood vessels, gout and increased blood pressure. Alcohol cannot be broken down to glucose and also impairs the ability of the liver to release stored glucose into the bloodstream. If alcohol is consumed without food, hypoglycaemia can result.
People with diabetes who have other medical problems such as pancreatitis, high blood lipid levels (especially high triglyceride levels) or neuropathy should reduce alcohol intake or avoid alcohol altogether.
People with poorly controlled diabetes should not drink alcohol.
As with all conditions, your Doctor should be consulted. Diabetes in general requires close monitoring by a medical practitioner. A diabetes Educator and Dietitian should be consulted for advice about diabetes care and appropriate dietary and alcohol intake.
General guidelines for alcohol consumption for people with diabetes:
- Drink in moderation.
- Alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
- Choose low alcohol beers or wine rather than spirits or fortified wines.
- Eat slowly digested carbohydrate foods when drinking or just before drinking.
- Use low-joule mixers where possible.
- Carry diabetes identification in case of an emergency (e.g. a hypoglycaemic episode).
- Friends and family should be educated to recognise the signs of a hypoglycaemic episode and how to treat it.
Seek advice from your Doctor, who may recommend more stringent guidelines for people with poorly-controlled diabetes or diabetic complications.