If you have diabetes, removing alcohol from your life can help you achieve better glucose control.
Can you drink alcohol when you have diabetes? How much alcohol is safe to drink? For the most part, diabetes and alcohol use don’t mix. If you are struggling with alcohol use disorder and you have diabetes, it’s particularly important for you to get help.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a health condition related to blood sugar control. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar under control, either because you resist the action of your body’s insulin or because your pancreas is not working properly. Untreated diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar.
When your blood sugar goes up, your body can develop health problems over time, including damage to circulatory and nervous systems that can lead to eye problems, heart problems and nerve damage in the extremities. As your body tries to flush out extra sugar, your kidneys work overtime, which can cause further health complications.
Treating diabetes often involves a combination of diet, exercise, pills and insulin. All of these treatments work to keep blood sugar low.
Why Diabetes and Alcohol Use Don’t Mix
Where does alcohol come into the picture? If you have diabetes, alcohol use becomes more complex. If you have diabetes and an alcohol use disorder, serious complications can occur.
Why is alcohol use so potentially harmful to people with diabetes? Your liver constantly secretes glucose, or sugar, as a source of energy for your body. It stores glycogen and converts it into glucose when needed, ensuring that your body continues to function even if you haven’t eaten for an extended period. Your liver is also responsible for removing toxins from your body. When you drink alcohol, your liver becomes preoccupied with toxin removal. It stops producing that glucose.
If you start to drink and your blood sugar is low due to diabetes medications, drinking can push it even lower because your liver diverts energy to remove toxins instead of creating glucose for the body.
It is particularly dangerous to drink if you don’t eat at the same time. The American Diabetes Association tells people with diabetes: “Do not drink on an empty stomach or when your blood glucose is low since your risk of low blood glucose increases after drinking.” If you eat carbohydrates at the same time, your body has a source of glucose. If you don’t eat carbohydrates and only drink alcohol, your body does not have a source of glucose, so your blood sugar can fall to dangerously low levels. Low glucose levels can cause shaking, confusion and, eventually, loss of consciousness.
Some alcoholic drinks also contain carbohydrates, which complicate matters even further. If you drink something like cider, you could drink a lot of carbohydrates and alcohol together, leading to poor blood sugar control.
When you overuse alcohol, it’s also more difficult to manage your diabetes. You may not have the mental focus to notice changes in your body, which can lead to dangerously high and low blood sugar levels. Both very high and very low blood sugars can lead to short and long-term health impacts, including hospitalization and loss of consciousness. Especially if you are taking insulin or medication, you must maintain an overall awareness of your body so that you don’t end up in a physically dangerous situation.
Treating an Alcohol Use Disorder When You Have Diabetes
If you have an alcohol use disorder, it’s even more important to manage your substance use disorder. Recovery can help you avoid the effects excessive alcohol consumption can have on your diabetes.
Treating alcohol use disorder can involve inpatient and outpatient treatment. It can also involve therapies such as counseling and group therapy. These therapies can help you develop the tools to manage your complex health conditions and make choices that are positive for your health in the long term.
Mental Health and Diabetes
If you have diabetes, you are more likely to suffer from mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. If you try to improve the symptoms of these conditions with alcohol, this can lead to dependence and further health problems. As you look for treatment, make sure that you find a treatment facility that not only addresses your physical health but takes your mental health into consideration as well. Treating co-occurring mental health disorders helps you maintain your sobriety in the long term.
The Long-Term Benefits of Treating an Alcohol Use Disorder
When you are preoccupied with alcohol use, it can be hard to focus on anything else. By treating your alcohol use disorder and getting support for your mental health, you may find that you have more energy for your physical health as well. Removing alcohol use from your life not only makes diabetes control physically easier, but it also makes it easier for you to focus on your health. For instance, you can make exercise and healthy eating a priority. Both of these are excellent for diabetes management and overall health.
At The Recovery Village Columbus, we want to help you live a healthier life. Talk with us about our programs to support your recovery. Are you struggling with alcohol addiction? With intensive inpatient and outpatient programs and supportive aftercare, we’ll help you become sober and stay that way. Contact The Recovery Village Columbus to learn about admission today.