From Columbus, Ohio, USA:
My 15 year old daughter (living with diabetes type 1 for 5 years) asked what does drinking do to people who have diabetes. I gave her my "parent" answer but would like a answer from a diabetes expert.
Good question and I am glad she is asking those questions since this a period of trying those things. Alcohol will lower blood glucose levels, so it is best to have a carbohydrate-rich snack with alcohol or include the alcohol with a meal. Do not drink on an empty stomach. At the program where I work, we recommend no more than 2 drinks/day (that is 2 beers or 2 small glasses of wine).
Additional comments from Dr. Lebinger:Alcohol interferes with the body's ability to release sugar from the liver. If the body can't release sugar from the liver, there is a greater chance of developing a low blood sugar if alcohol is consumed on an empty stomach. (You also get drunk faster if you drink on an empty stomach regardless of diabetes.) It is important to eat before drinking alcohol to prevent a low blood sugar.
Although alcohol itself does not raise the blood sugar, it is a significant source of calories which can lead to becoming overweight. Also, often alcohol is mixed with foods which do contain carbohydrate which can raise the blood sugar and therefore must be taken into account. For instance, beer has a significant amount of carbohydrate, as do sweet liqueurs. If you have a "screwdriver", the carbohydrate in the orange juice must be counted. Dry wines and hard liquor have little or no carbohydrate. If you drink alcohol, you must take into account the effect of alcohol on the liver, its caloric content, its intoxicating ability which may be modified by food, and the carbohydrate in the alcoholic drink.
[Editor's comment: Inevitably, teens will be exposed to alcohol (and other issues), and at the Ask the Diabetes Team section of Children with Diabetes, it's important to answer teens' questions (whether directly asked, or when relayed through their parents!)
Another point to make about alcohol: since alcohol itself makes thinking foggy, and lowers blood sugar, which also makes thinking foggy, it's even more important than usual to remember to have a designated driver: don't drink then drive! WWQ]
Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:58
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