OUTREACH & ENGAGEMENT COMMITTEE
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month (NDAM). Please take some time to check out our T1D topics. We encourage you to share this information on your social media to help educate and raise awareness about Type 1 Diabetes.
IT'S PARTY TIME!
Who wants to think about diabetes when you’re having a good time? Well, if you have Type 1 Diabetes, YOU do! It’s all too easy to get caught up in the atmosphere and not think about your blood sugar, but drinking does affect blood sugar and it is something to be aware of and concerned about.
If you like to enjoy a couple glasses of wine or throw back a few bottles of beer while you're out, it's important to learn about how alcohol - especially hard liquor - interacts with your diabetes. The consequences of pretending it doesn't will strike when you’re least expecting it, and when you’re at your most vulnerable. Having diabetes is no reason to avoid drinking. There are just a few things you should understand so you can do so safely.
THE BASICS ARE BASIC
One of the most important things to remember is that every one of us is different, whether you have Type 1 Diabetes or not, but especially when it comes to T1D. People also differ in how they respond to alcohol, based on size, weight, metabolism and other factors.
ALCOHOL INHIBITS GLUCOSE RELEASE FROM THE LIVER.
Alcohol and low blood sugars are connected because the liver gets confused when we drink. Usually, the liver's main job is to act a a sugar reserve for the body and will release glucose to help regulate blood sugars. When we drink alcohol, the liver starts to concentrate on clearing alcohol from your bloodstream and forgets about its job to release glucose, which can often times lead to unexpected episodes of low blood sugar. Minimizing the amount of alcohol you drink, monitoring your blood sugars closely and making sure you have snacks while you're drinking are great ways to take the danger out of drinking with diabetes.
THE DREADED TIME DELAY…
Your body takes anywhere between 1 to 1.5 hours to process alcoholic drinks through your liver. This delay prolongs the time it takes for the liver to get back to its job of providing glucose. The more you drink, the more time your liver will be distracted and the higher the chance you'll have of experiencing a low blood sugar. Most alcohol contains carbohydrates and added sugars or syrups that will spike your blood sugar, but taking insulin to cover alcoholic drinks is a tricky task. The time it takes for the liver to clear the alcohol has to be factored in so that you don't experience a sharp drop later on, especially after you've fallen asleep.
Dealing with diabetes and alcohol is complicated. Everyone is different. For example, women typically process alcohol a bit slower than men. Your body doesn't react the same way the person next to you does. So, like almost everything else with T1D, you have to start with some basic knowledge, ask questions of your specialist team and experiment - safely.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
If you’ve been drinking, a glucagon shot may not work! Glucagon is not always effective when your liver is busy clearing alcohol from your system. There is a good chance that glucagon will not save you if you pass out from a low while intoxicated.
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
Be conservative and cautious if you use insulin to lower your blood sugar when drinking - test often.
Have a meal or snack that contains carbohydrates when you consume alcohol.
Remember to keep glucose tabs or other fast-acting glucose with you at all times.
Dancing counts as exercise, which also lowers blood sugar. Have fun, but be aware.
Consider going to bed with a blood sugar that's higher than normal if you’ve been drinking.
Keep in mind that the drop in BG is often dramatically delayed - play it extra safe when sleeping.
Alcohol can make it hard to notice symptoms of a low. Again, test often. Test more often than you think you need to. Have I mentioned that you should test often?
Being 'drunk' and feeling 'low' have similar symptoms. Make sure someone you're with knows about your T1D and how they can/should help you in case of trouble.
Wear your medical ID at all times.
There is much more to know about diabetes and alcohol. Read up about alcohol and T1D, ask questions, be aware. There are some websites that have additional information that you can surf to:
DISCLAIMER: You are strongly encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this site, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician. PLEASE DO NOT DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ ON THIS SITE.
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Past NDAM postings:
T1D Stickers and Accessories | Driving with T1D | Pump Lingo | Dawn Phenomenon | Blood Sugar Management Get Diabetes Right | Foot Care | Sleep: the lost frontier | Glycemic Index | Medication Management