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Diabetes and alcohol - Effects on glucose - Night time hypo -

We all love to socialise and we all like a nice wee drinkie, be it wine, beer, spirits and the odd Tequila slammer... or is that just me?  But how does alcohol affect your diabetes?

First things first...



  • Leave the car at home and get a taxi.
  • Have a designated driver.
  • The walk may do you good!


Alcohol and your blood glucose levels

Alcohol lowers our blood glucose levels and if you are taking insulin or certain tablets for your diabetes, consuming alcohol can make you more susceptible to a hypoglycaemic attack.  Having a hypo makes you appear as drunks, the two look very similar and if officers of the law can smell alcohol on your breath, you could be in trouble, as they will immediately become suspicious of your state and the smell.

Forget about the pilsner 'diet' type beers which are low in sugar. Although they do indeed contain less sugar than its 'tap' counterparts they are much stronger, as the sugar turns to alcohol. A couple of bottles can bring the alcohol levels over the legal limit for driving and you will most certainly get points on your licence as well as a court appearance and a fine, which can ultimately lead to the loss of your job.

Ask yourself... Is it really worth it?

Alcohol and the hypo

As described above, drinking alcohol makes your blood sugars drop and you can have a hypo and the increased risk continues for some time after you stop drinking.

The liver processes alcohol at the rate of about one single unit per hour and this can vary from person to person. If you drink heavily, then you risk having a hypo. The liver continues to get rid of the alcohol over the night and part of the next day, so you can increase the risk of a night time hypo. It also slows the release of valuable glucose to counteract the hypo.

Think before you drink !

Most of us enjoy a drink with friends and especially at family and seasonal occasions’ and just because you are diabetic does not mean that you have to go 'teetotal'. Guidelines for men and women are usually two units for women and three units for men, although these guidelines are different for each country.  You should check your own country's guidelines. 

One unit is usually:

  • half pint of ordinary strength beer, lager or cider;
  • 1 small glass of wine (125 ml);
  • 1 bar measure of spirit (25 ml) e.g. gin, vodka or whisky.


Try to curb your enthusiasm for the drink. Drink in moderation

Make sure that you go for the diet option for mixers such as cola and tonic water

Never substitute alcohol for a meal, you will end up hypo.

Low alcohol drinks are fine, but remember, if you have enough of them, you can go over the limit for driving.


Night out top tips


  • Have a meal that is high in carbs before you go out.  If you are going out for a meal, try and wait to start on the booze or take your time and make the drink last until your meal arrives or go for a soft drink option.
  • If you are just having a night out, make sure that you check your blood glucose levels before you go out to see that your glucose levels are fine; you could even take a small meter out with you concealed in your pocket.  You can always snack on potato chips, pretzels, nuts or crisps.
  • Your friends probably know that you are diabetic, but check to make sure that they know you are and what to do if you are acting weird and out of sorts. They should be told how to treat you.  You should let them know that you have some form of glucose on you or the need to get you a full sugar soda, not diet!
  • It is extremely important that you have some sort of ID on you to indicate that you are diabetic, be it a necklace, bracelet, dog tag or a simple card in your wallet or purse. Remember! A hypo can still kick in for hours after you arrive home.  Make sure that you have a starchy carbohydrate snack before you go to bed.  This could be cereal, a sandwich or even stop off at a burger house, but watch those calories.


Oh... my head !


Dealing with that hangover


  • Drink a glass of water before bed and make sure that you eat something starchy as described above.
  • If you do suffer from a hangover with the usual symptoms of headache, nausea, sweating and shaking, make sure that you are not having a hypo.  You cannot ignore it, it needs treating right away or it will get worse.
  • If you are physically sick and cannot face food (usually toast is best), you need to replace fluids, and this can be sips of water even if this makes you feel or actually makes you sick, you need to persevere.  Keep checking glucose levels and sip glucose drinks if your sugar levels are low.  Do not have diet soda.
  • Continue to check blood glucose levels during the feeling of nausea throughout the day and continue to monitor.
  • Never stop taking your insulin. Always have some breakfast to aid blood glucose control.


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