Having a drink is a typical way to unwind after a long day or to celebrate good news. Some research has also shown that light alcohol consumption may provide health benefits.

But you may have some questions about how alcohol and your diabetes mix.

What does alcohol do to the body?

According to Mayo Clinic, alcohol goes directly to your bloodstream once it is consumed. It gets metabolized by your liver, but this can take up to two hours for one drink. Drinking at a faster pace than your liver can metabolize alcohol means that more of it ends up in your blood—this is what causes you to feel drunk or buzzed.

How can this affect my diabetes?

The Mayo Clinic notes that people on insulin, or those who are prescribed certain diabetes medications, can risk developing dangerously low blood sugar if they drink large quantities of alcohol too quickly. This happens when your liver works too hard to metabolize alcohol instead of regulating blood sugar.

Because of this, the American Diabetes Association suggests that women with diabetes consume no more than one drink per day and men consume no more than two drinks per day.

If you do choose to drink…

If you still want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage once in a while, consult with your physician first. He or she can look at your medical history and current state to see if having the occasional drink is okay. That being said, here are a few tips:

  1. The ADA notes that people with diabetes should always consume alcohol with food and avoid drinking when blood glucose levels are low.

  2. Do not use alcohol as a meal replacement—if you are counting carbohydrates, having a few beers instead of a plate of pasta does not strike a healthy balance.

  3. When you drink, make sure your liquor is mixed with a zero-calorie beverage like seltzer or diet soda. Since alcohol is already high in glucose, it is better to avoid mixers that contain excessive amounts of sugar.

  4. Try a light beer or wine spritzer, and make sure to savor each sip—drinking too fast could be bad for your health.

  5. Don't let alcohol distract you from standard healthy living practices and diabetes care. Make sure you wear an I.D. bracelet that states you have diabetes. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery once you have consumed alcohol, and be good about sticking to your nutritious meal plan.

  6. Because alcohol can affect everyone differently, especially those with diabetes, the ADA recommends checking your blood sugar regularly while you are drinking and for the following 24 hours.

Have you found that alcohol affects your blood sugar? What has your experience been? Share with the community in the comments below.

For more on drinking alcohol:

Alcohol and Diabetes: Know the Facts
It’s My Party and I’ll Drink If I Want To
Diabetes & Beer: Can They Coexist?