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Alcohol And Blood Sugar

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Your liver will choose to metabolize the alcohol over maintaining your blood sugar, which can lead to hypoglycemia. The liver often makes this choice when you drink without eating food—so consider snacking while you sip. If you do not already drink alcohol, no evidence supports starting for the health benefits. If you have diabetes and drink alcohol, consult a healthcare practitioner, such as a registered dietitian, to set up a meal plan that incorporates alcohol safely into your diet.

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renton, wa transitional housing, sober housing alcohols can be part of a healthy eating plan when you need to manage diabetes. Unlike artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols are a kind of carb and can raise blood sugar levels, though not as much as sugar. As we’ve seen, alcohol has multiple complex effects on metabolism and glucose levels. It is important to note that other factors like fasting or ketosis might lead to a more pronounced impact of alcohol on glucose and can make even light drinking risky. Over the long term, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption appears to have a mild protective effect on some aspects of metabolic health, specifically diabetes risk. In contrast, heavy drinking in the short or long term can set us up for higher rates of insulin resistance and impaired glucose regulation.


To find out if a food or beverage contains sugar alcohols, check the Nutrition Facts Label on the packaging. It shows the amount in grams of total carbs and sugars under Total Carbohydrate and the Percent Daily Value (%DV) of total carbs per serving. When you drink alcohol almost every aspect of your body’s functioning is affected in some way. Moreover, alcoholic beverages often introduce excess sugar into the bloodstream. It’s still possible to gain weight when eating foods that contain sugar alcohol, especially if you eat them in excess. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels.

The amount you can have and stay in your target blood sugar range depends on your age, weight, activity level, and other factors. Counting carbs in foods and drinks is an important tool for managing blood sugar levels. Make sure to talk to your health care team about the best carb goals for you. Different drinks vary in alcohol, carb, and sugar content and in how they affect a person’s blood sugar levels. The following tables contain information from the Department of Agriculture.

What Happens to Your Blood Sugar When You Drink Alcohol

We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy. This is particularly important for people with diabetes to recognize. In an average person, the liver breaks down roughly one standard alcoholic drink per hour.

In many instances, those claims refer to specific serving sizes. Eating more than the exact serving size indicated can affect the amount of carbohydrates you take in. However, the situation is different for those who’ve been fasting or are in a ketogenic state because these people already have much less glucose stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Normally this state prompts the liver to produce new glucose via gluconeogenesis, but, as noted above, alcohol inhibits this process. The result is that glucose levels can fall to dangerously low levels and in extreme cases, this hypoglycemic state can lead to seizures, coma, or death. This is due to one of your liver’s primary jobs—manufacturing and releasing glucose into the bloodstream to help with blood sugar balance.

It’s worth re-stating at this point that alcohol drinks may lead to a delayed hypoglycemic effect so exercise caution, and wherever possible, test your blood glucose to be sure. If you are drinking alcohol every day, it’s probably a good idea to cut back. This is especially true if you’re drinking more than one or two drinks a day.

  • And unless you have other health conditions that call for avoiding alcohol, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a refreshing glass of wine or unique microbrew now and then.
  • Your small intestine doesn’t absorb sugar alcohols well, so fewer calories get into your body.
  • Blood sugar is the concentration of sugar in the blood at one time.
  • If alcohol is used, wine is thought to be healthier than other types of alcohol when considering the risk of diabetes.
  • If you’re trying to lose weight, you might benefit from swapping sugar alcohols for sugar and other higher-calorie sweeteners.

For people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes who take insulin or other diabetes medications that lower blood sugar levels, drinking alcohol needs to be done thoughtfully. Alcohol is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and metabolized through several pathways. The majority of alcohol metabolism takes place in the liver, which is also the primary location of glucose production. Because of this, alcohol intake can interfere with the liver’s production of glucose and may cause hypoglycemia – or low blood sugar. Alcohol intake can lower blood sugar immediately and up to 12 hours after ingestion.

If you currently have insulin-dependent diabetes, you may want to talk to your doctor about lowering your insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio or taking less long-acting insulin, or maybe both. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar before it becomes an emergency. Erythritol is another sugar alcohol that’s considered to have an excellent taste. Check more often if you’re sick or if you’re concerned about high or low blood sugar. Your blood sugar target is the range you try to reach as much as possible. Read about Monitoring Your Blood Sugar and All About Your A1C.

How can I treat high blood sugar?

Make it less than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. People with type 2 diabetes may have many of the same health issues as people with type 1 diabetes. Typically, alcohol withdrawal symptoms happen for heavier drinkers. Alcohol withdrawal can begin within hours of ending a drinking session.

It is a good idea for them to talk with a doctor so that they thoroughly understand the risks involved. By taking these strategic steps, you can help manage reactive hypoglycemia and prevent it from taking over your day. Meals and snacks with lots of processed and added sugars and carbohydrates require more insulin and are more likely to result in reactive hypoglycemic episodes. Additionally, people who do not have diabetes but have a hormone deficiency sometimes also have reactive hypoglycemia.


Reactive hypoglycemia is a type of low blood sugar that occurs after meals, typically between 2-5 hours after you finish eating. Learn what sugar alcohols are and how they affect your day-to-day health. This effect is more common in children and people with irritable bowel syndrome . Instead of absorbing sugar alcohols in the stomach, they can linger in the intestines and ferment. Other sugar alcohols, like maltitol, can lead to symptoms as well, so it’s best to avoid consuming them in large amounts .

This is especially true if your diabetes is unmonitored or your sugar levels are not under control. If you drink alcohol, it’s important to factor in those sugars and calories when you’re looking at your overall diet. Alcohol is high in sugar and calories, which can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes. Drinking moderately isn’t likely to lead to type 2 diabetes, but excessive drinking over time can be a trigger for its development.

Are there side effects from sugar alcohol? Are they different if you have diabetes?

Even diet mixers can present problems when having a night out. Be careful that the bartender does serve you a diet version when you ask for it. Diabetics have often been incorrectly served full sugar versions despite trying to be clear. Orange and other juices contain a relatively high amount of carbohydrate – about 20g in a small 200ml serving. Stouts, Porters and Guinness tend to be on the higher end of the carbohydrate spectrum amongst beers and can have upwards of 20g of carbohydrate per pint. Some ‘light’ beers may be better and have less than 10g of carbs per pint and some with less 5g of carbs.

We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers. Once your body has absorbed all the sugar it can from alcohol, it will start to use up the sugar, decreasing your blood sugar levels.

It the drop continues, and your liver doesn’t pump glucose into your bloodstream to fuel your brain, you can experience confusion, sleepiness, slurred speech, and even seizures. At this point, you’re not going to wake-up to the symptoms of a low blood sugar or be able to consume carbohydrates. Alcohol can have a confusing effect on blood sugar levels because it prevents the liver from producing glucose. One consequence of this is that hypoglycemia can occur after a night of drinking.

Because the body can’t fully digest sugar alcohols, you may experience some unpleasant GI symptoms soon after you eat them. In a 2006 British study, researchers gave participants doses of sugar or one of two types of sugar alcohol . Those taking xylitol reported bloating, gas, upset stomach and diarrhea.

As mentioned above, if the liver is forced to choose between processing alcohol and stabilizing blood glucose, it will process the alcohol first. So having an alcoholic drink can initially lower our blood glucose. This can create a particularly dangerous situation for people with diabetes.

Diabetes Health Center

It is 75–90% as sweet as sugar with almost half the calories. Interestingly, similarly to fiber, certain sugar alcohols may contribute to a healthy digestive system by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria . In moving toward a healthier way of eating, many people reduce their intake of added sugars. Keep track of your blood sugar levels to see what makes them go up or down. If you’ve had low blood sugar without feeling or noticing symptoms , you may need to check your blood sugar more often to see if it’s low and treat it. Driving with low blood sugar can be dangerous, so be sure to check your blood sugar before you get behind the wheel.

What causes low blood sugar?

It’s a common ingredient in sugar-free chewing gums, mints, and oral care products like toothpaste. They’re considered low digestible carbs, meaning that when you eat them, your small intestine doesn’t completely absorb them. Instead, they travel to your large intestine, where bacteria ferment them. If your blood sugar is often high, your doctor may change how much medicine you take or when you take it. It breaks down toxins, such as alcohol, into components that the kidneys then excrete. Learn more about which beverages are best and worst for someone with diabetes.

Instead, they may be more concerned about their blood alcohol concentration and being pulled over for a DUI while driving home. But even if you have a designated driver, those drinks can still be dangerous. With all the focus on carbs, it’s easy to forget that alcohol also has calories. Given that drinking can make you lose track of what you’re eating, calories can add up quickly.

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