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Sensible drinking and Type 1 Diabetes

This guide will help you understand how to keep blood glucose levels safe when drinking alcohol.

What is sensible drinking?

The government guidelines for sensible drinking in adults are up to 14 units per week both for women and for men (one unit = 1 glass of wine, half pint beer or cider or 1 pub measure of spirits)

There are no safe recommended drinking limits for young people under 18 or during pregnancy.

It is not sensible to drink all the recommended weekly units in one day

Alternate between non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks

Tell your friends you have diabetes, and what to do should something untoward happen to you.

The effects of alcohol

People with diabetes must be extra careful with alcohol as it significantly increases the risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels).
If your diabetes is under control a moderate amount of alcohol may be fine either before, during or soon after a meal.

Different alcoholic drinks have varying effects on your blood glucose. It also depends how much you drink. A single alcoholic drink (a 330ml bottle of beer, medium glass of wine) may not hugely effect your overall blood glucose.

If you have more than a single drink, most alcoholic drinks will tend to initially raise your blood glucose.
Typically beers, lagers, wines, sherries and liqueurs will have this effect. However, alcohol inhibits the liver from making glucose which means you are at a greater risk of hypoglycaemia when your blood sugar starts to fall. If you have several drinks, you can expect to see a rise in blood sugar, followed by a steady drop a few hours later, often whilst asleep.

What do I need to be careful of?

  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach as this will quickly increase the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream.
  • Avoid binge drinking and,
  • NEVER substitute alcohol for your meals.

The risk of hypoglycaemia is increased if drinking alcohol after activity e.g. dancing, sports.

Each person reacts differently to alcoholic drinks so you should use blood tests to check how your body responds to it.
The symptoms of drunkenness can be very similar to a hypo, which can lead to very dangerous confusion.
Furthermore, if you have been drinking heavily, there may be a risk of hypos for up to 16 hours (or even more) after you have stopped drinking.

Monitoring blood glucose levels closely is an essential part of managing your diabetes in every situation.
Make sure your friends know you have diabetes and that you wear diabetes ID (necklace or MedicAlert bracelet) when socializing.

Always eat something at the same time as you are drinking alcohol. Remember that what you eat should be “long-acting” carbohydrates as the risk of hypoglycaemia extends into the next day.

Always test your blood glucose and have a carbohydrate snack before to going to bed.


What are drugs and how can they affect your diabetes?

A drug is a substance that causes physical or psychological changes, so it affects the way a person thinks, feels or behaves.
All drugs have the potential to cause harm, be addictive and have a negative effect on your diabetes.
You should never take an unfamiliar substance. If you come across any drug (legal or illegal) and you are unsure how it may affect you or your diabetes, talk to your doctor. There is also information on