Alcohol and Blood Sugar

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Alcohol affects blood sugar every time it is consumed, regardless of how much you drink. Even if you drink alcohol on occasion — responsibly and exclusively in social settings — you can still experience negative health-related consequences. When you consume alcohol, your body secretes more insulin, which can lead to hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar). If you happen to have a pre-existing health condition that is incompatible with heavy alcohol consumption, staying away from alcohol entirely might be the best option. For example, individuals who suffer from diabetes are typically advised to significantly limit their alcohol intake. If you have been advised to limit or control your alcohol intake and you have found it difficult or seemingly impossible to do so, you might be afflicted with a diagnosable alcohol use disorder.

At Guardian Recovery we treat alcohol use disorders of all severities, developing personalized recovery plans that meet your unique needs and match you with a level of clinical care that makes sense for you. To learn more about our individualized program of alcohol addiction recovery, contact us today.

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Does Alcohol Have Sugar

Not all alcoholic beverages contain sugar. Some alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, contain more added sugar than an adult should consume over the course of an entire day. A standard glass of wine contains roughly 1 gram of sugar, while a pint of standard beer is often sugar-free. A margarita served on the rocks can easily contain up to 15 grams of sugar, and slurping down a Pina Colada can cost you around 70 grams of sugar — only 30 grams less than the American Heart Association’s recommended daily allotment. An article published by The Harvard School of Public Health reads, “The AHA suggests a stricter added-sugar limit of no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams) for most adult women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men.

The AHA also recommends a lower daily limit of added sugars for children ages 2-18 to less than 6 teaspoons or 24 grams per day, and sugary beverages should be limited to no more than 8 ounces a week.” 

You might have heard that alcohol is converted into sugar by the liver. While this is untrue, alcohol certainly does on number on blood sugar levels. Moderate amounts of alcohol cause blood sugar levels to rise significantly, and once the body begins to break down and process the alcohol, blood sugar levels drop dramatically. 

What is Blood Sugar

What exactly is blood sugar? The National Library of Medicine defines blood sugar as, “the main sugar found in your blood. It comes from the food you eat, and is your body’s main source of energy. Your blood carries glucose to all of your body’s cells to use for energy.”  It is important to monitor your own blood sugar levels, ensuring they remain within your personal target range. If your blood sugar levels are too low or too high, you are more likely to experience a range of serious health-related problems from kidney disease to cancer, heart disease, and vision loss. 

Does Alcohol Raise Blood Sugar?

Generally speaking, food and beverages that are high in carbohydrates cause blood sugar levels to spike. Some alcoholic beverages, like high-calorie beers, wine, and mixed drinks, can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate between dangerously high and dangerously low. It is important to note that consuming any amount of alcohol can affect blood sugar levels for up to 12 full hours. This is why it is recommended that those suffering from a pre-existing blood sugar issue, like type 1 diabetes, stay away from alcohol entirely. 

Does alcohol raise blood sugar? It depends on how much you drink. Consuming a small amount of alcohol over a longer period of time (several hours, for example) can lead to raised blood sugar levels. 

Does Alcohol Lower Blood Sugar?

On the other hand, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can lower blood sugar. Individuals who drink daily or who engage in binge drinking patterns often experience dangerously low blood sugar levels. If you have had a difficult time limiting your alcohol intake and your physical health has been adversely affected, there is help available. While attending a long-term treatment program might not be the ideal treatment option for everyone, Guardian Recovery will help you find a treatment program that makes sense for you. Contact us today to learn more.

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Alcohol and Diabetes

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and you are personally susceptible to the development of a substance use disorder, staying away from alcohol entirely might be a wise decision. However, most individuals who have been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can enjoy very moderate alcohol consumption. The American Diabetes Association states, “A daily cocktail or two may improve blood sugar (blood glucose) management and insulin sensitivity. If you have one or more drinks a day, you may find that your A1C is lower than during times you weren’t drinking. But if you don’t drink regularly, this doesn’t mean you should start. After all, other aspects of moderate drinkers’ lives may be behind the link. Too much drinking, on the other hand (more than three drinks daily), can lead to higher blood sugar and A1C.”  If you have diabetes and you are curious to learn more about how alcohol consumption affects blood sugar levels, we recommend reaching out to your primary care physician or to another experienced and licensed medical professional. 

Can Alcohol Cause Diabetes?

Alcohol has not been shown to cause diabetes. However, the risk of developing diabetes is particularly high among those with a genetic predisposition to the chronic health condition and a personal history of heavy alcohol use. If your parents both had type 1 diabetes, for example, your risk of developing diabetes increases significantly if you binge drink several times a month, or if you consume two or three alcoholic beverages on a nightly basis. On the other hand, moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to decrease the risk of developing diabetes. 

Can Diabetics Drink Wine, Beer or Other Alcoholic Drinks?

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is a good idea to limit your alcohol consumption significantly. The National Library of Medicine reports, “The hormone insulin, which is produced in the pancreas, is an important regulator of blood sugar levels. In people with diabetes, the pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the body does not respond appropriately to the insulin (type 2 diabetes). Alcohol consumption by diabetics can worsen blood sugar control in those patients. For example, long-term alcohol use in well-nourished diabetics can result in excessive blood sugar levels.

How Long Does Alcohol Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy and potentially dangerous levels. Consuming more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily raises your blood pressure. For example, drinking three beers at dinner can cause blood pressure to spike; taking four shots of liquor while partying can be extremely dangerous for those with diabetes. Additionally, repetitive binge drinking episodes can lead to long-term increases in blood sugar levels.

Does Quitting Alcohol Lower Blood Sugar Levels?

Quitting drinking entirely can affect your health in a number of positive ways. When you completely stop your alcohol intake, your blood sugar levels are likely to stabilize over time. Spikes in your blood sugar will occur less frequently, and if you are diabetic you will not have to monitor your blood sugar levels quite as closely. When you quit drinking you also stop consuming an excessive amount of carbohydrates. This can, in turn, reduce your risk of weight gain and obesity, which will also improve your blood sugar levels.

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If you or someone you love has been struggling with an alcohol use disorder of any severity, Guardian Recovery is available to help. We offer an effective and individualized treatment program that addresses the consequences of alcohol misuse and dependence on a physical, emotional and psychological level. As soon as you make the decision to reach out for help, you will be put in touch with an experienced Treatment Advisor who will walk you through our simple, straightforward admissions process. We begin by conducting a brief pre-assessment to ensure our recovery program is a good fit. If we believe you would benefit more from a different level of care, we will point you in the right direction. Our main priority is ensuring you receive the help you need in a timely manner. We look forward to speaking with you soon and helping you begin your own personal journey of alcohol addiction recovery.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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