How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Sugars and Cause Hypoglycemia?

How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Sugars and Cause Hypoglycemia?

Alcohol consumption can cause hypoglycemia, especially among diabetics. Several hours after you've stopped drinking, this may occur. When taken with some drugs, it might also result in low blood sugar.

Approximately 37.3 million Americans have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For many diabetics, the foods they eat are crucial in preventing blood sugar increases. This includes keeping an eye on the drinks you consume.

Alcohol consumption carries a slight risk of causing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), especially for those with diabetes. Alcohol can interfere with the liver's capacity to control blood sugar levels and mix with some drugs to result in hypoglycemia.

This article will go over how alcohol affects blood sugar levels, how certain mixtures can also have an impact on your glucose levels, and how to drink safely by collaborating with your doctor and medical staff.

How can alcohol affect blood sugar levels?

Alcohol has an impact on several biological systems, including the liver, which helps to keep blood sugar levels in a safe range. The liver produces and stores glucose, which it uses to assist regulate the body's blood sugar levels. The liver uses signals from hormones like insulin to determine how much glucose the body requires.

But the liver is also in charge of cleansing the body of alcohol. When the liver is working hard to break down alcohol, it may not release enough glucose to keep blood sugar levels high.

This is particularly important for those who take insulin or drugs like sulfonylureas that boost the production of insulin. Blood sugar levels are reduced by insulin. Medication that increases the body's insulin levels may cause blood sugar levels to fall too low while the liver is producing less glucose.

You are also more prone to develop hypoglycemia if you consume alcohol on an empty stomach or at a time when your blood sugar is already low.

Why does drinking alcohol cause your blood sugar to plummet several hours later?

After drinking alcohol, the effects on the body and liver can last for several hours.

This risk should be kept in mind in particular if you drink and take an insulin-containing medication in the evening before bed because you run the chance of developing hypoglycemia the next day.

Alcohol-induced hypoglycemia signs and symptoms
Due to the similarities in many of the symptoms between hypoglycemia and intoxication, it can be challenging to distinguish between the two conditions.

Hypoglycemia symptoms can include:
  • dizziness
  • shaking
  • fatigue
  • slurred speech
  • hunger
  • confusion
  • headaches
  • nausea
Seizures or comas may develop in cases of severe hypoglycemia, therefore it's critical to watch for early signs and treat low blood sugar levels as soon as they appear. If you're unsure whether you're hypoglycemia, check your blood sugar levels to find out.

Do different types of alcohol have varied effects on blood sugar levels?

Traditional cocktails, cream liqueurs, and dessert wines are examples of alcoholic beverages with increased sugar and carbohydrate content. This indicates that they may cause blood sugar levels to rise more than other beverages, such as light beers, red and white wines, or distilled spirits.

You may read more about the best alcoholic beverages for people with diabetes here if you're interested.

What about people who don't have diabetes?

Alcohol can drop blood sugar levels in adults who do not have diabetes, but hypoglycemia in this population is uncommon.

Treatment

Alcohol-related hypoglycemia can be avoided by diabetics via:
  • Limiting the amount of alcohol they consume, drinking slowly or steadily, and keeping an eye on their blood sugar levels while doing so.

When hypoglycemia symptoms appear, you should act quickly to raise your blood sugar levels. You should consume 15 grams of carbs and then recheck your blood sugar levels 15 minutes later if blood testing reveals hypoglycemia between 55 and 69 mg/dL.

You should keep consuming 15 grams of carbohydrates and rechecking your blood sugar levels every 15 minutes until your target levels are reached if your blood sugars are still below normal. The Rule of 15 is what's known as this.

After then, consume a healthy lunch or snack to help avoid blood sugar levels from falling too low again.

It's critical to get medical attention right away if your blood sugar levels are below 55 mg/dL.

Takeaway

When consuming alcohol, it's crucial to watch out for hypoglycemia, especially if you have diabetes. Alcohol can interfere with various drugs, including those taken by many people with diabetes, and it can impact the liver, reducing blood sugar levels.

It's crucial to discuss the safety of alcohol use with your doctor if you take any drugs or have diabetes. Your doctor can also guide how to avoid hypoglycemia and treat it if it does happen.