Diabetes and alcohol; how much can I drink?

painting:  Ana Morales

painting: Ana Morales

Many diabetics ask this question.  Instead of not drinking at all we want to know just how much we can get away with.  The easiest answer to this question would be “none” so here I provide a more thorough, forgiving answer: 

Well, it depends.  I’d say it all has to do with circumstances:

Where are you drinking? 

At home?  At a bar?  At a party?  Drinking at home is your safer bet considering you are probably less distracted and more likely to closely monitor your blood sugar there.  A party or bar might be a risky environment for you. 

Why are you drinking? 


Are you simply enjoying a drink or are you looking to feel the effects of alcohol?  If your answer is the latter I’d recommend you NOT drinking.  Your motives might lead you to drink too much, which could prove fatal.

Who are you? 

Ask yourself the following:  Do you have self control?  Do you give insulin?  Are you taking care of anyone?  Are you able to check your glucose anywhere, anytime?  Be honest in order to really determine if you could safely manage a drink or two.

How much are you drinking? 

Would you be enjoying one or two drinks or more than that?  More than two drinks means you are beginning to consume enough alcohol to seriously begin impairing judgment.  This can be dangerous for any diabetic. 

And finally, what are you drinking?

I don’t recommend a mixed drink-you know anything with more than one ingredient and so sweet you have no idea how much insulin to give in the first place.  One beer or a glass of dry wine or even a shot of hard liquor are easier to manage.

And you may be thinking, “what does she know?”  Well, sadly, experience has taught me a lot and I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve seen my glucose up in the 400 range and down as low as 35 just because I didn’t know what I was doing with alcohol.

Now I would only enjoy one shot of hard liquor at home, which I know for me takes about a unit of insulin to cover.  I would check my glucose before and shortly after and not go to bed for at least a few hours.  I would also drink that shot very slowly and focus on savoring the taste.

I haven’t drank in about a year due to pregnancy and breastfeeding.  I don’t miss it at this point.  I’d also never drink while taking care of children so I’m thinking I may never drink again. 

That should make things easy.

Remember, you are far cooler/prettier/smarter while taking care of yourself than while being rolled into the ER for drinking as a diabetic.

You know yourself better than I do so whatever your decision be regarding drinking and diabetes…make sure it is in favor of your health.  You owe it to yourself.

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