Drinking alcohol can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, which can cause you to develop diabetes. Studies have found that people who drink more than four drinks a day are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Alcohol can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, and it may also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. While there’s much more involved in the development of diabetes, it seems alcohol could be a serious factor to consider.
Diabetes is a chronic medical health condition that makes it challenging for people to control their blood sugar levels. People with diabetes have difficulty making their insulin or using their insulin efficiently, which leads to rising blood glucose levels and can lead to heart, kidney, and vision problems over time. Now, alcohol plays a significant role in raising and lowering blood sugar levels, which may affect people with diabetes or those predisposed to diabetes differently.
Does Alcohol Cause Diabetes?
Alcohol does not cause diabetes. However, heavy consumption might increase the risk. Some studies show that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol might reduce the risk of diabetes, but people who consume greater amounts of alcohol experience the opposite. Moderate alcohol use is defined as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
However, too much alcohol may lead to chronic inflammation of the pancreas, impairing its ability to secrete insulin and potentially causing the onset of diabetes. Here’s how drinking alcohol can be a factor in the onset of diabetes:
- Regular heavy drinking reduces insulin sensitivity
- Heavy drinking causes chronic pancreatitis, which can lead to diabetes
- Alcohol increases obesity risk, thus raising your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
The Link Between Excessive Alcohol Consumption and Diabetes
A recent review of studies into the links between alcohol consumption and diabetes by researchers at the University of Cambridge suggests that drinking can lead to Type 2 diabetes in people who are predisposed to developing it anyway. Men who have about two drinks per day have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to nondrinkers. Other studies have shown that heavy drinkers are three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-heavy drinkers.
Alcohol can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels. The effects of alcohol are generally temporary and will go away after the alcohol is cleared from your body. However, studies show that blood glucose levels may remain high for up to 24 hours after drinking alcohol.
Can People With Diabetes Drink Alcohol?
While people with diabetes are not forbidden from consuming alcohol, they’re not encouraged to either. If someone with alcohol chooses to drink, the recommendation is to limit consumption to a moderate intake. Here’s why alcohol and diabetes don’t go well together:
- Alcohol can raise blood sugar levels and hinder control
- Alcohol makes blood sugar levels less predictable, causing them to fall quickly
- Alcohol can promote weight gain and increase the risk of diabetes complications
The main concern with diabetes and alcohol is hypoglycemia. Because alcohol can lower your blood glucose levels, some people with diabetes may be advised by their doctor not to drink at all. Extreme low blood sugar levels can cause dizziness, trembling, and difficulty concentrating.
However, if you can have an occasional drink without experiencing any adverse effects on your health or diabetes management plan, then discuss the role of alcohol in your management plan with a doctor who is familiar with managing diabetes care outside of hospital settings.
Diabetes and Alcohol Abuse Treatment
Alcohol abuse can worsen many diabetes-related medical complications such as eye disease, nerve damage, and fat metabolism. Still, nearly 46% of people with diabetes are current drinkers. Only 4% of people reported binge drinking, compared to 36% of those without diabetes.
Nonetheless, people with diabetes often struggle with mental health conditions that might lead to substance abuse problems. At least 50% of people with a substance use disorder also experience co-occurring mental health illnesses.
Depending on the severity of alcohol use disorder, someone might choose to seek inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment. For people with diabetes, withdrawal symptoms may be particularly challenging. Because of this, detox is often recommended at a treatment facility that provides medical supervision. This is partly due to fluctuating blood sugar levels that could cause fainting or other problems.
It’s important to discuss treatment options with a primary healthcare provider and seek help from a treatment center to help people manage their diabetes symptoms while in rehab.