The pancreas, which is located behind the stomach, serves two functions. The first function, which involves most of the pancreatic cells, is the production of digestive enzymes. Those enzymes are secreted directly into the gut to ensure effective food digestion. The second function is the production of several hormones. Two of the hormones (i.e., insulin and glucagon) are potent regulators of blood sugar levels.
Both hormones are produced in areas of the pancreas called the Islets of Langerhans, which, quite literally, are “islands” of hormone-producing cells in a “sea” of digestive enzyme-producing cells. Among other cell types, the Islets of Langerhans include an inner core of insulin-producing beta cells surrounded by a layer of glucagon-producing alpha cells. Alcoholism and excessive alcohol intake can cause problems in the functionality of most parts of your body. For example, you may not only have liver problems, but you could have kidney or adrenal gland problems because of excessive alcohol use.
We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers. So, what else should you know about alcohol and hypoglycemia? First, ifyou have diabetes, you should be very careful with your drinking because consuming more than a moderate amount of alcohol can prove dangerous.
If you have frequent hypoglycemia, you may lose many of the early symptoms and be at particular risk of sudden loss of consciousness, seizure or bizarre behavior. This could affect your ability to operate machinery or a motor vehicle. Although rare, reactive hypoglycemia may also eco sober house ma occur in people without diabetes. Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Can alcohol make hypoglycemia worse?
Alcohol may make hypoglycemia more likely. The mechanism behind this effect involves the liver. The liver is an organ that plays a vital role in stabilizing glucose levels. It does this by acting as a reservoir for carbohydrates.
Gluconeogenesis, which also occurs primarily in the liver, involves the formation of new glucose molecules from alanine and glycerol. Alanine is generated during the breakdown of proteins in the muscles, whereas glycerol is formed during the metabolism of certain fat molecules (i.e., triglycerides). Alcohol metabolism in the liver, however, actually shuts down the process of gluconeogenesis and thus the second line of defense against hypoglycemia. Consequently, both eco sober house of the body’s mechanisms to sustain blood sugar levels are inactivated in people who consume alcohol but do not eat, resulting in profound hypoglycemia. Insulin resistance does not immediately lead to overt diabetes, because the patient’s pancreatic beta cells initially can increase their insulin production enough to compensate for the insulin resistance. In fact, insulin-resistant people have higher than normal insulin levels (i.e., are hyperinsulinemic1).
Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol?
At this point, alcohol can affect blood sugar in ways that are especially important for people with type 2 diabetes. This is because the liver is where excess glucose is stored in a form called glycogen. However, the situation is different for those who’ve been fasting or are in a ketogenic state because these people already have much less glucose stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Normally this state prompts the liver to produce new glucose via gluconeogenesis, but, as noted above, alcohol inhibits this process. The result is that glucose levels can fall to dangerously low levels and in extreme cases, this hypoglycemic state can lead to seizures, coma, or death.
What is the best alcoholic drink for hypoglycemia?
Gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey
These liquors contain 0 grams of carbs per 1.5-ounce (45-mL) serving ( 24 ). However, the carb content of your drink may vary depending on what you mix the liquor with. Avoid mixing liquor with sugary juices or sugar-containing soda.
Alcohol can both increase and decrease the levels of these blood sugars, exacerbating pre-existing diabetic symptoms. Hypoglycemia is a very common result of chronic heavy drinking because alcohol is a highly refined sugar that is rapidly absorbed through the stomach lining. The alcoholic brain prefers alcohol to sugar because it provides a quicker hit. A high sugar diet can certainly cause hypoglycemia for a nondrinker, but alcoholism and hypoglycemia often go hand in hand.
Alcohol and Type 1 Diabetes: How to Manage A Night Out and the Morning After
This results in a decrease in blood pressure as the liver stops the release of more sugar. During this process, blood sugar levels are artificially low since alcohol keeps the liver from functioning normally. After about 12 hours, most of the alcohol is eliminated, and the liver begins to function normally, releasing sugar.
Eating food, especially foods containing carbohydrates, with alcohol can keep your blood sugar levels from dropping too low. Diabetes and alcohol consumption are the two most common underlying causes of peripheral neuropathy. Among diabetics, the prevalence of neuropathy with obvious symptoms (i.e., symptomatic neuropathy) increases with increasing disease duration. That increase in prevalence was most apparent in patients with a disease duration of less than 4 years. Other researchers observed that the prevalence of neuropathy in type 1 diabetics increased in a linear fashion with the alcohol amount consumed . Those researchers also reported that diabetics who consumed more than eight standard drinks per week developed peripheral neuropathy faster than did diabetics who consumed eight or fewer drinks per week.
The Links Between Hypoglycemia and Alcohol and How to Fix It
Knowing what alcoholic drink you can and can’t have is tricky, in addition most who are alcoholic cannot keep boundaries when it comes to any sort of alcohol consumption. When you drink alcohol daily or consume alcohol once in a while, the outward effects are similar to low blood sugar. It can be difficult to diagnose an alcohol use disorder in someone struggling with alcohol and diabetes. For many people, having a drink or two is part of their daily routine. An hour at a pub or a game night with friends usually means having a few drinks. But, for people with diabetes, drinking alcohol is a bit more complicated.
This is because alcohol contains calories, which the liver converts into glucose. If you drink too much alcohol, it can raise your blood sugar levels. Your body processes alcohol differently than most foods and beverages. And if you have type 2 diabetes, drinking alcohol may have some benefits—such as lowering glucose levels in the blood—and some real risks, like driving glucose levels down too low. Keep in mind that alcohol may lead to weight gain because it adds extra calories to a person’s diet.
Throughout the day, it is not uncommon for blood sugar levels to vary. This is because blood sugar levels often depend on what and when you eat. When you eat, your body releases a hormone called insulin. Diabetes is defined as an imbalance of glucose metabolism, leading to high blood sugar levels and serious health consequences.
Can drinking alcohol cause hypoglycemia?
Your liver will choose to metabolize the alcohol over maintaining your blood sugar, which can lead to hypoglycemia. The liver often makes this choice when you drink without eating food—so consider snacking while you sip.
Do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach or when your blood glucose is low. Any time you drink alcohol, there is a risk of low blood sugar. Drink alcohol with a meal or with a carbohydrate-rich snack to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Glycogen is a large molecule that consists of numerous glucose molecules and serves as a storage form of glucose in the tissues, particularly the liver. Generally, the glycogen supply is depleted after 1 or 2 days of fasting.
Becoming familiar with the liver’s function can help you understand the effect of alcohol on diabetes and the effect of alcohol and blood sugar in general. This can happen to people who do not have control over their diabetes. If someone with diabetes uses too much of their medication, they may experience below-normal blood sugar, called hypoglycemia. Drinking alcohol spikes insulin levels, which can lead to episodes of low blood sugar. This problem can become chronic for alcoholics, who are also deficient in nutrients like chromium that regulate blood sugar levels. Cutting out excess sugar, and only enjoying sweets on special occasions was one of the best things I ever did to feel better after beating alcoholism.
People with diabetes, though, have trouble managing blood sugar levels. Fortunately, most forms of diabetes can be specially managed with insulin. Instead of releasing stored glucose as normal, the liver must break down the blood alcohol. This means that glucose is not released and the levels of blood glucose fall. This can result in a myriad of symptoms, including sweating, palpitations, blurred sight, trembling, and headaches.
- This way, if an emergency arises, medical personnel will know you have diabetes.
- In three patients, those changes did not reverse, even after months or years.
- Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented by having a healthy lifestyle and eating healthy food.
- Hypoglycemic coma with ketoacidosis in nondiabetic alcoholics.
People with type 2 continue to produce insulin in early disease stages; however, their bodies do not respond adequately to the hormone (i.e., the patients are resistant to insulin’s effects). Thus, insulin does not lower blood sugar levels to the extent that it does in people without diabetes. The insulin resistance is partly inherited and partly acquired. For example, obesity, inactivity, and cigarette smoking may worsen genetically determined insulin resistance. If an individual with diabetes is hypoglycemic and their blood sugar levels do not improve after eating carbohydrates, they should seek medical attention.
Under the influence of excess glucagon, some of the free fatty acids are converted to ketone bodies and secreted into the blood, causing severe health consequences. HbA1c levels were significantly higher in drinking type 2 diabetics than in nondrinking type 2 diabetics who, in turn, had significantly higher HbA1c levels than did the nondiabetic control subjects. Two additional medications—metformin and troglitazone—are now being used to treat people with type 2 diabetes.
Whereas my sweet tooth was insatiable when I quit drinking, these days a small bite of the chocolate cake is all I want. It’s recommended that you don’t include the carbohydrate content of alcohol https://sober-house.org/ in your carb-counting calculations. You should aim to eat some carbohydrates every few hours as you continue to drink. It’s best to avoid drinking large amounts of alcohol in one session.
If there is no food in the stomach, the pyloric valve is open and the alcohol can go straight into the small intestine. What happens next depends on whether or not food is there. Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.
Can alcohol cause hypoglycemia in non diabetics?
Alcohol can also increase the insulin response to a glucose load, which may result in postprandial hypoglycemia after eating a small meal (42). Alcohol-induced hypoglycemia is usually associated with elevated levels of β-hydroxybutyrate and low insulin and c-peptide levels.