Friendly Reminder: Alcohol and Blood Sugar

Kelsey Bonilla Health Guide
  • Alcohol is a tricky thing if you have diabetes. With the holidays and all of the associated parties just around the corner, it seems like a good time for a reminder about how to handle drinking when you're diabetic.

    Actually, my office has its annual "holiday" party in mid-November each year. Rather than try to compete with the other local businesses for a good party location in December, we've taking the proactive step of changing it to an "Employee Appreciation Gala" and moving the date up. So, last weekend was our shindig, we took a cruise around San Diego Bay, and the alcohol was flowing!

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    I stuck to Chardonnay for the evening, and only had three glasses over several hours. However, I definitely noticed the alcohol's affect on my blood sugars. Here's how my night went:

    As we were finishing getting ready to leave, I tested my blood sugar and saw a result of 95 mg/dl. I still had a couple of units of insulin-on-board, so I gobbled down a few dried peaches as I finished my make-up.

    When we boarded the ship at 6:00 p.m., Dennis and I were each given a glass of champagne. After a few sips, we weren't sure if the rocking motion was from the boat or just the champagne! We each ditched the second half of our glasses and went to the bar for something more to our liking. We sipped our drinks on the deck, enjoying the 80 degree weather in November and the passed hors dourves of crab stuffed mushrooms and chicken curry. Due to the wine, my earlier "lowish" blood sugar, and the low carbohydrate content of the food, I didn't bolus for any of the pre-dinner snacks.

    Dennis and I enjoyed playing blackjack with fake money for awhile and then headed upstairs for dinner. The main meal turned out to be fajitas (only in San Diego!) and were quite tasty. I tested before digging in: 118 mg/dl. Still taking into consideration the alcohol, I bolused one unit of insulin for my dinner, the only carbohydrates coming from a flour tortilla.

    After dancing and some more wine, we followed some of my friends over to their hotel across the street from the dock. I tested my blood sugar: 122 mg/dl. I wasn't drinking anymore, but I decided to reduce my basal rate for a couple hours, just to keep my blood sugar from bottoming out. This turned out to be a good decision. When we arrived home, I tested my blood before climbing into bed: 110 mg/dl. I grabbed a couple pieces of dried fruit and caught four hours of sleep before Sienna woke up at 6:15 a.m. Motherhood doesn't wait when you choose to say out too late!

    When I tested my blood in the morning, it was 68 mg/dl. I drank some orange juice and then my mom and I decided to get a coffee down the street (she'd stayed the night at our place since we were out until after 1:00 a.m.) At the coffee shop, I decided to indulge in a chocolate croissant (my favorite!) along with a strong cup of coffee. Based on my past experience, I knew that my blood sugars tended to go low for several hours after an evening of drinking alcohol. Therefore, I only bloused 2.5 units of insulin for my treat, which would have typically demanded 4 or 5 units to cover.

  • About two hours after blousing, I tested my blood to learn that I was 89 mg/dl! My blood sugar continued to trend low for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. It's amazing how your liver works, metabolizing the alcohol instead of releasing glucose into your body. It's so important for diabetics to keep this in mind, should they choose to drink a bit more during the holiday season, what with the festive Christmas drinks and New Year's Eve champagne toasts.

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    Stay safe everyone!!



Published On: November 18, 2008