“May I start you with a drink?” is often the first question out of a server’s mouth. You can step into someone’s home and have a glass of something thrust into your hand before you have your coat off. Sometimes going out with friends doesn’t involve food at all: “Let’s meet for a drink!” So can someone living with T1D enjoy alcohol?
Let’s be honest…. whether or not you live with diabetes, you will likely try or enjoy drinking alcohol.
Handling alcohol for a person living with diabetes is no different from handling food. It’s just something else that needs to be managed. For me, I know that it’s easier to manage if I stay away from sweet drinks. Daiquiris, sangria, mojitos – you can find a lot of sugar in these drinks, thus making them more challenging. My preference? Dry white wines. But that’s me. You might enjoy something else.
Whatever you drink, it’s important to realize how alcohol affects you. Will it make your blood sugar rise? Fall? You should drink responsibly. For me, I won’t even indulge unless I’ve checked my blood sugar to confirm that it’s in an acceptable range. If it’s over 200 for instance, or below 70, I’ll wait until it’s somewhere around 100 to 150. I’ve learned from experience that, for me, if I drink alcohol when my blood sugar is around 200 or above, my blood sugar will keep rising. Conversely, if my blood sugar is below 70, it’ll keep falling. And so, the 100 to 150 range is a good guideline for me. But your range will likely be different. It’s a case of personalization drawn from your own experience.
I’ll also monitor my blood sugar after I have a drink to gauge the effects or to decide if I want a second drink. I’m reluctant to go much beyond that without a sufficient amount of time passing. Remember: you’re in charge of managing your diabetes properly and you can’t do that if you’re impaired. You always need to be aware of your blood sugar level and able to make intelligent decisions about your insulin and food intake at all times. You wouldn’t operate a car drunk and you shouldn’t operate the management of your diabetes drunk, either.
Granted, this isn’t always easy. There’s always that well-meaning friend wanting to buy another round for everybody. Peer pressure isn’t the issue for adults that it can be for young adults or teens, but sometimes it’s still there. To avoid offending someone who sincerely just wants to offer up another drink, I’ll often make sure I’m holding a full one. Maybe it’s because I’m sipping my glass of wine very slowly, taking a good portion of the evening to drink it, or maybe it’s because I’m holding a Diet Coke. Maybe it’s even because I’m holding a dark-colored beer bottle that I’ve gone to the restroom to fill with water. In any event, I can claim honestly that, “I’m not ready for one yet, but thanks anyway!” Do whatever you’re comfortable with doing.
It always helps to have a wingman along, too. (Or wingwoman.) Someone who knows you and understands your condition and limitations. Maybe you have a few too many. It happens. Doesn’t hurt to have somebody along to remind you to check your blood sugar or eat something or even sit the next round out.
When it comes right down to it, for me at least, it’s more about the camaraderie than the drinking. However, when you choose to drink, understand how your body processes alcohol and its effect on your blood sugar levels. Be responsible.
Here’s an article focusing on how the body reacts to alcohol that I believe explains why many people living with T1D are, or should be, extremely careful with their alcohol consumption.
I welcome hearing how you manage your T1D and alcohol consumption.
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