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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Diabetes type 2 and alcohol

For people who have diabetes type 2, and have had to learn about sugar control, glycemic index, insulin, insulin sensitivity, there is a lot of worry about what does alcohol intake mean for those who suffer from diabetes ? There are so many conflicting trends with alcohol -
- Supposedly, alcohol in small quantities is helpful, especially drinks such as wine
- If you are drinking alcohol, then drinking a small amount of alcohol on a regular basis has positive effects on the chance of getting heart attacks, strokes, etc.
- Drinking beer (along with the associated fast food, chips, etc) can be bad for your health because of the calorific intake of food that is not healthy
- Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol on a regular basis (especially binge drinking) is harmful

This complicates life for diabetics, who need to figure out whether they can drink harmful. So, is there a simple answer ? Well, guess you expected it - No. The simple answer is that it depends on what your complications are from diabetes; so if you are getting your diabetes checked on a regular basis with a doctor, questions about alcohol intake should be checked with a doctor. Below are some generic notes on the subject to help your awareness level.

- Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol (such as wine, or hard drinks such as whiskey, rum, vodka, etc) is fine. In fact, small quantities of alcohol on a regular basis can help in terms of decreased risk for coronary disease, strokes, and help with insulin sensitivity. However, keep in mind that there is right now not much in terms of cause and effect medical studies to explain this; these conclusions are based on doing statistical analysis on a large number of patients (in the above case, moderate means 2 12oz amounts of beer, or 2 pegs of hard alcohol)
- Drinking larger amounts of alcohol on a regular basis is harmful
- Because the liver helps in generating glucose if blood sugar levels drop, this helps in preventing low blood sugar levels. However, with alcohol in the body, the liver treats this alcohol as a toxin and switches to cleaning the blood as a top priority. This means that if the blood sugar level drops, the liver will not help, and this increases the change of ending up with low levels of blood sugar. If you are drinking, make sure that you are not doing this on an empty stomach, and it may help to actually consume a light snack before going to sleep.
- Exercise helps in reducing blood sugar, so if you are going in for heavy exercise, followed by some time at the club consuming some type of alcohol, you could be risking low levels of blood sugar (since in both cases, you blood sugar level would drop)
- When you drink, especially something like beer (which is mostly empty calories), and you are trying to lose weight, you are actually under-cutting your weight reduction efforts
- When people drink stuff other than beer or wine, they usually add something to their drink (this could be a soda to the drink, or a cocktail), then unless you are adding a diet drink, you could be actually consuming a fair amount of sugar that you don't even think about
- Heavy drinking has bad effects on your liver, and decreases the effectiveness of the liver in being able to pump glucose into your blood stream when the blood sugar level decreases
- In some cases, alcohol should not be drunk at all
A) When you are having nerve damage due to diabetes; in such cases the alcohol attacks the nerves causing more pain and damage. This is not related to high levels of drinking, and happens even when you are drinking moderately
B) If you have eye damage due to diabetes, reduce the alcohol intake, or cut it out altogether
C) For diabetics, there is a worry about a type of fat in the blood called triglyceride. These need to be under control, but for a number of diabetics, this is not the case. Alcohol intake causes more problems with triglyceride; hence alcohol intake should be cut or stopped.
D) If you have high blood pressure, then reduce or cut the alcohol intake.

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