Is it OK if my mom with type 2 diabetes drinks alcohol?

3 answers | Last updated: Dec 01, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother, recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, enjoys having a glass of wine with her friends. Is it safe for her to drink alcohol?

Expert Answers

Theresa Garnero is clinical nurse manager of Diabetes Services at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

With clearance from her physician and some caution and common sense, your mom may still partake in the pleasure of a glass of merlot if her diabetes is well controlled. Her doctor, though, may advise against drinking alcohol because of related complications such as nerve damage or high blood pressure.

Some other caveats: If your mom takes glucose-lowering diabetes pills or if she uses insulin, drinking isn't advisable. She would run the risk of her blood sugar levels going dangerously low if she mixes these medications with a margarita. Likewise, your mother should never drink on an empty stomach, since this increases her risk of having a low blood sugar episode. So suggest that she have that drop of pinot over dinner, or at least with some carbohydrate-containing nibbles such as cheese and crackers.

The standard alcohol consumption guidelines that apply to the general population apply to people with diabetes as well: Your mom should limit her intake to one unit a day (men may drink two units daily.) It's also advisable to have two alcohol-free days a week. A unit of alcohol is equal to 4.5 fluid ounces of wine (one small glass); 1.5 fluid ounces of liquor, sherry, vermouth, liqueur, or aperitif; or half a pint of regular-strength beer.

Remember, too, that when your mother drinks, she's consuming empty calories -- no nutrients -- so she runs the risk of gaining weight, since alcoholic beverages (especially cocktails filled with fruit juice and other mixers ) are high in calories. Light beer and dry wines make better choices than a Fluffy Duck or a Bloody Mary, and she should substitute low-calorie mixers like diet ginger ale, diet tonic water, or diet cola.

As an extra precautionary measure, your mom should check her glucose level before she goes to bed if she's had a drink that night, to make sure it isn't too low. If it is, she should eat a snack before she retires to avoid a hypoglycemic reaction while she sleeps. A low blood sugar reading the morning after imbibing alcohol is another risk to watch out for, so your mom should check her blood glucose upon waking as well.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

It is very helpful to me, because I some times take 2-3 bottles of draft beer.I realized now that when ever I take some bottlea of beer,I have to check by blood glucose lever before I go to bed.Some days in a week,I take two to three glasss of red wine. Thank you for your sensible answer. Menberu T With Type 2 diabetis

Ca-claire answered...

It is a very good idea to follow the advice given by Theresa Garnero. As a society we tend to think if one is good, two is better. It also doesn't help that the wine glasses have increased greatly in size over the past 40 years. 4.5 oz of wine is not very much, and is usually about half what is poured for you in a restaurant or bar situation. With the added heart problem risks, and added stroke risk just for having diabetes, it pays to be VERY careful in your intake. I stopped all alcohol about 8 years ago. Good thing I did, as my stroke risk has been affected by Sleep Apnea, and I didn't need the additional risks of diabetes and stroke added by alcohol. As an added bonus, it helped me save money....