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Can I Drink Alcohol If I Have Diabetic Neuropathy?

October 29, 2018

When you have diabetes, it's important to watch what you eat and drink. What you put into your body directly affects your blood sugar levels. People who have diabetes need to control their blood sugar to reduce risks, so choosing what you put into your body is one of the most important tools you have to stay healthy and avoid problems.

Alcohol affects everyone differently. When it comes to alcohol, you need to keep a close eye on what and how much you drink. You should always talk to your doctor and your healthcare team so that you understand the effects of alcohol on your body and what you can do to manage them.

What happens when you drink?

Alcohol can have an effect on your blood sugar. Your liver's job is to regulate your blood glucose level. When you drink, your liver tries to detox your body of that alcohol and is not focused on managing your blood glucose levels. If you have diabetes, this can create problems. Your blood sugar levels can either spike (hyperglycemia) or fall (hypoglycemia).

Alcohol-Induced Hyperglycemia with Diabetes

Hyperglycemia is when your blood sugar levels become extremely high. Mixed drinks are often full of sugar (think margarita mix, pina coladas, or sugary chasers), which raises your blood sugar. When your blood sugar gets to a certain level (usually 180 to 200 mg/dL), you can become tired, thirsty, need to urinate frequently, and in serious cases, you may get diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is a complication of diabetes that happens when your body breaks down fat too fast and makes your blood acidic.

Alcohol-Induced Hypoglycemia with Diabetes

Alcohol also decreases your liver's efficiency at releasing glucose and can lower your blood sugar to dangerous levels, which is called hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is when you don't have enough glucose in your bloodstream, so your blood glucose levels dip too low. When you have hypoglycemia, you can become drowsy and unsteady with slurred speech and, in worse cases, you can become unconscious or have seizures.

Alcohol and Diabetic Neuropathy

If you have diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage caused by diabetes, you should talk to your doctor before consuming any alcohol. Nerves are very sensitive to alcohol and drinking can make nerve damage from diabetes worse. It might increase any pain, burning, tingling, and numbness you might already be experiencing from your neuropathy. It also make it harder for your body to control the pain, which can make your symptoms feel worse.

Always talk to your doctor and your healthcare team and make sure that they help you develop a plan not only when it comes to the food you eat, but also what you're drinking.

Interested in learning more about some of the doctors you can talk to if you have diabetic neuropathy and want to learn more about consuming alcohol? Check out our recent blog on "The Doctors That Can Help You with Your Diabetic Neuropathy."

Disclaimer: Diabetic neuropathy symptoms may vary from individual to individual. Please consult with your doctor before pursuing any of the actions listed above.

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