The Dangers of Alcohol and Diabetes

The Dangers of Alcohol and Diabetes

Alcohol and Diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is an increasingly serious condition that is affecting more people every year. It is currently estimated that there are 4 million people in the UK who are living with it. This represents about 6% of the total population has this chronic disease. Higher than that is the rates of prediabetes in this country. It’s estimated that 35% of the population is prediabetic, which means their blood sugar levels were bordering on diabetic levels. This number has tripled in the past two decades. While this is a dangerous condition, with potentially deadly outcomes, it can actually be much, much worse. Alcohol consumption can be challenging for people with diabetes and needs to be monitored closely. It can worsen diabetes and rapidly damage the body to the point of coma and death. Pay attention to drinking alcohol if you have diabetes; this could save your life.

What causes diabetes?

Most people have probably heard, or known, someone with diabetes, but probably have not spent much time learning what it is. Diabetes is chronic, meaning it is a lifelong, medical condition that needs to be monitored and managed every day. There is no cure for it. People who live with this disease need to take special care of themselves or else there will be serious consequences.

It is a disease where the body does not make enough insulin, or the insulin it does make is not effective. Insulin, made in the pancreas, is a hormone that helps the body process sugar, or glucose. Glucose levels are checked and are what flags a person as prediabetic.

High glucose levels in the blood will slowly damage the body. The glucose in the blood can harm vision, causing blindness, nerve damage and numbness in the extremities, kidney damage and cardiovascular disease. Often, people who do not manage their diabetes well end up having a foot amputated due to the damage done to the nerves and sores that develop as a result. The end result could even be as serious as coma or death from mismanaged diabetes. Another problem is that symptoms of low blood sugar level may be confused with the side effects of drunkenness, making such a condition easy to overlook in alcoholics.

Diabetes Symptoms

There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is a form that can be diagnosed at birth and is a genetic disorder. The body simply never made enough insulin, and this was just how they were born. Type 2  is one where the disease is a result of how a person lives, their diet and overall health. It is more common in people over the age of 40, who are overweight, and make meal choices high in processed foods and sugars or sugar substitutes. Type 2 diabetes causes are when the pancreas is not able to make enough insulin, or it loses its effectiveness with the type of diet and lifestyle the diabetic is living.

Some of the signs and symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin)
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is vital that you speak with your doctor about them.

Diabetes is a treatable disorder. It involves making serious adjustments to the way diabetics act and eat. They need to monitor their sugar levels regularly and try to manage this first through diet and exercise. They are also able to give themselves insulin injections to help increase insulin levels in the blood and process the glucose. It can be difficult to make these lifestyle changes, so stopping it before it gets to diabetes is always recommended.

Can alcohol cause diabetes?

While there is no direct link, like if you drink 4 or more beers a day, you will become diabetic, it is safe to say that there is a strong link between alcohol and diabetes type 2. Obviously, there is no need or way to link type 1  to diet since a person is born with diabetes.

With type 2, the person’s diet is one of the main factors that doctors will look at for causation. People with a chronic alcohol use disorder will be at much higher risk for developing diabetes in their lifetime.

There are a few reasons for this. First, alcohol as a whole adds to a person’s weight and is one of the single leading causes of obesity in the population. In type 2, one of the leading causes is obesity. The more weight a person puts on, the more likely they are to develop type 2 diabetes, and almost any type of alcohol puts weight on a person.

Pancreatitis 

Chronic alcohol abuse is also a cause of pancreatitis, a disease of the pancreas which damages and enlarges it. This will prevent proper insulin production and lead to diabetes.

Heavy use can also damage the body’s ability to use insulin fully. This prevents its ability to process glucose and leaves more and more of it in the bloodstream. The glucose begins to damage the body as the diabetes sets in.

Alcohol use disorder as a whole is the breakdown of a person’s life and lifestyle. Their world begins to revolve more and more around drinking and self-care and healthy choices are removed due to the addiction. This is just an overall risk factor, due to the unhealthy nature of addiction, and the abuse of alcohol, and lack of healthy choices.

Is drinking while being diabetic harmful?

Everyone drinks alcohol now and again. We have been referring to chronic or heavy drinking as a risk factor or referring to people who have an alcohol abuse disorder. This is defined by the number of symptoms that a person has, which focuses more on their behaviour, and less on the amount they consume.

A person who is dependent typically begins doing less and less in their lives, focusing more and more on drinking. They also will begin to experience some changes as their body adjusts to the amount they drink and even begins to need alcohol to function normally.

Some symptoms a person with an alcohol use disorder can exhibit include:

  • Trying to quit or cut back, but being unable to
  • Needing more and more  to feel the same effects as when they first started drinking (tolerance)
  • Continuing to drink despite any negative consequences they have at work, home, or elsewhere
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, like drinking  and driving
  • Falling behind in major life areas, like work or school due to drinking
  • Spending more and more time drinking, getting drunk, or recovering from drinking
  • Having  withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit

If these symptoms seem familiar to you or describe someone you know, please reach out for help immediately.

How does alcohol adversely affect diabetics?

The big question that people want to know is if it is harmful to drink alcohol while being diabetic. The answer to this is simple; it is ok to drink in moderation if you have diabetes if your blood sugar is well maintained. You should always consult with a physician before making diet changes, or doing anything that may impact your blood sugar or health.

The issue arises when a person struggles with drinking in moderation, being able to stop, or is trying to manage an alcohol or other substance use disorder. They will struggle to stop, have tried to stop many times, and have not been able to maintain sobriety on their own.

When a person drinks too much alcohol and has diabetes, specific harmful issues will come up that can threaten their health and life. A person who drinks heavily is often at risk of hypoglycemia, dramatic dips in blood sugar levels. The glucose levels become too low, and the person can feel dizzy, confused, feel sluggish or drowsy, and can even lead to coma. While this can be treated, it is a life-threatening situation that can be easily avoided instead.

One of the more common problems that happen when people drink while managing their diabetes is that they develop hypertension. Chronic high blood pressure is a result of too much alcohol and high glucose levels. High blood pressure can damage internal organs and harm the body’s ability to heal itself.

Drinking heavily and being diabetic also puts a person at a much higher risk of having a heart attack or having other cardiovascular events. This could include a stroke or heart disease. Alcohol abuse could also lead to permanent nerve damage, numbness, and partial paralysis.

People can certainly drink alcohol if they have diabetes.  However, they need to already be in a healthy place, managing their blood sugar and well-being. For a person with an alcohol abuse disorder, this is not the case. While their health and diabetes need to be treated, they also have the added responsibility of working on their sobriety.  Chronic diabetes can be managed and treated. That starts with reaching out for help and treatment as soon as possible for either condition. Help is available to you, and this could save your life.

If you have noticed a problem with alcohol consumption the only way to ensure the safety is to quit drinking and seek treatment for alcoholism immediately.

Contact one of our treatment specialists who can give you free advice and treatment today on 02072052845

Sign up to our Newsletters by Email