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The Dangers of Alcoholism and Hypoglycemia 

How familiar are you with alcoholism and hypoglycemia?  Did you know that 95% of people with diabetes who have an alcohol issue experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  Alcoholic drinks are not only harsh on the body but also potentially dangerous for a person with diabetes. 

Does that mean that you need to stop drinking if you have diabetes? Nope! If you enjoy a bit of alcohol then it is ok to drink a little.  It is best to drink after eating or with food. 

Do not be too concerned about low blood sugar if you only drink occasionally. A low blood sugar is very dangerous for a person who abuses alcohol. Alcohol alters our thinking and may make it difficult for a [person in that condition to recognize a low blood sugar. This can be fatal if the low blood sugar is not treated because they can go into a diabetic coma. 

To prevent this from happening it is important to understand how it happens so you can take action steps. Whether you are actively dealing with alcohol abuse or your loved one is dealing with alcohol abuse.  

man in distress sitting with a bottle of alcohol

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is when a person drinks an uncontrolled amount of alcohol, more than the recommended serving size.

A standard drink size of alcohol is:

  • Beer-12oz
  • Wine- 5oz
  • Hard liquor- 1.5oz

The CDC dietary guideline for alcohol recommends that alcohol intake is limited to 2 drinks or less for men and 1 drink or less for women.   

a woman with blurry vision and difficulty concentrating

What is Hypoglycemia 

Hypoglycemia is a blood sugar less than 70. The signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, are:

  • Shakiness
  • Sweatiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

If you experience these symptoms or if your loved one experiences these symptoms then check their blood sugar level. Low blood sugar, if not treated can cause a diabetic coma. To learn more about low blood sugar then check out this blog article.

Excess alcohol consumption can mask these symptoms.  Don’t assume that similar symptoms is due to excess alcohol consumption. 

What Kind of Alcohol Can I Drink?

 Firstly, not all alcohol is vegan. Secondly, mixed drinks tend to be higher in sugar content such as a margarita.

How to Find Vegan Alcohol

When alcohol is filtered and purified it can be exposed to gelatin, egg whites, sea shells or other items.   This process helps to purify the alcohol before it is bottled. Though only a few companies use those types of ingredients to filter and purify alcohol.

A vegan who is concerned about animal products in their alcohol should either download a paid app called Vegan Wine, Beer and Liquor Guide or visit a website.  The website Barnivore has a detailed list of which companies and alcohol is vegan friendly and which are not.    

A margarita with in a glass with limes surrounding the glass and salt around the rim

            Sugar Content in Alcohol 

Below is a list of different types of alcohol and their sugar content. As you can see hard liquor and beer do not have sugar.  Wine as a little bit of sugar while mixed drinks like a margarita has sugar.  Try to limit your consumption of mixed drinks.

  • Rum (1oz)-0g sugar
  • Vodka (1oz)- 0g sugar
  • Tequila (1 oz)- 0gm sugar B
  • Beer (12 oz)- 0gm
  • Wine (5 oz)- 1.2gm sugar
  • Margarita (4oz)- 11-12gm sugar

Alcoholism and Hypoglycemia

Despite many different types of alcohol not containing much or any sugar, it can still cause low blood sugar.  When you drink alcohol on an empty stomach then it shuts the liver down and prevents it from making any glucose.  It is very common for a person struggling with alcohol abuse to drink instead of eat. 

It is best to drink alcohol with food to prevent a low blood sugar.  Though some studies done have suggested that alcohol intake with food does lead to alcohol making a person more insulin resistant due to a potential increase in blood sugar levels.

However, a person who abuses alcohol usually does not eat when drinking alcohol and thus is put at a higher risk for low blood sugar.  

Preventing Alcoholism and  Hypoglycemia 

It may sound simple but the best way to prevent alcoholism and hypoglycemia is to eat before consuming alcohol.  This is the best solution and works best for people with diabetes who have no issues with alcohol abuse.  It is harder for those who abuse alcohol as they usually are not hungry which is why they don’t eat.

If you do not abuse alcohol but you know someone who has diabetes that does then eat while drinking alcohol or just eat while they drink.  You can always offer them food if they will accept. Otherwise, just watch out for signs of low blood sugar and have glucose tablets that you can give them if their blood sugar goes too low.    


 Alcohol can cause low blood sugar in people with diabetes who abuse it. Low blood sugar usually occurs when alcohol is consumed on an empty stomach. A few signs of low blood sugar are shakiness, sweatiness, and difficulty concentrating.  

Not all alcohol is vegan.  If this is a concern then you can download an app or go to barnivore to discover what alcoholic drinks are vegan.

Some alcohols like rum and beer do not have sugar while others like margaritas do contain sugar.  Be aware of how much sugar is in your alcoholic drink and drink it with a meal to avoid a low blood sugar. 

Preventing a low blood sugar for an alcoholic is difficult.  Carry around glucose tabs to easily bring blood sugar up if the person you are with has a low blood sugar. 

Be patient and kind to people with diabetes who abuse alcohol but also try to keep them safe.  Describe your challenges in dealing with your loved ones who have diabetes and abuse alcohol.  

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