Diabetes and Alcohol – Do or Don’t?

Q. Where is the best site/source/ etc to gather good information re t1d pump user and drinking alcohol..

A lot of mixed info… Mr 17 is getting to that stage and we need to learn what the go is…another new stage to get through..and a scary one..

With this question Elissa thought she would ask her eldest son Sam (25) to share his insight and experience of drinking alcohol with Type 1 diabetes.

*Please note this is not medical advice, please talk to your healthcare professional about any concerns you have with alcohol and diabetes.

A. Alcohol seems to be a bit of a touchy topic in the diabetes world…some doctors will outright tell you that you shouldn’t consume alcohol, while others are of the opinion that it’s okay if done safely and in moderation.

I was diagnosed at the age of 16, and now at the age of 25 I can say that in my opinion, having a few drinks is okay; as long as your diabetes is well controlled and you are familiar with how your body reacts.

When I first started drinking I was lucky enough to have a good group of mates who were all very familiar with my diabetes, so I knew that I always had people looking out for me in case I hypoed badly. Before we would go out I would always have a couple of the boys come up to me and ask “is your sugar okay? Have you tested?”. I think that in general, but especially at a young age, it’s important to have people around you who know what to do in an emergency situation and are going to look out for you when drinking.

Another very important factor is having good control of your diabetes and knowing how your body reacts to different kinds of alcohol. Everyone’s diabetes is different. I have found that alcohol causes my sugar levels to drop, but unfortunately it’s not that simple. When drinking mixed spirits (I’m partial to the odd rum and coke on a night out…) the sugar in the soft drink will cause my BGL to rise, while the alcohol in rum will still cause my levels to drop somewhat. So it becomes a balancing act when it comes to if/how much insulin you should inject per drink (for example: I usually only put in for 20g of the 31g of carbs in a pre-mix can of rum and coke). I find drinks like beer cause my sugar to drop unless I eat a small amount of food/soft drink without injecting insulin for it.

Knowing the symptoms your body shows for low and high sugar is also very important, as I find the feeling between being drunk and hypoing can be very similar which can be very dangerous. When people ask me what it feels like to hypo the example I often use is “drunk without the good part”. In my case, I find that the first sign of a hypo is usually extreme hunger pains and the craving for food, and this is what I use as a guide to differentiate between the feeling of being intoxicated and hypoing. Knowing the signs of high/low sugar for your own body is key here.

At the end of the day drinking alcohol is a risk when you’re living with Diabetes, but if you take the right precautions it’s possible to greatly minimise that risk. The 17/18 year old teenage years can be a difficult time for a T1 diabetic, and I think it’s important that teenagers are allowed to have that sense of “normal” otherwise they will only end up resenting their condition and start seeing it as some kind of terrible affliction that stops them from doing things they want to do. I can’t stress enough that these are just MY personal experiences and some may disagree with my views, but I think that in those early adult years it’s very important to nurture a positive attitude towards living with T1 diabetes as I believe it goes hand in hand with living a healthy, happy life and wanting to maintain good control of it.

Sam

Diabetes Australia has some useful tips and advice for drinking alcohol, be sure to check out their downloadable PDF at https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/should-i-drink-alcohol

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