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Diabetes and Alcohol: Do the Two Mix? (Part 3)
February 4, 2008
Over the last two weeks, we’ve been taking a closer look at alcohol. Several of you have submitted great questions and comments about alcohol, too. The use of alcohol among people with diabetes often stirs up controversy: There are those who feel that people with diabetes shouldn’t drink at all, while others remain on the fence and believe it’s OK to have alcohol once in a while.
It’s important to point out that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to drinking alcohol. That’s why I repeatedly state that it’s important to have this discussion with your health-care provider, as the “rules” can vary from person to person.
But, assuming that you’ve gotten the green light from your provider to carefully and safely enjoy alcohol on occasion, how do you fit it into your meal plan? How much can you drink? And what are the best choices? Let’s go through these questions one by one.
Fitting alcohol into your meal plan
Remember, too, that alcohol may lead to low blood glucose in people taking insulin with a meal or those taking a sulfonylurea drug, such as glipizide, glyburide, or glimepiride. If you take any of these types of medicines, be sure to eat a carbohydrate-containing food, such as bread, pasta, rice, or fruit, with your alcohol. If you need to shave calories from somewhere else in your meal plan, you may want to think about cutting out some fat, such as margarine, oil, or salad dressing, for example.
How much to drink?
Men are “allowed” more alcohol than women because men can process alcohol more efficiently. Therefore, if and when you choose to drink, the guideline for men is no more than two servings of alcohol per day; for women, no more than one serving.
What about nonalcoholic beer and wine? Because these beverages contain little, if any, alcohol, you may actually need to count them as carbohydrate choices in your meal plan. Many nonalcoholic beers contain close to 15 grams of carb (equal to 1 slice of bread or 1 small piece of fruit).
In summary, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to alcohol. For some people, the safest and smartest approach to take is to not drink any alcohol. For others, the goal is to learn how to fit alcohol into your diabetes treatment plan safely—ask your health-care team if you’re not sure.
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