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Beer, Breweries, and Blood Glucose

Eric Lagergren

August 26, 2010

I enjoy good beer. Actually, I love good beer.

I live in a state with over 50 microbreweries, which isn’t something I take for granted. See, few things are as enjoyable to me as a Dark Horse Brewing Company’s Sapient Trip Ale, or their Crooked Tree I.P.A. If you place a pint of Dragonmead Microbrewery’s Final Absolution Belgian Style Tripel on the table in front of me, my mouth will begin to water. I eagerly await Bell’s Brewery’s Sparkling Ale when it’s in season. And I live just a short two-block walk from the Corner Brewery, which makes many of my favorite beers: Sacred Cow I.P.A., Phat Abbot Belgian Tripel, and Strawberry Blonde — and yes, if you happened to click on the Corner link, that’s me in the photograph on their homepage.

But I also have Type 1 diabetes. Bummer, right? I mean, that right there — diabetes — would be enough for many people to say “Stop the beer consumption!” But will I put the kibosh on partaking of this plethora of wonderful, accessible beer? No, dear readers. No, I won’t.

I’ve heard it from friends and family. I’ve had people comment on this blog in the past. I’ve read online the screeds of many people with diabetes who are anti-alcohol.

That’s fine. But that’s not me.

I’m not advocating anyone incorporate great beer into his or her self-management regimen. There is no doubt that alcohol and diabetes don’t mix incredibly well. I do not deny this. After all, when I drink beer, my liver turns its focus to getting rid of the alcohol in the beer instead of helping to regulate my blood glucose. This means I have to be careful about how I approach a life that involves an ill-functioning pancreas, the infusion of insulin, and the imbibing of beer.

I’ve learned during my three and a half years coexisting with diabetes that I am able drink responsibly, moderately, and safely, without problems or ill effects on my health, and without adverse affects on my blood glucose. How? Oh, that’s a long, long story. In short: practice, awareness, observation, and, quite honestly, a mentality that means always, regardless of whether it’s one, or two, or three beers — and never more than three, and that would be over four or five hours of an evening — I don’t forget that I am a person who has diabetes who is drinking this beer. I do not forget, even though I can be in the company of friends or at breweries who have great beers to offer, who have no shortage of new varieties to sample, that I am not them. I am not a normal beer drinker. I have diabetes.

So, yes, while I won’t go into detail about how I came to be able to enjoy a pint or two safely — because what works for me might not work for you — it can be done. There are resources out there that explain in-depth how you should approach alcohol if you have diabetes. The American Diabetes Association has a page on alcohol. I like this page from EverydayHealth.com about the mixing of Type 1 diabetes and alcohol. And Diabetes Self-Management blogger Amy Campbell has written a series of entries entitled Diabetes and Alcohol: Do the Two Mix?

And maybe the most important thing if you drink: discuss the topic with your endocrinologist and primary-care physician. I’ve talked about it with my doctors. I’m not trying to hide anything. Because liking beer even though I have diabetes doesn’t mean I should feel stigmatized, or guilty, or think I’m doing something I ought not to be doing.


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