Alcohol and your diabetes at Christmas

My 2017 Health & Weight loss Goals for easterEaster time is a time for meeting with friends and family and inevitably involves food and drinks. It has been a good 15 weeks since the Christmas break with a little celebration at Patrick’s weekend in between.  For many, Easter is the end of lent and a return to more fun and less rules / “sacrifices”.

Enjoy the Easter.

Here is a quick refresher on healthy guidelines around alcohol


What is a standard Drink? 


  • Alcohol should only be taken in moderation
  • World Health Organisation define a binge as six or more standard drinks in one short session.
  • Low-risk guidelines  are-
    • 11 standard drinks per week for women (1.5 bottles of wine approx)
    • 17 standard drinks per week for men (8.5 pints of beer or 17 shots)
    • binge drinking is warned against – a binge is  three or more pints of beer or six or more pub measures of spirits in one sitting
    • Aim to have 3-4 alcohol free days per week


Visit to calculate your intake. Images courtesy of DrinkAware.

Alcohol Guidelines for people with Diabetes

The general advice on alcohol consumption for a person with diabetes is the same as that for everyone. However, there are some precautions a person with diabetes should take, if your diabetes is diet controlled:

  • Choose ordinary varieties of beer or lager as opposed to the low sugar ones e.g. Satenbrau, Holsten Pils
  • Avoid sweet drinks or liqueurs and use sugar free, diet or low calorie mixers
  • Alternate an alcoholic drink with a low calorie mixer or sparkling water
  • Remember that alcohol contains calories and these must be taken into account for overall food intake for the day
  • If you have been recommended to reduce your weight, consider limiting your alcohol intake to special occasions

Diabetes managed with medication or insulin
For the person whose diabetes is treated with insulin or sulphonylureas please remember that extra care is required to prevent hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Your judgement may be affected when you drink and you may not recognise when blood glucose levels are low.
To reduce this risk:

  • Keep to sensible drinking levels
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. Always have some carbohydrates like bread before you go out for an evening
  • Eat little and often while when taking alcohol.
  • Always carry identification and let your friends know that you have diabetes so that a low blood sugar is not mistaken for drunkenness
  • Choose sugar free mixers and avoid alcopops. Have a glass of water or diet drink for every second drink, this will not only reduce the calories, but will also help the hangover
  • Always carry glucose tablets or sweets
  • Remember a hypo can happen some hours after a drinking session so test your blood sugar before going to bed
  • Avoid low sugar beers/lagers as they are high in alcohol (Satenbrau, Holsten Pils )
  • Use a spirit measure when at home
  • Know your drinks and check the ABV (alcohol by volume) of your regular drink.


  • Have a snack before going to sleep
  • Set the alarm clock for getting up in the morning and have someone reliable check that you are up
  • If you have had more to drink than 2-3 standard drinks, it is a good idea to check your blood glucose more frequently than normal the following day as you are still at risk of hypo.

NB: It is illegal in Ireland for persons under the age of 18 to purchase or consume alcohol.

Further Tips that may help you – 





Alcohol dehydrates – you will notice you go to the toilet more often when drinking


Mind your LIVER



Use sugar-free drinks to spritz



Calculate your alcohol intake and see the calories, units and cost