Whether it’s a cold beer at your family BBQ, a glass of celebratory champagne, or a few sips of winewhile cooking, alcohol may be present in your everyday life. For people living with diabetes, alcohol may be a touchy subject. You may have avoided alcohol out of confusion about whether or not it’s safe for you. You aren’t the only one with hesitations as people with diabetes drink half as much as others, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Combined with healthy eating, exercise, and taking medications, avoiding or limiting alcohol is another way to stay healthy with diabetes. Learn more about drinking alcohol while taking Metformin.

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol

People with diabetes can drink alcohol in moderation, which is the best way to drink alcohol for healthy people, regardless of a diabetes diagnosis. If you choose to enjoy alcohol every so often, moderate drinking is the way to help keep yourself safe.

Moderate drinking is drinking up to one serving of alcohol daily for women and two servings for men.

Here’s what one serving of alcohol looks like:

  • 12 oz beer, cider, and hard seltzer
  • 8 oz malt liquor
  • 5 oz wine
  • 1.5 oz hard liquor or distilled spirits

Risks of excess alcohol and Metformin

It’s safe to say that lots of alcohol and Metformin don’t mix. Two side effects of drinking too much alcohol while taking Metformin are low blood sugars and lactic acidosis.

Low blood sugars

Alcohol has a lowering effect on blood sugar, and if they drop too low, you will not feel like yourself. Hypoglycemia is another way to say low blood sugars. Even moderate drinking can lead to blood sugars falling to unsafe levels because your liver is busy breaking down the alcohol instead of keeping your blood sugars stable. Consider snacking before you start drinking. Though hypoglycemia is possible for diabetes in general, people with type 1 diabetes are at a greater risk.

You may experience  hypoglycemia if you have any of these symptoms:

  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • slurred speech
  • blurry vision
  • headaches

Symptoms of hypoglycemia mimic symptoms of being drunk. Consider letting your social groups know you have diabetes, so they can get you the help you need if there’s a medical emergency.

Lactic acidosis

Your body produces lactic acid, a natural chemical, for energy. Both metformin and alcohol stimulate your body to make more lactic acid. So, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol when taking Metformin can lead to a build-up of lactic acid in your blood, wreaking havoc on the blood vessels, heart, kidneys, and lungs. This condition is called lactic acidosis and can be life-threatening (source).

You may experience  lactic acidosis if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Rapid or fast breathing
  • Stomach pain
  • fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Muscle pain or cramping

If you feel you start experiencing any of the symptoms above, please seek immediate medical attention.

Following these suggestions can help you “cheers” your next drink confidently! If you are interested in learning more about balancing alcohol with medications, reach out to one of our care team, and they can help you develop a plan and goals for how to safely drink when you have diabetes.