Diabetes and Alcohol

Diabetes is a condition that is characterized by the body’s inability to manage sugar, either due to the inability to produce insulin or improper utilization or production of insulin. There is another temporary condition that afflicts pregnant women which is known as Gestational Diabetes. The most commonly occurring form of diabetes is the Type 2 diabetes, which is the improper absorption or low production of insulin in the body. Insulin works with the liver in controlling the blood sugar. Alcohol and Diabetes can be a bad combination because alcohol can interfere with the liver’s management of the sugar in the blood.

Insulin is a chemical that is released by the body directly into the bloodstream. This makes it a hormone. This hormone regulates the amount of sugar in the blood. When the sugar in the blood is more than what the body requires as fuel, insulin triggers the liver to start converting the glucose, which is the simplest form of sugar, into glycogen for storage. When the blood sugar drops too low, another hormone tells the liver to convert the glycogen back into glucose so that the body can burn it for energy.

When the body does not produce enough insulin, the blood sugar remains unchecked. If it remains high for an extended period of time, it can start affecting organs. Kidneys and heart are very often affected by diabetes. Diabetes has been known to cause blindness, because of nerve damage. Since it affects circulation, diabetics face a risk of infection and even gangrene if they sustain an injury on the feet, which have the poorest circulation.

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Alcohol is a fast burning fuel which provides instant energy, but which is not sustained. When the alcohol enters the body, it is absorbed by the bloodstream in a very short time. Since it burns more easily than sugar, the body uses it for energy while the sugar in the blood remains unused. The liver, on the other hand, treats alcohol like a toxin. As soon as it detects alcohol in the blood, the liver starts trying to flush it out. As long as the consumption is slower than the rate at which the liver removes it, the problem is under control. However, the moment the rate of alcohol consumption goes above the rate at which the liver flushes out the alcohol, the liver stops all other functions.

Once the liver becomes totally focused on removing the alcohol, the sugar levels in the blood remain unchecked. The reverse is true too. If the blood sugar levels go down, the liver does not release the glycogen to form sugar. This leads to hypoglycemia and can be even more dangerous than high blood sugar. The symptoms of hypoglycemia are very similar to drunkenness. They both cause loss of coordination, slurring of speech and dizziness. Hypoglycemia, if left unchecked, can cause unconsciousness and loss of oxygen to the brain. This may lead to permanent brain damage. Not only this, alcohol can also inhibit insulin absorption and render ineffective any diabetes medication. Alcohol and diabetes should be kept apart for this reason.

If you do choose to drink the American Diabetes Association recommends never drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, Limiting yourself to 1 drink if you are female or 2 drinks if you are make and using sugar free drink mixers.

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