Whether a glass of wine while visiting an Italian vineyard, or grabbing a beer at a nightclub in Spain, alcohol is a widely appreciated cultural experience at many travel destinations. The good news is, this doesn’t need to be taken out of your plans if you have diabetes! This being said, there are a few simple dos and don’ts when it comes to alcohol and diabetes.
The most common risk associated with alcohol is hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels). Making sure you have a quality meal before going out will make you less susceptible to hypoglycemia. The risk of a hypo can last until the next morning, so make sure to pay close attention to your blood sugars the following day.
Find Your Wingman (or Woman!)
If you do go low it is important to remember that, to someone who doesn’t know you, hypoglycemia may easily be confused for drunkenness (e.g. confusion and slurred speech). For this reason, it is a good idea to always make sure you are with someone who is aware of your diabetes and what should be done if a hypo arises. If you aren’t with a friend, then make one! Tell someone who is present that you have diabetes and what kind of help you might need.
Once you have your wingman or woman, make sure you choose the right drink. Lighter beers or dry wines are often lower in calories and can be a good choice. Whatever drink you choose, make sure that you are not using it as a meal-replacement!
Generally, carbohydrates in alcoholic beverages should not be counted towards your carb count for the day. However, you may consider counting the carbs if it is an extremely high carb drink with a mixer such as fruit juice or regular soda. When possible, avoid energy-drink mixers (i.e. Red bull) because they are often bad for both your blood pressure and blood sugar. Choosing drinks mixed with soda water or diet sodas is a better choice than high carb mixing options. Whichever drink you choose, it is helpful to keep a non-alcoholic drink on hand so that you can stay hydrated and offset the potentially adverse effects of alcohol on your body.
Back at the Hotel
Tired after the evening? Keep testing your blood glucose levels! Blood glucose levels should be taken before, during, as well as after drinking! Alcohol takes time to be processed by your body and can continue to affect you well after you have left the bar. Be especially careful to make sure your blood glucose levels are in a good spot before going to bed, going low overnight is never a good scenario!