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Alcohol and type 1 diabetes

Alcohol can be part of many social events and special occasions. There’s no reason why you can’t drink alcohol if you have type 1 diabetes, but different types of alcohol can affect your blood glucose in different ways. Get tips and advice to stay safe with alcohol.
Content last reviewed and updated: 18.10.2023

A group of people drinking alcohol at a club

Can you drink alcohol when you have type 1 diabetes?

You can drink alcohol when you have type 1, but you need to know how it will affect your blood glucose levels so you can enjoy yourself safely.

How does alcohol affect blood sugar?

Drinking alcohol that has carbohydrates in it, like beer, cider and alcopops, will cause your blood glucose levels to rise. Talk to your Diabetes Healthcare Team about how to manage your insulin around these types of alcohol.

Drinking a lot of alcohol can also cause low blood sugar and hypos. This is because when you drink alcohol, your liver has to work on breaking down the toxins and removing them. This means it can’t do other jobs, like releasing glucose into your blood, which causes your blood glucose levels to fall. Find out more about hypos and how to manage them.

The effect of this can last for many hours after you have been drinking and may continue overnight and into the next day.

What alcohol should you have?

What alcohol you choose to drink is up to you, but you should be aware that different types of alcohol have different effects on your blood glucose. Drinks like beer, cider and alcopops contain carbohydrates so will cause your blood glucose to rise.

Wine and spirits like vodka and gin have little or no carbohydrate so don’t cause your blood glucose levels to rise, but make sure you account for any mixers that may contain carbs. Choosing a diet drink as a mixer can help keep the carbohydrate content low.

Be aware that cocktails, alcopops and shots often have a lot of sugar in them.

Managing type 1 diabetes when drinking alcohol

Before you go out

Before you go out eat a good meal with long-acting carbohydrate. This can help prevent a hypo.

Get all your type 1 kit together (testing kit, test strips, glucose tablets, diabetes ID) and ready to go before you start drinking so you don’t forget anything.

Tell the people you’re going out with about your type 1 diabetes, and how they can help if you have a hypo or are sick.

Set your alarm for the next morning so you don’t miss your morning injections.

While you’re out

Test yourself regularly. This can be easier if you use a continuous glucose monitor or flash glucose monitor.

If you’re going to a club, remember that dancing might affect your blood glucose levels.

Regular soft drinks, water and snacks will help you pace yourself.

Back at home

Check your glucose levels and eat. Having a takeaway or snack on the way home will remind you to test your glucose levels and raise them if you are going low.

The morning after

You still run the risk of having a hypo well into the next morning, so don’t miss breakfast the next day and keep snacks at hand.

If you don’t feel like eating you might want to consider a slightly reduced dose of your intermediate or long-acting insulin and go back to bed. Consider getting advice from your Diabetes Healthcare Team or following your sick day plan.

What to do if you drink too much

If you’ve over-indulged, check your glucose levels. If your levels are low, then treat it as any other hypo and eat a sugary snack followed by some long-acting carbohydrate.

If you’re physically sick, you should treat this like any other occasion of vomiting. Keep checking your blood glucose levels and ketones and put your usual sick plan into action. Set an alarm to wake you again in two hours so that you can check that your blood glucose level is not too low.

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