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NutriSense Blog
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Alcohol and Blood Sugar: The Impact of Drinking

November 26, 2021
Reviewed by
Carlee Hayes, RDN, CD

With the holidays upon us, you're probably not thinking twice about indulging in an alcoholic beverage here and there. And for most of us, there’s nothing wrong with that! However, if you suffer from health conditions, you may need to be a little more cautious about how much alcohol you’re drinking.

For people with diabetes or those trying to control and regulate their blood glucose, alcohol consumption can pose a bit of a risk. This is because alcohol affects blood sugar levels and can also impair the efficacy of certain medications. If you don't stop to consider the effect every glass of alcohol has on your body, it's likely because you don’t have a health condition that compels you to. But if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes or know you’re prediabetic, you may need to pay more attention.

Studies have shown that alcohol can affect those with diabetes in dramatically different ways. People with diabetes who have a consistent, healthy diet find that drinking alcohol may result in extremely high blood sugar levels. People with diabetes who do not have a healthy, balanced diet may find that alcohol consumption results in very low blood sugar levels. Heavy drinking can also cause certain acids to accumulate in the bloodstream of those with diabetes.

Interestingly, how alcohol affects your blood sugar levels also depends on whether or not you have recently eaten. A study conducted on these two states while drinking found that participants who had eaten saw higher blood sugar levels. Those who hadn’t eaten or were in fasting states were at a higher risk of experiencing hypoglycemia. Wondering how alcohol affects you and how you might be able to safely indulge every once in a while? Read on to find out.

The Role Your Liver Plays in Moderating Your Blood Sugar

To understand how alcohol impacts glucose, it’s essential to first understand the liver’s role in maintaining stable glucose levels. The liver plays a huge role in blood sugar circulation and control. Your liver is actually a storage place for glucose and helps your system keep your body’s fuel levels stable.

Not only does your liver store glucose for when your body requires it, but it can create glucose through a process called glycogenolysis. Glycogenolysis is when your liver takes glycogen and turns it into glucose. It can also make glucose by using amino acids, fat, and waste which is called gluconeogenesis.

How Alcohol Impacts the Liver’s Ability to Release Appropriate Amounts of Glucose

When you consume alcohol, your blood sugar levels may drop because you’re inhibiting your liver’s ability to release glucose from its storage or create more. Initially, alcohol can often lead to a spike in your sugar levels, which your body will race to process and may metabolize too quickly. This is why your blood sugar may actually drop when consuming alcohol [this is without factoring in sugary mixers, of course]. While your body struggles with the spike that alcohol sends to your liver, it cannot release glucose properly because it is, simply put, overwhelmed.

Different types of alcohol factor in as well. Beer, which is very carb-heavy, causes more immediate and more drastic spikes in glucose levels. Sugary cocktails can be glucose bombs. Sweeter wines are also known to cause spikes. However, liquor on its own and some types of dryer wines may affect the liver differently and result in glucose drops, or no drop or spike at all!

How Long Does Alcohol Affect Your Blood Sugar?

The impact of alcohol may last more than just in the moment, with ranges changing up to 12 hours after drinking. The initial spike and/or dip in blood sugar can occur over one or two hours after consuming the beverage, but the effect can last much longer. Because the body has no storage space for alcohol, alcohol is oxidated first. This means that anything consumed with that alcohol drink will be put “on the back burner,” so to speak, causing ongoing changes in glucose. This can mean higher values the entire night and into the next day after drinking for many people.

Other Effects on The Body Related to Blood Sugar, Alcohol, and Diabetes

Responses to alcohol can differ from person to person, and it’s an interesting idea to experiment a little bit to see how your body responds to different types. But if you have diabetes, you may not want to make any drastic changes without consulting your doctor. In the meantime, here are a few other effects alcohol can have on your body and your blood glucose levels.

Stimulates Hunger Resulting in Potential Weight Gain

  • Alcohol can be an appetite stimulant. This may result in overeating while imbibing and consuming more calories than your body truly needs.
  • Alcohol also inhibits your judgment after consumption and can lead you to make snap decisions about the foods you consume while you’re drinking. This can also lead to some blood sugar spikes.
  • Alcohol itself is high in calories, and if you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to consider drinking less of it. If you’re drinking alcohol, stick to low-sugar mixers!

Alcohol Reduces the Effectiveness of Diabetes Medications

  • If you’re on diabetes medications, you should be more cautious when you’re drinking alcohol. Some medicines are made to help your body lower your blood sugar levels. When paired with alcohol, the combination can cause hypoglycemia or insulin shock. When your blood levels drop too quickly, your body can go into literal shock, leading to a medical emergency.
  • If you’re on diabetic medication, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before indulging to ensure it is safe to do so and how to find the right balance if so.

It Can Increase Blood Pressure

  • If you have high blood pressure, you may want to avoid drinking alcohol as it can worsen the issue.
  • In a healthy adult, three drinks in one sitting can lead to high blood pressure. Long-term effects can be seen among adults who repeatedly binge drink [binge-drinking is consuming four, five, or more drinks within two hours]. Using a CGM can help you find your body’s tolerance when you’re drinking more than one beverage in a single sitting.
  • Alcohol also contains a significant amount of calories and can stimulate your appetite. Being overweight or suddenly gaining excessive weight can also lead to high blood pressure.

Alcohol Can Damage the Pancreas [Which Creates Insulin]

  • Alcohol is an inflammatory agent, and consumption may result in inflammation of the pancreas. Your pancreas is the organ that creates insulin for the body. If it becomes inflamed, that production and release can be threatened, leading to insulin deficiencies.
  • If you have diabetes, this poses an immediate risk, but too much damage over time can also cause diabetes in some people.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption is also linked to pancreatitis. This is when the pancreas becomes so inflamed that it prevents healthy digestion.

Excess Alcohol Puts Pressure on Other Organs [Lungs, Kidneys, Skin, Etc.]

Alcohol doesn’t just affect your liver; it can affect your other organs too. Here’s just a few ways it can do this:

  • How it affects your heart: Over-drinking can cause cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, strokes, and high blood pressure.
  • How it affects your brain: Alcohol affects your neural pathways, changing how your brain functions. This can lead to behavioral changes when you’re indulging as well as while the alcohol is still in your system.
  • How it affects your immune system: Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to viruses and infections.

It Can Impair Sleep Quality

  • Alcohol may reduce REM sleep and cause sleep disruptions. This makes some people fall asleep too quickly, hitting deep sleep instead of progressing through all the natural sleep states, leading to insomnia.
  • Drinking alcohol has been linked to developing sleep apnea, which occurs when you have lapses in your breathing patterns during sleep.
  • The body can perceive alcohol as a stressor, causing increased glucose output and reductions in insulin sensitivity. Both these factors can result in higher glucose values overnight and the following day.
  • A recommendation to consider is trying not to consume alcohol four hours or more before bedtime.

Learn How Blood Sugar Monitoring Can Increase Your Overall Health with NutriSense

Managing your blood glucose levels is a good idea no matter what food and drink choices you make. NutriSense helps you monitor and track blood glucose levels using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that measures your glucose levels 24/7. And while people with diabetes have been using CGMs for years, the CDC recommends checking your glucose levels even if you’re not showing symptoms.

With NutriSense, you can pair your CGM with an innovative app to manage and track everything from physical activity and food intake to stress, sleep, and other routines and habits. You even get consistent feedback from your own registered dietitian to help you understand the data and manage it to optimize your health.

Click here to listen to the podcast.
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Alcohol and Blood Sugar: The Impact of Drinking
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Improving Insulin Resistance, PCOS, and Overall Health with Continuous Glucose Monitors
Improving Insulin Resistance, PCOS, and Overall Health with Continuous Glucose Monitors

In today's episode, Amber talks with Molly, one of the dieticians at Nutrisense, a health technology company that specializes in Continuous Glucose Monitors.

Podcast
56
min
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How To Use A Continuous Glucose Monitor To Master Glucose Response and Avoid Disease: Carlee Hayes
How To Use A Continuous Glucose Monitor To Master Glucose Response and Avoid Disease: Carlee Hayes

We talk about tracking blood glucose and why it's important to see your individual glucose response to meals, stress, exercise, and even during sleep.

Podcast
74
min
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Understanding Blood Glucose Measuring For Fat Loss and More on Keto & Carnivore with Kara Collier
Understanding Blood Glucose Measuring For Fat Loss and More on Keto & Carnivore with Kara Collier

This episode is about how to understand blood glucose numbers for fat loss on Keto & Carnivore with Kara Collier, RDN, CNSC.

Podcast
73
min
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Hack Your Goals with Continuous Blood Glucose Monitoring (CGM)
Hack Your Goals with Continuous Blood Glucose Monitoring (CGM)

Achieve Your Goals with Continuous Blood Glucose Monitoring: Kara Collier, RDN, LDN, CNSC. Nutrisense Director of Nutrition.

Kara is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist (LDN), and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC) who specializes in glucose control and metabolism. She graduated from Purdue University and previously worked at Memphis VA Medical Center, as a clinical dietitian at Providence Hospital, and in a management role at Nutritionix.

Podcast
76
min
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The Power of Monitoring Glucose Levels with Kara Collier
The Power of Monitoring Glucose Levels with Kara Collier

Kara Collier is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician with a background in clinical nutrition, nutrition technology, and entrepreneurship.

Podcast
73
min
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The Power of Monitoring Glucose Levels
The Power of Monitoring Glucose Levels

Kara Collier is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician with a background in clinical nutrition, nutrition technology, and entrepreneurship. After becoming frustrated with the traditional healthcare system, she helped start the company NutriSense where she is now the Director of Nutrition. Kara is the leading authority on the use of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology, particularly in non-diabetics for the purposes of health optimization, disease prevention, and reversing metabolic dysfunction. Kara oversees the health team and product development and has personally interpreted thousands of complex glucose datasets.

Podcast
58
min
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Optimizing Health Through Continuous Glucose Monitoring
Optimizing Health Through Continuous Glucose Monitoring

Metabolic health involves staying within a controlled glucose level and avoiding repeated “swings” in your glucose levels.

Podcast
50
min
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Continuous Glucose Monitors for healthy individuals looking to improve their glucose stability
Continuous Glucose Monitors for healthy individuals looking to improve their glucose stability

Information from Kara Collier about glucose and sleep: how are those two things connected, and what can we glean from monitoring this area related to improving sleep?

Podcast
48
min
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Optimizing Your Health Using NutriSense Continuous Glucose Monitoring with Carlee Hayes
Optimizing Your Health Using NutriSense Continuous Glucose Monitoring with Carlee Hayes

In this episode, Dr. Renee is joined by Lead Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Nutrisense Continuous Glucose Monitoring, Carlee Hayes, as they take a deep dive into monitoring

Podcast
45
min
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The Lowdown on the NutriSense Continuous Glucose Monitor
The Lowdown on the NutriSense Continuous Glucose Monitor

Listen in to hear the breakdown on who this CGM is good for, who it’s NOT good for, and how it can be a beneficial step to help some who are looking to take their established healt

Podcast
42
min
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What Glucose Data Says About Your Health
What Glucose Data Says About Your Health

In this episode, we sit down with Kara Collier from NutriSense to discuss continuous glucose monitors (CGM).

Podcast
41
min
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The Change Maker! Kara Collier on The Surprising Benefits of Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
The Change Maker! Kara Collier on The Surprising Benefits of Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

The latest in nutrition, exercise, and dietary supplements. Guests include world record holders, documentary film makers, best selling authors, and health experts from all...

Podcast
34
min
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NutriSense Discusses CGMs on Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast
NutriSense Discusses CGMs on Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast

Kara from NutriSense joins the Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast with Christopher Kelly to explain why everyone should wear a CGM at least once

Podcast
27
min
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NutriSense is the very best
NutriSense is the very best

Dan and Kara from Nutrisense talk to Kyle Kingsbury about all things health and CGM technology.

Podcast
23
min
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Tips to Balance Blood Sugar and Optimize Metabolic Health - Part 2
Tips to Balance Blood Sugar and Optimize Metabolic Health - Part 2

Welcome to the second part of our metabolic health episode! Here you’ll learn more strategies to support your insulin and blood sugar levels.

Podcast
20
min
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Rusty Humphries Weight Loss - lessons learned
Rusty Humphries Weight Loss - lessons learned

On this episode of The Nisha Jackson Podcast, Nisha talks with co-host Rusty Humphries about his successful weight loss journey of 30+ pounds and improving.

Podcast
22
min
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NutraCast: NutriSense on glucose monitoring
NutraCast: NutriSense on glucose monitoring

NutraCast's Danielle Masterson speaks with NutriSense Director of Nutrition, Kara Collier, on the benefits of Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) technology and the NutriSense app.

Podcast
18
min
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NutriSense CEO Alex Skryl on Bootstrapping In America
NutriSense CEO Alex Skryl on Bootstrapping In America

Some of the most interesting stories around are from entrepreneurs willing to take an idea and turn it into a business...

Podcast
14
min
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STOP making losing weight so hard!
STOP making losing weight so hard!

We will dive into how to not make every attempt at weight loss so hard, it really shouldn't be… and you truly have the control over this.⠀

Podcast
24
min
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14 Weight loss tips
14 Weight loss tips

14 tips to help you get the weight loss momentum going and provide you with a guide to lose weight and keep it off.⠀

Podcast
54
min
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Can Continuous Glucose Monitoring Support Your Health Goals?
Can Continuous Glucose Monitoring Support Your Health Goals?

Blood glucose holds keys to many important health markers including metabolic health, insulin levels, and our risk for chronic disease.

Podcast
57
min
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Learn to Better Regulate Blood Sugar All Day Long
Learn to Better Regulate Blood Sugar All Day Long

We're back with a brand new interview on our Conversations with Cabral podcast that centers on the topic on of controlling blood sugar for maximum body transformation and wellness results!   I’ve invited Kara Collier, co-founder of NutriSense, to share what she has learned from thousands of customers’ data wearing continuous glucose monitors…   For all the details on learning how to better regulate blood sugar all day long tune into today’s #CabralConcept 2099 - Enjoy the show and let @KaraCollier1 and me know what you thought in the comments!