The current recommended units of alcohol consumption per day is no different for a person with diabetes than anyone else. In the UK this is currently 21 units per week for men and 14 units per week for women.
One unit of alcohol is equivalent to half a pint of ordinary strength beer. Stronger beers have more units, for example beer at 6% has about six units in one litre. A small glass of wine (125 ml) and a standard single pub measure of spirits has about one and a half units

There is no evidence that moderate alcohol intake in someone with diabetes is harmful but there are certain situations that people with diabetes should be aware of with regards to alcohol.

First, people with diabetes taking insulin or some oral diabetes tablets run the risk of low blood sugar if alcohol is taken on an empty stomach.
Secondly, moderate but consistent drinking may contribute to weight gain because of the intake of extra and easily consumable calories.
Thirdly, alcohol in some particular situations may lead to a worsening of other conditions associated with diabetes such as diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy) and blood pressure control.

There are particular concerns for young people with Type 1 diabetes as regards alcohol consumption. One of the main issues concerns the risk of low blood sugar after a high intake of alcohol. Normally when your blood sugar levels starts to drop, the reserve sugar in your liver is released into the blood in order to keep the level constant. This automatic process forms part of the body's natural defense against hypoglycemia. Alcohol impairs this process. Any person treated with insulin may after consuming a lot of alcohol have a situation where the insulin action to lower blood sugar becomes unopposed because of impaired liver release of glucose. This person may go on to have a nasty hypo.

One of the main considerations for a person with diabetes who enjoys alcohol is simply to be aware of the effect of alcohol and take avoidance measures against developing a hypo. Never for example drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Always try to have some carbohydrate in order to provide the necessary fuel for the body to keep blood sugars levels at a safe level.

If you drink too much your ability to deal with and treat hypos effectively will be impaired. You may need to stock up on sugar more than once to prevent a second or third or repeated hypo during the night. It is advisable to check your blood sugar before going to bed and to eat a snack before going to sleep. If a glucagon injection has been administered in order to treat a severe low blood glucose reaction then it should be remembered that this may not work in the presence of a lot of alcohol.

The action of glucagon is to release sugar from the liver and this is the very thing blocked by alcohol. A severe hypo may require emergency treatment where glucose is injected intravenously by a healthcare professional.
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