How does alcohol consumption affect insulin absorption?

Diabetes and alcohol

Dr. med. Jutta Karl
Specialist in General Medicine
Main street 119
56170 Bendorf
Telephone 02622 3542
Fax 02622 900268
In addition to medication (see Antidiabetic drugs or having the blood sugar itself.

Alcohol, in particular, lowers blood sugar, so that diabetics have to be very careful when consuming alcohol and have to heed some rules of behavior.
See also: Self-test alcohol risk

For the body, alcohol is a toxin that needs to be broken down as quickly as possible. If you drink an alcoholic drink, it usually also contains sugar or carbohydrates. The liver is now responsible, on the one hand, to break down the alcohol and thus make it harmless to the body, and on the other hand, it is also responsible for producing sugar and releasing it into the blood. Since breaking down the toxin is a priority for the liver, it cannot release any sugar into the blood at the same time. The blood sugar level drops.

Antidiabetic drugs are also broken down by the liver. Since this breakdown process is also delayed, the antidiabetic drugs work longer and cause a further decrease in blood sugar. It is particularly dangerous that the blood sugar level can fall up to 12 hours after the alcohol has been consumed. If you drink alcohol in the evening, there is a particular risk of hypoglycaemia at night.

Influence of alcohol on the blood sugar control loop

Alcohol decreases blood sugar production and prevents the breakdown of antidiabetic drugs in the liver; both lead to a drop in blood sugar levels.
Therefore, after drinking alcohol: it is essential to measure your blood sugar again before going to sleep. This should not be below 140mg / dl. If the values ​​are too low, it is better to eat one or two BE before going to bed. Blood sugar should also be checked more frequently on the following day.

Alcohol should never be used as a substitute for a meal. On the contrary - it is best to drink alcohol only with a snack containing carbohydrates.

The combination of alcohol and physical activity is also particularly dangerous for a diabetic. Physical activity makes the body more sensitive to the insulin that is available, and blood sugar drops. The increased sensitivity to insulin lasts for several hours, so that the combination of physical exertion and alcohol can lead to hypoglycaemia even after a delay.
Therefore: Do not drink alcohol before or after physical exertion.

In addition to this possibility of lowering blood sugar through alcohol, one must also bear in mind that alcoholic beverages can also lead to an increase in blood sugar. In particular, sweet alcoholic drinks such as liqueurs, fruit wines, port wine or non-alcoholic beer are very sugary and can lead to an extreme increase in blood sugar. As a diabetic, such drinks should be avoided altogether.


It is in your own interest and responsibility to inform your treating physician if you are taking additional medication and to check your blood sugar more frequently than usual when treating additional illnesses (see also blood sugar testing).