Can Quitting Alcohol Reverse Diabetes? 

As a diabetes dietitian, I am frequently asked about the relationship between alcohol and diabetes. Specifically if quitting alcohol could potentially reverse the progression of prediabetes or type 2.

Lifestyle modifications play a pivotal role in managing diabetes. Among the many factors influencing blood sugar levels, alcohol consumption stands out as a significant factor. 

In this blog, I explore this question to provide you accurate information, credible resources and practical tips! Keep reading if you are interested in understanding the nuances of raising a glass while managing diabetes. 

The information provided in this blog is intended for informational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. It is also not intended to encourage alcohol consumption. 

Consult with a qualified healthcare professional for personalized advice, diagnosis or treatment for your specific needs. This content should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. 

Can Quitting Alcohol Reverse Diabetes?

Quitting alcohol is unlikely to reverse diabetes. However, quitting can reduce blood sugar complications. 

Excessive consumption is linked to weight gain, insulin resistance and poor blood sugar control. All of these are risk factors for the development and progression of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. 

Quitting or limiting alcohol can provide positive changes such as better sleep quality, weight control, improved mental health, increased energy and reduced risk of health complications. 

Nonetheless, lifestyle modifications such as adopting a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, and adhering to your medication regime remain crucial components to managing diabetes. All of these can be positively affected by eliminating or decreasing alcohol intake.

Alcohol and Type 2 Diabetes 

Can you drink alcohol with diabetes? The simple answer is yes. But before you grab a glass, make sure you understand the potential challenges. 

Alcohol can have a significant impact on blood sugar levels, especially for individuals living with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. 

Alcohol interferes with the liver’s ability to produce glucose and impairs the body’s response to insulin, leading to fluctuations in blood sugar levels. 

Think of it this way – It is your liver’s job to make new glucose and send it into your bloodstream. When you drink, your liver’s ability to do its job is compromised, leading to dips in blood sugar levels.

Learn more about alcohol and type 2 diabetes

Can Alcohol Cause Diabetes?

Drinking alcohol does not directly cause prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, but increased sugar and carbs from alcohol has an effect on your blood sugar.

However, excessive or chronic consumption can increase the risk of developing a chronic condition such as type 2 diabetes. 

Risks of Drinking Alcohol with Diabetes

Drinking alcohol can pose risks for anyone but the risks are higher for those managing diabetes. 

  • Alcohol and hypoglycemia: Alcohol can lower blood sugar levels, which can lead to hypoglycemia if consumed on an empty stomach or in combination with certain diabetes medications. 
  • Insulin resistance and alcohol: Beverages containing high amounts of calories and carbohydrates can contribute to weight gain and exacerbate insulin resistance. 
  • Impaired judgment: Alcohol can impair judgment, making it harder to recognize symptoms or a high or low blood sugar. 
  • Medication interaction: Alcohol can interact with certain medications, potentially impacting their effectiveness. 

Navigating Alcohol Consumption and Diabetes

Before consuming alcohol, discuss intake with your healthcare provider to ensure it aligns with your diabetes management plan and any other medications you may be taking. 

If you have diabetes and choose to consume alcohol, these tips can be helpful to keep in mind:

Monitor blood sugar levels

Monitor levels before, during and after drinking alcohol as levels can quickly change.

Alcohol can lower blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of hypoglycemia so be vigilant for signs and symptoms of low blood sugar. 

Avoid high carbohydrate cocktails

Cocktails and mixers with added sugars can cause spikes in blood sugars, making them best to avoid.

Instead, choose lower carb options such as light beer, dry wine or spirits mixed with sugar-free mixers, sparkling water or diet soda. 

Avoid drinking on an empty stomach

Have a balanced plate when planning to consume an alcoholic drink. The nutrients from the meal can help slow the absorption of alcohol and reduce the risk for glucose spikes or dips. 

If you need quick and easy snack ideas, check out Balanced Snack + 20 Healthy Snack Ideas!

Stay hydrated

When you are dehydrated, blood volume decreases, leading to a higher concentration of glucose in the bloodstream. This can result in elevated blood sugar readings. 

Plus, dehydration can impair kidney function, which plays a large role in filtering and excreting excess glucose from the bloodstream. 

Try pairing each alcoholic beverage with a glass of water to prevent dehydration and help maintain stable blood sugars. 

Inform family and friends

Let your family and friends know about your condition so they can be helpful in the case of an emergency. 

Drink in moderation

Stick to alcohol consumption guidelines, which generally recommend up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. 

Drinking in moderation minimizes impact on blood sugars and overall health. 

Know personal limits

Learn how alcohol affects your blood sugars to know when it’s time to stop drinking and switch to a glass of water or low carb mocktail.

Summary

Alcohol has an effect on diabetes and limiting your consumption will reduce your blood sugars. This blood sugar reduction can have a great effect on your overall health and well-being with diabetes. But, can quitting alcohol reverse diabetes? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is…. probably not.

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Need Help?

For mental or substance use disorders in the United States, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889, or text your zip code to 435748 (HELP4U), or use the FindTreatment.gov to get help.

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If you are ready to take the leap and transform your health, check out my Resources Page. I can help you grow & flourish with diabetes!

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Springtime Nutrition, LLC was founded on my passion to partner with individuals to eliminate the stress, frustration and overwhelm of changing their nutrition lifestyle. I am committed to supporting you at every step of your journey. Ready to transform your life?  Get started today!


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Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist/ Registered Dietitian/ Owner / Springtime Nutrition, LLC

Kari is a diabetes expert with more than 18 years of experience. Kari currently works as a diabetes educator with a large hospital system in Charleston, SC and is committed to improving the lives of people with any type of diabetes.

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