How to Drink Wine & Keep Blood Sugar Low

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Drinking a little wine now and then won’t harm your health and may actually improve some aspects of it. But drinking too much wine or drinking wine when your blood sugar is already unsteady can be dangerous if you have diabetes. Learn how to imbibe safely, and speak to your doctor about how drinking alcohol affects your health.

Initial Effects on Blood Sugar

Wine is made from fermented grapes. During fermentation, the sugars are turned into alcohol. Wine also contains carbohydrates, the macronutrient that has the biggest effect on your blood sugar. If you have more than one drink, the carbohydrates may initially cause your blood sugar to rise. Three glasses of red wine, for example, contain almost 12 grams of carbs -- a lot to have in one sitting, especially if the drinks are accompanied by other carb-rich foods.

Later Effects

The real danger of drinking wine, however, is that alcohol can cause your blood sugar to drop too low for up to 24 hours after imbibing. Under normal conditions, the hormone insulin helps regulate your blood sugar by enabling your cells to use blood sugar for energy. However, alcohol can cause your pancreas to release too much insulin. Excess insulin in your system causes a sharp drop in blood sugar called hypoglycemia. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include sleepiness, dizziness and disorientation -- similar to drunkenness.

Tips for Tippling

Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t drink, but it does mean you need to take extra precautions. Test your blood sugar and never drink when your blood sugar is low or your stomach is empty. Follow guidelines for moderate drinking, which advise women to limit alcohol to one drink per day and men to limit their intake to two drinks daily. One drink is equal to one 5-ounce glass of wine. If you decide to drink wine, always have a little food with it.

Other Considerations

If you take insulin, you are at a higher risk for hypoglycemia after drinking wine. Continue to test your blood sugar, especially before bed, to make sure it stays at a normal level -- 100 to 140 mg/dL. If your blood sugar falls below normal, take steps to raise it back up by eating a carbohydrate-rich snack. The American Diabetes Association recommends wearing an ID bracelet that says you have diabetes so that you receive the proper treatment for hypoglycemia.