I don't understand how alcohol can cause hypoglycemina in diabetics. It seems to me that it would cause hyperglycemia because of the sugar in the alcohol. I just heard a story of an adult who passed out twice because she had wine after taking insulin. Her blood sugar was 175 when she took her insulin and within 15 minutes she was passed out. My son is 16 and although he doesn't drink and states that he has no intention of starting; I need to know how the body handles alcohol when you have diabetes.
As you may know we're not physicians here, but we are experienced diabetics. We volunteers are most experienced with Type 1 diabetes, and altho' there are some similarities with Type 2 we do have quite a different disease.
Here is the mechanism that makes us so vulnerable to severe hypos when we've been drinking.
In general, when we have a hypo, especially a very "low low," the stress hormones cause our liver to convert glycogen stores into glucose that gets released into our blood system. This action by the liver protects us, essentially, from dying due to a low that we can't treat with external added glucose.
Alcohol, by itself, has very few carbohydrates (tho' folks who drink sweet drinks take on carbos from those mixers or sweet alcohols, but spirits, wine & many beers have very few carbos). Anyway, when we drink alochol, it is "perceived" by our liver as TOXIN and the liver will "focus" first on clearing that toxin out of our system. This work cannot be speeded up or slowed down really, it just takes the liver time to clean out the alcohol from our system. From the liver's "point of view," the toxin is so dangerous, it will focus on cleaning it out TO THE EXCLUSION of doing any other liver jobs. Thus, if we happen to go low, we cannot count on our liver to also convert glycogen into life-saving glucose for us. The result can be disastrous! If we go low and are unable to detect it, we will continue to drop ... if we are not treated, we will continue to drop. Since alcohol impairs many cognitive functions, it's potentially a deadly combination, as you have read.
Adults with diabetes can drink small amounts if their doctor says it's okay (sometimes diabetics cannot drink at all because of interference with other meds that require the liver to "do stuff" which it cannot do when it's cleaning out alcohol). It is important to never drink without also eating food and to never drink when there's no one else around who's sober & aware enuf to help if needed.
HOpe this rather human description of what our liver is doing helps you & your son udnerstand the basic idea.
I have been diabetic for 5 years now. As a college student, drinking is a large part of the social scene for the majority of the population on campus. I have been successful in being able to maintain decent control (65-160)while drinking heavily. Alcohol (beer) will raise levels consistent with any grain carbs and will not lower levels significantly with minimal levels of insulin in your system. I find that on a full or empty stomach, a small shot of quick acting insulin (4-5 units) for 6 or 7 beers will be perfect. It is important to remember that you will not feel lows (I already am desensitized so I dont feel anything till low 60's) and you must check very very often. It is good to be able to spot trends and alwasy have food on you at all times. I am always surrounded by friends that know my disease and never drink enough to pass out.
The effects of binge drinking on the body in the long run are what scare me. It is a two headed dragon against my liver and other organs. I focus on being smart with my levels while enjoying a couple years of partying. If when you get drunk you eat without a shot or forget to check...DONT DRINK. It takes time to master,
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