Substance Use

Can Alcohol Cause Diabetes? Prevention & Reversibility

man laying down drinking beer and eating chips

Alcohol Abuse and Diabetes

Excessive alcohol consumption can play a role in the development of diabetes for a number of reasons, including the inflammation it causes to the pancreas and the damage it does to the liver.

Chronic alcohol consumption, particularly heavy drinking, can lead to many health problems, from kidney disease to hypoglycemia, heart disease, and many more. But can alcohol cause diabetes? Keep reading to find out.

Are you or a loved one struggling to quit drinking or with any other form of substance abuse? Zinnia Healing is here for you. Call our alcohol abuse hotline now at (855) 430-9439 to speak with one of our intake specialists to learn more about our holistic treatment options.

What Is Diabetes?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is a chronic health condition affecting how food is converted into energy.

Our bodies break down most of what we eat into glucose and release it into the bloodstream. As blood sugar glucose levels rise, the pancreas is signaled to release insulin. Insulin is the key that unlocks the door to allow blood sugar into the body’s cells for use as energy.

Having diabetes means that your body does not produce enough insulin or can’t use it properly.

Having insufficient insulin or not responding to insulin can lead to too much blood sugar staying in the bloodstream, resulting in high blood glucose levels and eventually leading to serious health concerns, like:

  • Heart disease
  • Vision loss
  • Kidney disease

Can Alcohol Cause Diabetes?

Yes, the effects of alcohol can cause diabetes.

Alcohol intake may lead to chronic inflammation of the pancreas, which impairs its ability to produce insulin, which puts you at an increased risk of diabetes. Here’s how drinking alcohol can be a factor that puts you at risk for a diabetes diagnosis:

  • Insulin sensitivity is reduced by heavy drinking
  • Alcohol causes chronic pancreatitis, which leads to diabetes
  • Alcohol increases the risk of obesity, another contributing factor to diabetes

Diabetes and alcohol use can also co-occur because alcohol contains lots of sugar and “empty calories.” It contributes to unhealthy eating, carb cravings, weight gain, and obesity.

Alcohol can also interfere with the body’s insulin sensitivity, another risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.

When chronic alcohol use leads to a diabetes diagnosis, it’s often referred to as alcohol-induced diabetes.

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Risks of Drinking Alcohol for Diabetics

Whether you have prediabetes, type 1 diabetes, or developed alcohol-induced diabetes, if you continue to drink, alcohol can make it extremely challenging to control your blood sugar.

Diabetics who have even one alcoholic drink and are otherwise well-nourished can develop dangerously high blood sugar levels. On the contrary, diabetics who consume alcohol and are malnourished can develop dangerously low blood sugar levels.

The chronic consumption of alcohol can disrupt several metabolic functions (including those involved with blood glucose homeostasis) and could contribute to developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

A wide range of other diabetes-related health problems can also be caused by excessive drinking, including cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders. Health complications that can arise for diabetics who consume alcohol include:

1. Diabetic Ketoacidosis

According to the National Library of Medicine, diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious and life-threatening diabetes complication that develops when the body cannot produce enough insulin.

To compensate for this lack of insulin and energy, the liver may produce excessive ketone bodies by excessively converting circulating fatty acid molecules. This can have serious health consequences.

Research shows that heavy alcohol consumption, defined as 16 or more alcoholic drinks per day, can increase the risk of ketoacidosis in people with diabetes, posing extreme health risks for heavy drinkers with diabetes.

2. Lipid Metabolism Alterations

Certain diabetes-related lipid abnormalities can be exacerbated by heavy alcohol consumption. In fact, alcohol consumption can result in the following:

  • The level of triglycerides is elevated
  • Levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) are reduced
  • Levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol are elevated

3. Heart Disease

According to the CDC, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in people with type 2 diabetes. An individual’s blood pressure can also rise when they drink alcohol excessively, which can further increase their risk of cardiovascular disease.

4. Retinopathy

Heavy alcohol consumption can also increase the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy or eye disease. This common diabetic complication is the leading cause of blindness in diabetics.

5. Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a form of nerve damage to nerves vital for muscle function and feeling touch, pain, vibration, and temperature.

Diabetic neuropathy is most commonly caused by diabetes and alcohol consumption.

Preventing and Reversing Alcohol-Induced Diabetes

The good news is that if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, the condition is often reversible with a few lifestyle changes, including:

  • Get to and maintain a healthy weight
  • Get active. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day
  • Eat a balanced diet. Limit sugar and carbohydrate consumption
  • Cut back on alcohol consumption. The American Diabetes Association suggests that adults with prediabetes should limit their alcohol consumption to moderate use to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Quit smoking, or don’t start

Diabetes is a serious health condition that can lead to several other illnesses and disorders. If you have prediabetes or another type of diabetes, it’s important to make the proper lifestyle changes to reverse or manage the condition, including stopping drinking.

Three Types of Diabetes

The three main types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1 diabetes: A type of autoimmune disease, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed in people with type 1 diabetes. To survive, people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetics either don’t produce enough insulin or their body’s cells don’t respond to it. The most common type of diabetes, up to 95% of people with diabetes have type 2.
  • Gestational diabetes: This type of diabetes develops in some pregnant women and usually goes away after pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Symptoms of Diabetes

According to the CDC, the most common signs of diabetes include:

  • The frequent need to urinate
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Constant hunger
  • Blurry vision
  • Numb and/or tingling hands or feet
  • Constant fatigue
  • Very dry skin
  • Sudden onset of more infections than usual

Reduce Health Risks and Get Help With Alcohol Addiction Today

If you want to stop drinking to manage your diabetes risk or diabetes diagnosis but are struggling to do so on your own, it’s important to know you’re not alone.

At Zinnia Healing, our caring and compassionate team of alcohol use disorder addiction specialists create personalized recovery plans based on the unique history, needs, and circumstances of every client. Contact us today to learn more.

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