Type 1 diabetes & alcohol: Why drinking alcohol with T1D might cause an overnight hypo
This post contains information taken from Straight to the Point: A guide for living with type 1 diabetes, written and edited by healthcare professionals as part of our 2022: Kick T1D goals campaign. Download the full version for free here.
In Australia, guidelines on the level of alcohol consumption for people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) are the same as that for the general population. That’s no more than two standard drinks for men on any given day, and one standard drink for women, with both men and women having at least two alcohol-free days each week.
Of course, we’re all human and on occasion you may wish to ignore these guidelines! If you’re planning on having more than a couple of drinks, there are some things to prepare and look out for to ensure you can have a great night and morning after.
One of these considerations is avoiding the dreaded 4am hangover hypo. We all know alcohol increases our risk of hypoglycaemia, but why does it do this? What’s the science behind this phenomenon and how can you avoid it? We have the answers.
Alcohol & your liver
We hate to break it to you, but the truth is alcohol and your liver have a complicated (read: toxic) relationship. Your liver’s role is to break down and eliminate any harmful substances in your blood, produce bile to aid your digestion and store glycogen – and it works OVERTIME when you’re on a night out or even just having a few drinks at home.
In fact, your liver does 90% of the work processing the alcohol you consume, with the remaining 10% left to exit your body in your sweat, urine or breath. It’s no wonder that even if you didn’t live with T1D, alcohol can have a long-term impact on your liver!
Alcohol induced hypoglycaemia
Throughout the day, your liver slowly releases stored glucose into your bloodstream. Your slow-acting (basal) insulin helps control how quickly this glucose is released!
When you drink alcohol, it slows down the liver’s ability to release glucose into the blood, as it’s busy doing 90% of the work to eliminate the alcohol from your system. It’s no longer able to release enough glucose to prevent your BGLs from going too low, especially if you have insulin on board. It takes about one hour for your liver to process a standard alcoholic drink. Six drinks means six hours, placing you at risk of alcohol induced hypoglycaemia overnight.
Alcohol induced hypoglycaemia can become dangerous if you hit the hay without first considering the effect alcohol can have on your T1D and taking steps to mitigate the 4am hangover hypo.
There are many strategies you can use to help reduce the risk of a 4am hangover hypo, but the best and most effective steps you can take are:
- Eat some snacks at the beginning of the night, as well as every few hours while you are drinking; and,
- Have a snack with carbs before you go to sleep or reduce your basal insulin by 10-20%! Kebabs and burritos are a crowd favourite if you decide to go for the snack.
We bet your mates wouldn’t mind stopping in for one at the end of a night out, too.
To learn more about avoiding the 4am hangover hypo, and to arm yourself with more practical tips on drinking alcohol with T1D, you can download Straight to the Point: A guide for adults living with type 1 diabetes.
JDRF Australia welcomes significant commitment to improving lives of Australian type 1 diabetes (T1D) community
Coalition commitment of $273.1M will make technology access a reality for 130,000 Australians living with T1D. JDRF, Australia’s largest organisation dedicated to T1D research and advocacy, welcomes the significant commitment to T1D technology access announced today by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Currently, many people lose access to this technology, which is shown to improve short- […]
Get to know Ellen Brown: How she manages her type 1 diabetes while pursuing her love for sport
20-year-old Ellen Brown was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 10 years old, however, her diagnosis didn’t hold her back from pursuing her passion for sport. Earlier this year, Ellen competed in the ACT Women’s Youth Futsal Team, with her team winning the grand final at the Australian Futsal Association (AFA) National Championships. Ellen has […]
National Diabetes Week 2022: Diabetes stigma and your mental health
Did you know that four out of every five people living with diabetes have experienced stigma? A 2021 study by the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes found that more than 80% of people with diabetes “have been judged, blamed, shamed, or treated differently due to their diabetes”. This can, in turn, often lead […]
A new resource for teens living with type 1 diabetes
We are excited to announce the launch of our brand new teen wellbeing guide, Testing Times, designed to help teenagers manage their type 1 diabetes (T1D) while staying on top of studying, socialising and the changes that come with transitioning into adulthood. The guide was created with the knowledge and expertise of T1D healthcare clinicians. […]
Ground breaking type 1 diabetes research projects in the U.S.
JDRF is committed to not only supporting cutting-edge type 1 diabetes (T1D) research but also staying on top of the latest T1D research developments across other areas of the world. We were thrilled to attend (virtually) the 2022 American Diabetes Association (ADA) Scientific Meeting held in New Orleans last month, to learn about some exciting […]
Want more help having fun?
Fill out this form to have Straight to the Point: A guide for adults living with T1D sent directly to your inbox.