Alcohol Messes with Your Blood Sugar Levels

Sugar glucose is the main energy source for all tissues.Glucose comes from three sources: food, synthesis in the body, and break down of glycogen (the form of glucose that the body stores in the liver).


Hormones maintain a constant concentration of glucose in the blood, which is especially important for the brain because it cannot make or store glucose but depends on glucose supplied by the blood.Even brief periods of low glucose levels (hypoglycemia) can cause brain damage.


Insulin and glucagons, secreted by the pancreas, regulate blood glucose levels.Insulin lowers the glucose concentration in the blood, and glucagon raises it.Because maintaining blood sugar levels is of extreme importance for your body, there are also other hormones released from the adrenal and pituitary glands to support glucagonís function.


Alcohol messes with all three glucose sources and with the actions of regulatory hormones.


Most often chronic drinkers donít get enough glucose through their diets.If you donít eat, the glycogen stored in your liver will be used up within a few hours.In addition, the body has trouble making more glucose because it is expending its energy metabolizing the alcohol.Both of these effects of alcohol can cause severe hypoglycemia 6 to 36 hours after a binge drinking episode.


Even if you think that canít happen to you because you ate a healthy meal, you are wrong.Alcohol can still mess up blood sugar levels.If thatís not enough, studies have shown that acute alcohol consumption can impair the hormonal response to hypoglycemia.So not only do you develop hypoglycemia, your body also has trouble regulating and getting your blood sugar levels back to normal.



       Chronic drinking causes excessive blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia).

       Chronic alcohol abuse can reduce the bodyís responsiveness to insulin and cause glucose intolerance in both healthy individuals and alcoholics with liver cirrhosis.

       45-70 % of patients with alcoholic liver disease are glucose intolerant or are diabetic.

       Alcohol is really bad for diabetics because it interferes with managing diabetes.

       Alcohol can mess up effectiveness of hypoglycemic medications.

       Treatment of diabetes by tight control of blood glucose levels is difficult in alcoholics and both hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic episodes are common.



Back to Overview of Endocrine System

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