Health Questions & Answers #59 ~ [Issue 1204-4]
Dec 28, 2004 09:54 PST
Q & A #1:
I have diabetes. Is it harmful for me to have an occasional beer or
If your diabetes is well controlled, you may be able to have a beer
or alcoholic drink with a meal once or twice a week. However,
consider the following: Alcohol increases your risk of low blood
sugar (hypoglycemia). Alcohol temporarily prevents your liver from
releasing sugar (glucose) into the blood. To prevent this, do not
drink on an empty stomach or if your blood sugar is already low. Less
commonly, alcohol may raise blood sugar. This increase is due to the
high number of calories in alcohol and any mix you may add. Monitor
your blood sugar levels before and after drinking alcohol to see how
your body responds to it. Alcohol has many calories but no nutrients.
If you are trying to lose weight, alcohol may not be a good choice.
One ounce of alcohol counts as two fat servings. Alcohol may impair
your judgment. You may eat more or less than you need, which could
affect your blood sugar. Alcohol may not mix with your medication.
You risk having low blood sugar when you drink alcohol - even as
little as 2 ounces - if you take insulin or diabetes pills. Ask your
doctor or pharmacist if it is okay for you to drink alcohol based on
the medications you take. Alcohol can increase triglyceride levels,
which can raise your risk of blood vessel damage. People with
diabetes are at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than are
people without diabetes. If you have high triglycerides, limit your
Q & A #2:
Is it true that people who have diabetes should not use cold medicines?
Many over-the-counter liquid cough and cold medicines contain sugar,
usually dextrose. If you have diabetes, always check the label. Small
doses of these medications are usually safe. But if taken regularly -
every four to six hours, as is often suggested - they can increase
your blood sugar level. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about
sugar-free cough and cold medicines. Some cough and cold medicines
also have ingredients that can raise heart rate and blood pressure.
People with diabetes may have existing problems with heart rate and
blood pressure. For this reason, check with your doctor before you
use these medications. During an illness, remember to continue to
check your blood sugar levels because they may be affected by the
Q & A #3:
Does the caffeine in soft drinks affect blood sugar?
There is no evidence that caffeine affects blood sugar. For most
people, consuming moderate amounts of caffeine - about 300 milligrams
a day - is safe.
Q & A #4:
Can vitamin supplements cause a rise in blood sugar levels?
In general, vitamin supplements have no effect on blood sugar. A
multivitamin is appropriate for many people - whether or not they
have diabetes. However, people with kidney impairment, a potential
complication of diabetes, should consult with their doctors before
taking any nutritional supplement.
Q & A #5:
Is there a connection between mood and blood sugar levels in children?
Fluctuating blood sugar levels can be associated with changes in mood
- although this typically occurs at extremely high and low blood
sugar levels. If these mood swings occur often, it is important to
measure and record your child's blood sugar level when you notice a
change in mood. If needed, your child's doctor can use this
information to make appropriate adjustments in the dose of insulin or
other glucose-lowering drugs. Many factors may contribute to mood
disorders in people with diabetes - regardless of age. It can take
time to adjust emotionally to the diagnosis, as well as the need to
manage the disease. Adolescence can be an even more difficult time to
get a diagnosis of diabetes. Be vigilant as parents. If mood changes
are a persistent problem, get help from your child's doctor. He or
she may recommend a mental health professional who can determine if
factors other than diabetes are the cause.