Friday, 24 July 2009

Riding the Beer-O-Coaster

Alcohol can have quite an effect on you when you have diabetes – it’s a far more complicated situation than just getting drunk! After I was diagnosed I didn’t drink alcohol at all for several months – not because I was scared to or anything, just didn’t fancy it at all. Eventually, though, life started to return to normal. I found that I had little choice when drinking in a pub, as nearly every drink contains sugar of some sort. Really, the only drink available in most pubs is diet coke, which I do not enjoy drinking. Even then, you cannot be sure that the barman has actually given you the diet version – getting the ‘full-fat’ version without knowing could have a big effect on your blood sugar levels without you knowing and accounting for. So, I decided that I would only drink something that was ‘predictable’ – beer! It expands my choice, and I know what’s in it and what effect it has on me and my levels.

The unusual thing about drinking beer when you have diabetes, however, is that in spite of the sugar/alcohol content of the beer, it can actually cause your levels to fall, and if you aren’t careful then you could have a hypo. Even worse, should you have a hypo whilst drinking, people may just assume that you are drunk and not accord you the necessary assistance. When you drink, as a rule, your blood sugar levels will climb. However, as your liver then begins to process the alcohol, it will be diverted from releasing the steady, low level of glucose that it normally constantly produces (the reason why we need ‘basal’, or background insulin). So, as a consequence of this, your levels will fall. Moreover, the liver will suspend this glucose production long after you have stopped drinking, and may continue through the night as you are sleeping, leading to the risk if a night-time hypo.

The solution is to make sure that you snack on carbohydrates as you drink – crisps, chips, kebabs etc. This will give you a store of glucose to keep your levels up without your livers assistance. Once again, you need to use ‘trial and error’ to determine just how much you can drink and need to eat in order to keep your levels within range – a tricky balancing act, and not always successful after a few beers!

Come, climb aboard the Beer-O-Coaster,
You’ll find it an exciting ride!
First you’ll find your levels rising,
Just before that rapid slide!

The Beer-O-Coaster makes you dizzy,
Are you high or are you low?
It will keep your liver busy,
Help reduce the glucose flow…

Through the night and through the morning,
Feel your sugars hit the floor!
Better heed the doctor’s warning –
Build a carbohydrate store!

When you ride the Beer-O-Coaster,
Eat some food with every drink,
And before your senses leave you,
Make sure you stay in the pink!


  1. Personally I don't have diabetes, had to study it at university though. I enjoy the poems and I'm pretty amazed at how many you can get associated with the effects of diabetes.

  2. Hi Dreicht - yes it is a far more complex condition than I would ever have imagined prior to diagnosis. Unfortunately, a lot of the medical profession appear to think it's a pretty straightforward thing to deal with, without knowing the ins and outs. Also, I think that due to gevernment advertising, the public's perception is that it is a self-inflicted disease of the overweight and lazy, which it most certainly is not!

    I wonder if I will run out of 'material'? I doubt it - I learn something new every day!

  3. Well I think it's good and it's educational.

  4. Thanks Dreicht, I'm hoping that the blog will explain things to diabetic (however long they've been diagnosed) and non-diabetic people, and entertain them with the poems, so I appreciate your support and comments!