How to Cheers and Bolus

Read my 4 DELICIOUS and low carb cocktails here!

The holiday season involves a lot of gatherings from office parties to secret santa exchanges with friends. And with nearly every gathering in your twenties and beyond, alcohol will be there. So will your exes but that’s another story. When I say alcohol will be there, I don’t mean everyone is throwing shots down the hatch and forgetting how to walk but rather sipping on glasses of wine to compliment the roasts, popping sparkling wines to make a toast and let’s not forget the Irish coffees to keep you warm on the winter nights. I think alcohol is an important topic to give extra attention to as a diabetic entering your twenties so I want to share my experience as a twenty-something who enjoys the glass or two.

My doctors never discussed drinking with me or how to manage my diabetes once I was introduced to alcohol. Maybe they just assumed I wouldn’t drink because it won’t positively influence my diabetes management but since when does alcohol positively influence any sort of management? I never even bothered to ask them for permission to consume alcohol as a type 1 diabetic because like most obstacles in my 15 years with diabetes, I just figured I would find out for myself. How will ice cream make me feel? Will running with high blood glucose levels drop them or raise them? These are all questions that I use a kind of scientific method for. The Diabetic Method, shall I say. I hypothesize, I experiment, I observe and then conclude whether or not that was “good” for me or “bad” for me.

So the Diabetic Method was performed throughout college when I was first introduced to drinking outside of the occasional glass of wine with family. I had already excluded the possibility of being able to drink the sugary cocktails made from concentrates and syrups. I never chased my vodka with non-diet Coke or ordered a Mai Tai at happy hour. But when I was going through this experimenting phase, I didn’t have a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to track the spikes or lows that might be alcohol induced so I would just check my blood every hour. This was exhausting and to be completely honest, my friends were a huge part in the experimenting portion of the Diabetic Method. I remember my first nights of casual drinking while playing card games and just hanging out, my friends were concerned, “What happens with your diabetes when you consume alcohol?”Well, I didn’t have an answer back then but I knew just like with most new situations that I should probably check my blood every hour. Like the amazing friends they are to this day, they set an alarm on their phones as we circled a table to play King’s Cup and every time it went off, no matter how good I felt (since being tipsy can mask the symptoms of high or low blood glucose) I whipped out my meter and checked.

When I started going to bars and was of age to participate in proper happy hours, I was in need of a “signature” cocktail. Ya know, that one cocktail that’s your go-to. But it needed to be with as little sugar as possible yet be tasty enough for me to look forward to. This is the part where as a diabetic, you need to forget about how annoying you may be to the bartender taking your order for the sake of your health. Because… here was my order:

A mojito, with soda water instead of Sprite or 7up (which, may I say, is not what an OG mojito consists of anyways), and extra lime. Oh and light on the simple syrup.

After a couple eye rolls from the bartender, I had successfully ordered a diabetic friendly cocktail. This mojito lasted me for a bit until I realized that rum didn’t really agree with me or my blood glucose readings. So I started ordering something that involved less adjustments but lead to a more enjoyable night with controlled blood sugars. “A gin and soda with a couple extra squeezes of lime,” was easy to say and didn’t raise the blood glucose levels though it would drop them if I wasn’t careful. This was a good choice if I was drinking with food but if not, my BG would absolutely plummet. If my BG is being well behaved, I’ll go for a tequila soda with a splash of some kind of juice to compensate for the BG drop from the alcohol.

Wine and beer require another flow through the Diabetic Method that I won’t bore you with since the outcome is quite similar with wine at least. Wine doesn’t contain a lot of sugar. Maybe a couple grams a glass depending, but I find that when I have a glass of red wine in the evening, my BG readings will slowly drop throughout the night. Not in a bad way though, just enough for me to acknowledge that on those nights when red wine is involved, I should have a small snack that is equal parts carbohydrates, protein, and fat to prevent me from waking up in the morning with a low BG. Beer on the other hand, though bubbly and refreshing on a hot afternoon can raise my blood glucose levels if I’m not careful. I’ve done as much research as I could to find “low carb” beers that don’t taste awful and to no surprise, those don’t exactly exist.

As you can probably tell by now, experimenting with alcohol as a type 1 diabetic is a lot of work. A lot of thinking and alertness is required, which is difficult since alcohol is notorious for inhibiting those two things. This is probably why a lot of people assume type 1 diabetics can’t drink any alcohol. Maybe it’s “easier” on us not to consume it, but at the same time it’s a staple in a lot of cultures and is commonly present at dinner parties and other events. I’m a big believer in living this life with type 1 diabetes to the fullest with as little restriction as possible so if you enjoy a drink, learn how to make your diabetes work with it.

I am not in any way trying to persuade diabetics to go and throwback 5 tequila shots because “a blog by a twenty-something said it was okay” but rather, I want to share how I’ve manage to be a responsible diabetic in adult settings where alcohol is present.