7 Quick Tips for Drinking with Type 1 Diabetes

Alright, we already know that there are risks associated with drinking alcohol. But is there a way to drink responsibly with diabetes? The answer is yes!

We sat down with our JDRF Marketing & Communications summer student, Evelyn Riddell, who lives with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to get her quick tips on how to drink responsibly with T1D:  

  1. Always eat throughout the evening and especially before bed

“We’ve all heard the saying ‘don’t drink on an empty stomach’, and this is especially true for someone with type 1 diabetes. Drinking on an empty stomach can result in faster absorption of the alcohol, as well as more rapid decreases in blood sugar levels. Most importantly, always have some long-acting carbs before bed. These carbs are important for stabilizing you while sleeping, since the alcohol in your system will continue to work to lower blood sugars throughout the night.”

  1. “Temp basal” over-night

“Since alcohol can stay in your system for many hours, it is important to take precautions to prevent low blood sugars overnight. A good guideline to follow is to set a temp basal[1] approximately -30% over night. Do this for 1 hour per full drink consumed. For example, if you consumed 4 beers, temp basil -30% for 4 hours. This being said, over time you will figure out how your body responds to alcohol, and based on your tolerance should develop a temp basil routine that works best for you”.

  1. Set your alarm in the middle of the night

“Going low in the middle of the night can be a scary experience. Whether you have a Continuous Glucose Monitor or not, set alarms during the night to wake up and check in on your blood sugars. This is especially important if you live alone. If you do live independently, consider staying the night at a friend’s house for extra peace of mind overnight.”

  1. Catch the lows before they happen

“If you wear a CGM, try setting the low alerts higher than they would usually be. This will help you to identify and treat lows before they happen. If you do not wear a Continuous Glucose Monitor, check your blood sugar regularly to establish trends and identify lows early.”

  1. Always wear a piece of medical ID

“The signs and symptoms of a low blood sugar are extremely similar to those of being intoxicated, and can easily be confused by those around you. Make sure that you have a piece of medical identification for your peers and medical professionals in case of any emergency.”

  1. Know what you’re drinking

“Some drinks (such a beer) typically cause you to go low, while more sugar-based drinks cause you to spike now and drop later. It is important to know what you are drinking, in order to be aware of/prepare for your blood sugars later on; eating while consuming drinks with high alcohol content is a good idea to prevent lows later on, eating while consuming heavily sugared drinks isn’t as wise since it will only spike your blood sugar higher for the short term. Make sure you know what type you’re drinking.”

  1. Make sure a friend knows about your condition and understands how to help

“That way if you tell them you’re low, they can help you locate some fast acting snacks (or better yet, have some for you!).”

We hope these tips help you enjoy good times with your friends and family while keeping your blood sugar levels in check. The main thing is to remember to drink responsibly by remaining conscious of all the factors mentioned above.


[1] A temporary basal rate allows an immediate short-term change to your basal insulin for a specified period of time (30 minutes to 24 hours).  It offers an easy way to immediately meet short-term insulin needs for temporary activities or situations. The -30% temp basal concept was conceived by Gary Scheiner Temp basal should be used based on the guidance of your healthcare professional.



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