Wine Down Wednesdays

So, I just got back from “Wine Down Wednesday” at Urban Flats in downtown Orlando with Nick and some of his co-workers. Nick has passed out on me, (LAME) and now that I’ve walked the dog, fed the cats, and brushed my teeth, I am waiting for my insulin to get down to room temperature so that I can put my pump back on. And because I just got back from a wine event, I feel like I should discuss drinking with diabetes.

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I am in NO WAY WHATSOEVER a licensed health care professional. The following statements are strictly based on my personal experiences, and therefore, this is not advice, per say, but rather personal anecdote.

Pretty much anything you read if you Google search “drinking with Type 1 diabetes” will tell you not to do it. Or it will tell you to have a glass of something at dinner. Or it will tell you to drink in extreme moderation.

Remember, I was diagnosed on my 21st birthday. Not after drinking anything…but at approximately 3 p.m. as I decided I should go to an urgent care clinic so that some doctor could tell me I had the flu or something, and then I expected to deal with this outcome and go on to have an awesome birthday. So Nick takes me to a clinic…and for the first time in my life they check my sugar…their meter just reads “high.” Awesome, I am blissfully ignorant to most things diabetic at the time, and figure its some glitch from the steroid medication I had been taking due to a recent asthma attack (which I now know was probably provoked by symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes).

Doctor: You need to go to the E.R. right away.

Me: Well…its my birthday…

Doctor: You don’t really have a choice.

-2 hours later-

E.R. nurse: you have Type 2 diabetes.

Nick: There is absolutely no way you have Type 2 diabetes. You aren’t old enough or fat enough.

Different E.R. nurse: You have episodic diabetes.

Nick: *google episodic diabetes* That doesn’t exist.

Me: When can I go buy a cocktail?

E.R. nurse: You are definitely staying here over night.

-12 hours, 5 blood draws, 2 IVs, and no alcohol later-

I.C.U. nurse: You have Type 1 diabetes. We are going to get you a nutritionist.

(side-note- this hospital was awful.)

Nutritionist: You can’t ever drink again for the rest of your life. Ever.

So in short, my birthday was the anti-awesome.

The reason that drinking with Type 1 diabetes is not recommended is that the carbs and sugar in alcoholic beverages are processed differently than those in regular food, they spike your sugar up very high and then drop it very fast. And usually, if you’ve drank a lot, this drop will happen when you’re wasted and passed out so you are less likely to notice and are therefore at a much higher risk of one of the most serious dangers of diabetes: low blood sugar. Because my body doesn’t produce insulin, I inject artificial insulin in order to live. And though science can calculate relatively well how much I should give myself, if I don’t eat regularly and monitor my sugar, my body can take in too much insulin and I can-as most diabetics refer to it- “go low.” Having low blood sugar is way more dangerous than having high blood sugar. High blood sugar results from not having enough insulin. For example, when I eat pizza and I think it has 35 carbs, so I give myself insulin for that, but really it has 45 carbs and then I did not get enough insulin and my sugar goes high. Consistent highs are the cause of most long-term diabetes complications such as blindness, kidney failure, amputations, etc. But going high every now and then won’t hurt you. (Say for example on Thanksgiving when your mom makes her sweet potato pie and you say to yourself  “I am going to eat this and max out the insulin allowance on my pump and I don’t give a damn!” And then you subsequently spend the next 4 hours in bed because your sugar is doing back-flips.) However, an undiagnosed low-blood sugar can kill a diabetic in 20 minutes. This is because the body goes into a state of hypoglycemic shock and needs glucose immediately to prevent a coma or seizures. I, like most diabetics, go low a few times a month. It just happens…you are working out and you didn’t have a snack before hand, you waited to long to eat dinner, you thought you ate more carbs than you actually ate, etc. But most of the time if I go low, its because I drank a few glasses.

So yea…I drink. But I literally only ever drink wine. (With the very very rare exception of some AMAZING sounding specialty cocktail…and I mean this happens like once a month…rare to me…) Wine has the lowest carb content of any alcohol, unless its some super sweet sangria and you are eating all the fruit. Beer; all carbs. Liquor…not really carbs…but the cranberry juice/orange juice/soda/crap you have to add to it to make it taste good; all carbs. And when my sugar is high, I am kind of cranky and mean. So add drinking to cranky and mean and well…its not a pretty picture. But with wine I can be happy, diabetic, and totally fine. I’ve checked my sugar while drinking before and it will spike a bit, but is never really extreme. I have had some pretty serious lows in the early morning hours after a night of dancing but I have always woken up to treat them. This being said, that’s me and that’s never a guarantee.

Nick and I went to Savannah for Valentine’s day where we made friends with some 50 year old locals at a random karaoke bar. And they were really funny, and I had some wine. When we got back I ate some glucose tabs before bed just to be safe, and I woke up a few hours later with my sugar in the 60s. Not extreme. So I ate a glucose tab, waited a few minutes and rechecked. It was 50. “How is it going down if I am eating sugar?” I thought to myself, “Worse…what would have happened if I hadn’t eaten any sugar.” So I popped 6 more glucose tabs and passed out, expecting to wake up with incredibly high sugar since usually just one or two of those things will shoot my sugar up really fast. A few hours later I woke up to a glucose reading of 75, still low.  Now, that never happens to me, nor have I ever eaten so many glucose tabs in one sitting. And it was sort of scary.

I know plenty of college age diabetics who drink. And in my opinion, they should if they understand the risks and are taking proper precautions. If you have a friend who knows your condition, can check your sugar, and give you back up glucose…well why not enjoy yourself a bit? And I say this at the end of the night on Wine Wednesday, when I am about 3 glasses in. Now if I get that drunk, I take my pump off for the night as its better to wake up high then low, and my boyfriend checks my sugar for me. I keep a back up sugar source, like glucose tabs or juice near my bed. And wine…well it works for me. I have diabetes, and I make exceptions for it, but this is not one of them.

Me with my beverage of choice in Paris.


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