You may be familiar with Metformin as the preferred medication for type 2 diabetics to control their blood sugar levels. 

By restricting the amount of glucose your body absorbs from food and by reducing the amount of glucose your liver produces, Metformin aids in the maintenance of a healthy blood glucose level.

The improvement of insulin sensitivity is another crucial function of Metformin. Metformin increases insulin sensitivity, allowing cells to absorb more glucose and reducing blood glucose levels.

When treating diabetes, Metformin is frequently used with additional therapies like insulin therapy. Although Metformin is only licensed to treat type 2 diabetes, it can also treat other illnesses, such as gestational diabetes and prediabetes.

Can You Safely Consume Alcohol While Taking Metformin?

When at all possible, you should stay away from the combination. This is because consuming alcohol increases your risk of suffering the side effects of medication and worsens your diabetes management.

Heavy or frequent alcohol consumption is mainly connected to the most significant hazards. The labeling for Metformin advises against drinking excessively. So, if you do want to consume alcohol, try to refrain from binge drinking or drinking continuously over time. Both of these actions increase your chances of experiencing adverse effects from Metformin.

The idea is to drink moderately or less. For men, this would mean a daily limit of two drinks, and for women, a daily limit of one drink.

Alcohol and Metformin Interactions

There are potential interactions and risks to be aware of:

Hypoglycemia

Alcohol can lower blood sugar levels, and when combined with Metformin, it may increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This risk is more pronounced for individuals with diabetes who are already taking medications to lower blood sugar levels.

Lactic Acidosis

Consumption of too much alcohol can increase the risk of lactic acidosis , a rare but severe condition associated with Metformin use. Both alcohol and Metformin can independently contribute to lactic acidosis, and their combination can raise the risk further. It's important to moderate alcohol intake and avoid excessive drinking to minimize this risk.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Prolonged use of Metformin can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. Alcohol abuse can also impair the absorption and utilization of vitamin B12. Metformin and excessive alcohol intake may increase the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Regular monitoring of vitamin B12 levels and, if necessary, supplementation may be recommended.

Metformin and Alcohol Side Effects

Combining Metformin with drinking alcohol can potentially result in various side effects and risks. Here are some considerations:

Increased risk of lactic acidosis

Metformin and alcohol can individually increase the risk of lactic acidosis, a rare but severe condition characterized by lactic acid buildup in the body. Combining the two can further elevate this risk, particularly in excessive alcohol intake or underlying liver or kidney problems. 

Increased risk of hypoglycemia

Alcohol can cause a drop in blood sugar levels, and when combined with Metformin, it can increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This is especially relevant for individuals with diabetes taking Metformin to control their blood sugar levels.

Gastrointestinal effects

Both Metformin and alcohol can individually cause gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These effects may intensify when taken together, leading to increased discomfort.

Impaired judgment and coordination

Alcohol is known to impair judgment, coordination, and cognitive function. Combining it with Metformin may exacerbate these effects, potentially compromising your ability to perform tasks requiring focus and attention.

Other side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Feeling gassy
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea

Are certain people more at risk?

Certain individuals may be at a higher risk when combining Metformin with alcohol. Here are some factors that can increase the risk:

Individuals with liver or kidney problems

Metformin and alcohol can impact liver and kidney function. If you have pre-existing liver or kidney conditions, combining Metformin with alcohol can further strain these organs and increase the risk of complications.

Diabetes patients

People with diabetes taking Metformin are already at risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Alcohol can further lower blood sugar levels, intensifying the risk of hypoglycemia. 

Older adults

Older adults may have reduced liver and kidney function, making them more susceptible to the effects of both Metformin and alcohol. 

It's important to discuss your specific health history, medications, and alcohol consumption with your healthcare provider. 

How To Make Drinking Safer If You Are A Diabetic

  • You shouldn't consume alcohol if your blood sugar is low.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol on an empty stomach; drink a protein- and fat-rich snack first to help control blood sugar levels.
  • Drink water gradually to prevent dehydration. You can use sugar free water enhancers to give it a flavor.
  • Always have low-sugar foods on hand. 
  • After drinking, have a snack, and especially before bed, monitor your blood sugar levels.

When Should You See a Doctor?

You should see a doctor if you experience symptoms of diabetes, have concerns about prediabetes, struggle to manage blood sugar levels, have new or worsening symptoms, need medication adjustments, or for regular check-ups to monitor your diabetes management and overall health.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long after taking Metformin can you drink alcohol?

Waiting at least 12 hours is advised because alcohol can lower your blood sugar levels.

Is having one to two drinks okay?

Moderate alcohol consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men is generally considered acceptable for many individuals, including those with diabetes.

Are there any diabetic medicines that aren't affected by alcohol?

While medications like DPP-4 inhibitors and GLP-1 receptor agonists are generally not directly affected by alcohol, individual responses and potential indirect effects on blood sugar management may still vary, so discussing specific medication-alcohol interactions is crucial.

Conclusion

For anyone with diabetes who wants to drink alcohol, moderation is crucial. Women should limit their drinking to one drink per day, and males should limit their drinking to two drinks per day. 

Diabetes patients should never consume alcohol on an empty stomach or while their blood sugar is already low. Instead, they should eat a protein- and fat-rich snack beforehand to help stabilize low blood sugar levels. They should always carry low-calorie snacks and be around people familiar with treating low blood sugar. 

Sources

At Diabetic Me, we are committed to delivering information that is precise, accurate, and pertinent. Our articles are supported by verified data from research papers, prestigious organizations, academic institutions, and medical associations to guarantee the integrity and relevance of the information we provide. You can learn more about our process and team on the about us page.

  1. National Library of Medicine Metformin: Current knowledge
  2. National Library of Medicine Alcohol consumption and diabetes risk

About the Author

Ely Fornoville

Hi, I'm Ely Fornoville, and I am the founder of Diabetic Me. Being a type 1 diabetic since 1996, I developed a passion to help people learn more about diabetes. I write about diabetes and share stories from other diabetics around the world. I currently use a Medtronic Guardian 4 CGM and a MiniMed 780G insulin pump with Humalog insulin.

View All Articles