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How Can Alcohol Cause Hypoglycemia?

It is a well-known fact that chronic alcohol use adversely affects the liver. However, there are also cases where alcohol abuse has affected liver in short term as well. It has been seen in some studies that alcohol has the potential to cause hypoglycemia. To better understand this, it is important to have knowledge of how the liver works and the relationship it shares with glucose control and regulation. It is the liver that ensures that there is a steady flow of glucose in the blood right through the day. The liver contains glycogen which it slowly releases into the bloodstream. This sometimes increases the levels of sugar in the blood, especially in people with type-1 diabetes and therefore such people should always carry insulin injection with them [1, 2].

What happens when a person drinks alcohol is that each drink hampers the ability of the liver to release glucose in the blood. This is seen mostly on people who are on insulin since this medication lowers the sugar levels and any further decrease in the levels as a result of the liver’s inability to release enough glycogen in the blood may further decrease the sugar levels to an extent that the person starts having symptoms of hypoglycemia [1, 2]. The article below goes much deep into this aspect of alcohol use and the opinions of various researchers on this topic.

How Can Alcohol Cause Hypoglycemia?

Researchers at the Swedish Medical University have come up with an explanation as to how drinking alcohol increases insulin secretion in the body causing the person to have severe hypoglycemia. The mechanism has also been published in the journal Endocrinology. Researchers explain how alcohol affects the brain by decreasing the concentration of blood sugar to abnormally low levels [2].

Hypoglycemia caused by alcohol is a well-known phenomenon in diabetics. However, very few people know about the mechanism behind this effect of alcohol. It is known that insulin secretion can be significantly affected by changes in pancreatic microcirculation and therefore the researchers at the Stockholm South Hospital Diabetes Research Center studied the influence that alcohol had on the pancreatic islet blood flow and the changes in insulin secretion and blood sugar levels [2].

The researchers found out that alcohol has significant effect on the pancreatic microcirculation and evokes significant redistribution of pancreatic blood flow from the exocrine to the endocrine part that is mediated by nitric oxide molecule and the vagus nerve. This evoked excessive insulin secretion resulting in hypoglycemia [2].

According to the researchers, this discovery is crucial as this further vindicates the effects of alcohol in diabetics or those with hepatic failure due to alcohol use, and its tendency to cause severe hypoglycemia [2].

The researchers also note that alcohol intake in diabetics may lead to a sustained period of hypoglycemia especially in people with type 2 diabetes who are being treated with medications like glibenclamide. This is because many of such medications have a prolonged half-life [2].

Additionally people who indulge in alcohol end up with liver cirrhosis or severe malnutrition resulting in the body not being able to successfully counter the gluconeogenetic response of hypoglycemia [2].


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 18, 2022

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