Metformin and Alcohol – Know The Risks

Risks of consuming alcohol while on Metformin

If you are used to having a glass of wine with your dinner or a can of beer now and again, you might wonder if you can continue with that habit once you are on metformin. The answer is: it depends on the dosage.

Alcohol in moderation is OK to consume for diabetic patients on metformin. One drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men seems to be a safe dosage recommended by specialists.

However, it is not advisable to go over that dosage. There are two potential conditions that are dangerous for diabetic patients that can be associated with consuming too much alcohol on metformin.

Lactic acidosis

One of them is lactic acidosis. Lactic acidosis is when a patient’s body accumulates too much lactic acid which is by itself a rare but grave side effect of metformin. The symptoms of lactic acidosis may include:

abdominal pain
difficulty breathing
decreased appetite
low blood pressure
overall tiredness.
high pulse rate

Lactic acidosis untreated can be very dangerous and even lethal. Alcohol is able to exacerbate accumulation of lactates in the body of patients on metformin, thus causing lactic acidosis. If you find that you have symptoms of lactic acidosis, be sure to consult with your doctor. Remember, it is a dangerous side effect that must not be left unattended.


Another dangerous condition that may arise in patients on metformin taking larger doses of alcohol is hypoglycemia or extremely low blood sugar. Metformin’s main role is to lower blood sugar levels in the patients. Alcohol also has this effect. Taken in combination, these two agents may cause your blood levels to go too low and cause hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia may express itself in:

mental fog
extreme hunger
blurred vision
slurred speech

The danger here is that a patient may think those symptoms simply arise from alcohol consumption when it is really their sugar levels being too low that cause the symptoms. If you have such symptoms after having a large dose of alcohol, be sure to check your blood sugar levels.

Often blood sugar level can be corrected at home by using glucose supplements or simply eating something that has sugar in it. Severe symptoms of hypoglycemia include loss of consciousness. If you or anyone else is experiencing strong signs of hypoglycemia and can’t correct them at home, call 9-11 immediately.

How to drink alcohol safely with diabetes

Here are some precautions related to drinking alcohol with diabetes (while on metformin medication).

Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Always have something to eat first. This will help ensure your blood sugar levels don’t go too low.

Stop consuming alcohol immediately if you notice that your blood sugar levels are low.

Drink water. It’s important to stay hydrated. Enough water will help curb alcohol’s effect on your blood sugar.

Eat after you consume alcohol as well.


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