Too much blood sugar caused by alcohol?

(Pat) #1

Over the past 3 years I have had extremely itchy skin. My Dr gave me some cream which eased it a bit, but then it kept coming back, so I’d get more cream, but it has not cured the itchy skin.
I saw my Dr last week as my skin was extremely itchy again and she gave me the cream again, but I asked her if I should see a dermatologist. She said we’ll try a blood test first to see if there’s anything happening there. The result was that my sugar level is high at 6.2. That doesn’t seem very high to me as the normal level stops at 6 so it’s only 2 points higher. As I don’t eat sugary foods and if I do it has sweetener instead of sugar, we decided because I drink beer and gin and tonic that probably is the reason I have too much sugar in my blood. The Dr said too much sugar can cause itchy skin. I haven’t had alcohol for nearly 2 weeks now and intend to continue this way to see if this is the cause of my itchy skin. I’ve read that stopping alcohol can cause flu-like symptoms, which I am experiencing now. I thought it was keto flu but it’s probably alcohol related. So, do I have to wait it out before I feel better or is there anything I can do to alleviate the symptoms? Anyone else had this and can give advice?

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #2

Keto “flu” is a misnomer. It is really a lack of sodium, and you can get rid of the symptoms by using a bit more salt on your food. Elevated insulin prevents the kidneys from excreting salt at the proper rate, so as our insulin drops, the kidneys return to excreting it normally, with the result that we have to work a tad harder than we are used to, to keep our sodium intake in the right range. That may be at least part of what is happening to you, so it would be worth it to try getting a bit more salt.

But alcohol, being a toxin, has other effects on the body, so part of what you are experiencing might be withdrawal symptoms. Those, unfortunately, you will just have to wait out. But they will pass, and fairly soon. Unless someone is addicted to the point of having delirium tremens, which requires medical care, it is usually easier and faster to cut alcohol out entirely than to try to taper off. At least, this has been the experience of millions of recovering alcoholics as they got sober.


To answer your topic question: no. Ethanol metabolizes to ketones, actually. See this:

Please note, however, from the above post:

This is the linked study source of the above post and included diagram:

Two more studies relevant here as well:

PS: I want to emphasize my own total agreement with the OP of the linked post above:

“I want to state up front that I am not advocating anyone drink ethanol.”

PPS: If you’ve been a regular beer drinker, my guess would be any ‘sugar’ issues you may experience have been caused by the carbs in the beer, not the ethanol. Although as noted by @PaulL you may well be experiencing ethanol withdrawal, again dependent upon prior dosage. Best wishes.

(Joey) #4

This point should not be overlooked. Not only does beer have a lot of carbs, but “tonic water” is a very high fructose (sugary) carbonated mixer. Your doc is correct in making the attribution.

Pre-keto, cold beer and iced gin & tonic were my favorite alcoholic beverages. Since cutting out the carbs, it’s been a glass or two of red wine, perhaps a shot of tequila, scotch, or vodka martini on occasion.

These have minimal carbs - with all the alcohol.

ALERT: I’m NOT advocating alcohol for anyone with addiction issues! Simply reinforcing the point that the OP describes two extremely high-carb alcoholic beverages as a mainstay. Elevated glucose shouldn’t be too surprising.

(Bob M) #5

While tonic and beer are higher carb (and I think beer might be the most obesogenic thing on the planet), alcohol could cause fatty liver. If that’s the case, then fatty liver could cause higher blood sugar.

If fact, I often wonder if people who lose weight quickly and get to normal weight have a better liver than those of us who can’t do that. Some fatty liver can be reversed, but some might not.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #6

Actually, no, ethanol gets converted to glucose. That’s been known for a century. And alcoholics trying to get sober have been using that fact all along to stave off cravings for alcohol by eating something sweet.

The fat droplet given off by the metabolic cycle that handles ethanol and fructose (and branched-chain amino acids) can be partially metabolised into ketones, but not at a fast enough rate to keep fatty liver disease from developing if that metabolic cycle gets overwhelmed, which can easily happen. The good news is that fatty liver disease gets reversed very quickly, once the liver is no longer being hit with alcohol/fructose/BCAA’s. In a pilot study on eight patients in Robert Lustig’s clinic at UCSF, they were able to do so within about ten days, as I recall.

If you want a tutorial on how the liver metatoblises alcohol/fructose/BCAA’s, see Dr. Lustig’s lecture, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” available on YouTube in several incarnations. He goes through the entire cycle, which is the same for all three chemicals, and explains how it works and where it goes wrong when overloaded.


@PaulL See the posted links. Ethanol does indeed metabolize to acetaldehyde, the precursor molecule of acetate -> acetoacetate. I think it’s most likely that all the other carb stuff added to ethanol that ends up as glucose.

(Michael) #8

As a totally different angle, my daughter often has itchy skin, which we resolve with vitamin K supplementation. Could it be a lack of vitamin K? Could be an easy fix to attempt.


At 5.7 you’re pre-diabetic. At 6.5 you’re in Diabetic range. Beer is liquid bread which is all carbs, if you stopping has produced withdrawal symptoms, than your consumption was pretty high, or you just don’t react to it well at all.

I’d just keep using whatever he gave you until it calms down. Are you properly hydrated and keeping your electrolyes in check? Also the obvious, keep your skin moisturized.

Is it an actual itching, or itching/burning, prickly kind of feeling?


I think what actually happens is dopamine, the ‘pleasure chemical’. Both ethanol and glucose produce dopamine in the brain. An alcoholic tries to reproduce the ‘dopamine high’ he gets drinking ethanol with the ‘dopamine high’ he gets eating something sweet. The first article I’ve cited below is an excellent overall explanation of just how one addiction can get replaced by another.

(Pat) #11

It is an actual itching and scratching doesn’t relieve it that’s why I have so much trouble with it. It does settle down for a while but then comes back after a few weeks.

(KM) #12

I would see a dermatologist. It’s possible this is caused by diet but it could also be caused by a thousand other things.

(Pat) #13

Yes I’m hoping my Dr will give me a referral to see a dermatologist but she wants to see how my blood tests go before that.

(Rossi Luo) #14

Interesting, I had itchy skin for more than 5 years before keto too!! Itchy on my legs, and scratched it often, my skin was hurt badly. And I liked beer as well, the itchy went worse every time after having beer. And here in Chinese medical science, Chinese doctor had a name for this “湿疹” (wet rash), Chinese doctors believe it’s caused by “wet” (because your body is over wet). And last year, I tried some Chinese medicine (lots of herbs), I stopped having beer and it’s cured magically (I still had some red whine or Chinese white wine). And after that, I started Keto, the itchy skin never come back again. So, I think both the Chinese herbs and the keto helped me beat the itchy problem.

By the way, my blood sugar was 6.1 every morning after fast before keto too, and after keto, it’s still around 6.1, that’s not high, as I know that’s called Dawn Phenomenon

(Rossi Luo) #15

I was 5.3 feet with 165 pounds before keto, and I had a fatty liver for more than around 5 years, after 7 months of keto, I lost 20 pounds quickly in the first 3 months, now my fatty liver has reversed from medium level (worse) to light level (better). But in the 7 months, I was still having alcohol sometimes (not every day). So I am trying to reverse it from light level to none, hope it will work. I will stop alcohol this time, hope it can be reversed totally.


@echo2080 Congrats on healing your fatty liver. That’s one of the bad effects of over-consumption of ethanol - also fructose. For the first few years on keto I went zero ethanol. Fortunately, despite decades prior to keto consuming light to moderate amounts of ethanol daily, I never experienced any adverse effects. Another gift from my ancestors for which I thank them every day.

I think you will be successful going zero ethanol. It might help to know that after a couple years you can reintroduce light ethanol consumption again. Here’s the math: 50 grams of 40% liquor (note: not liqueur or wine which have lots of carbs) is actually 20 grams of ethanol. Consuming 20 grams of ethanol a couple times per day will not adversely affect your liver or metabolism and will add some ketones (see this).

Best wishes.

(Robin) #17

Michael… stop posting then making a new thread with a link to your own post. If people want to read a link dump, they will. Stop the redundancy, please.

(Rossi Luo) #18

Thanks Matt for your information! It’s my first time to know the difference between Liquor and other wines, interesting, I’m not sure how long I can stick to the life with zero ethanol, hope I can achieve that this time!