Balancing Blood Sugar to Manage Stress and Alcohol Cravings

blood sugar and alcohol cravings


Have you ever felt that intense, almost insatiable craving for alcohol at the end of a long day? Or maybe you’ve experienced a fierce stressor that triggered an alcohol craving.

One of the most common sentiments after stress or a long day is “I need a drink!”

You may have also seen the significant movement in health and wellness toward less alcohol. In fact, a report in 2024 by NCSolutions showed that 41% of Americans are looking to change their drinking habits. Because of this, we’re seeing a rise in interest in “sober-curious” living and an explosion in non-alcoholic beverages that serve as alternatives to your favorite end-of-day libation. 

alcohol cravings and blood sugar

The pandemic caused a sharp rise in alcohol consumption levels, and newer research is showing that the previous beliefs around the “benefits” of alcohol are showing that it is more harmful than once believed.

Needless to say, you may already be thinking about lowering your alcohol intake or looking for alternative ways to manage your stress.

In my personal experience as a doctor of nutrition, I went through my own alcohol-free journey in 2021 and was shocked to see how little information there was available to the public on the intersection of alcohol and nutrition. After all, alcohol is a substance that our body metabolizes just like any other food and beverage.

But I am also trained in functional medicine, a root-cause approach to healing and identifying patterns in the body. This inspired me not only to look deeper into WHAT alcohol does in the body but also WHY some people become attached to it (while others do not).

After exploring much of the research around why we experience cravings for alcohol, one of the common areas of focus is blood sugar. I first stumbled upon this information when I first began learning about nutrition for managing alcohol cravings in a book called Under the Influence, published in 1981 by James Miliam where he states that up to 95% of regular alcohol users experience blood sugar irregularities.

I also wrote about this in my book, How to Eat to Change How You Drink, which hit shelves in December 2023 and has been receiving amazing feedback on how helpful it is to understand these underlying processes behind why we crave a drink.

Research shows that alcohol and blood sugar are closely linked. This is because when we consume alcohol, it affects how our body releases blood sugar hormones, like insulin and glucagon. And while we often look to avoid high sugar or high carbohydrate types of alcohol, the alcohol itself is what affects blood sugar (not just the sugar or carbs). In fact, alcohol may lower blood sugar, which can cause a hypoglycemic response and trigger us to crave more alcohol (and also crave sugar and carbs). 

stress hormones

This is why it is recommended that diabetics minimize or avoid alcohol intake, and also how alcohol intake can be a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes, particularly when it comes to binge drinking (more than 4 drinks per occasion).

Alcohol also drives cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, both after a single drink, and after a binge drinking episode. Cortisol is also closely linked with blood sugar. This means that even though it may seem like alcohol lowers stress, it actually worsens stress!

But the good news is this: We can use this information to help regulate stress and alcohol cravings by making changes to our daily eating habits.

Here are my top recommendations for managing stress and kicking an afternoon alcohol craving:

Consume more frequent meals throughout the day 

blood sugar tips

One of the most common practices for regulating blood sugar is having small, more frequent meals throughout the day. I recommend eating something every 3-4 hours to avoid drops in blood sugar.

Increase protein intake throughout the day

Protein is key for balancing blood sugar and should be included in every meal and snack throughout the day. I recommend a minimum of 20g of protein per meal, and 10-15g or more for a snack.

Never skip an afternoon snack

Because the afternoon is a particularly triggering time for many when it comes to alcohol cravings, make sure to have a high-protein snack paired with healthy carbs between 3-5pm.

Try adding GOOD IDEA throughout the day to stabilize blood sugar (or as your afternoon drink to ‘take the edge off’)

Not only is this a great alternative option for taking a drink, but it also helps support this exact mechanism we’re looking to balance! Put it into your favorite glass, garnish it with fresh fruit, and enjoy!

When I stumbled upon GOOD IDEA, I was so thrilled. Not only because blood sugar balancing is one of the key focal points of my work and for my clients, but also because those who are looking to change their drinking habits are interested in alternative beverage options.


Author: Dr. Brooke Scheller, DCN, CNS

Doctor of Nutrition, Founder of Functional Sobriety