If you happen to be a type II diabetic, you’ve either already heard of metformin or are even taking it yourself. It is a diabetes drug which is prescribed most often, and not just here in the U.S., but in the whole world.
And for good reason, considering it’s sold at a reasonable price and has very few side effects. Still, many out there have a whole heap of questions concerning this popular medication.
Will it make them gain or lose weight? What are the side effects? How does it lower their blood sugar?
Well, we’d like to give you as much information on metformin (whose brand name is “Glucophage” which means “glucose-eater”). Read on below to quench your curiosity.
How Exactly Does It Work?
The normal, daily job of the liver is to produce glucose, and this, in conjunction with the pancreas and its production of insulin, serve to maintain a proper balance. Or, at least, that should ideally be so.
In the case of many which have been diagnosed with diabetes, the pancreas produces more insulin than needed while the liver finds it impossible to stop the excess sugar production.
Which can only mean that a person with diabetes produces 3x more sugar than an average individual would. This, course, results in high glucose levels in one’s blood stream.
What metformin does is shut down this excess production which also means less insulin is required. The result is that the muscles have less sugar to absorb and transform into fat.
Plus, lower levels of insulin keep insulin sensitivity high and prevent insulin resistance. Another plus side of metformin is that it is one of the rare few oral diabetes drugs which does not cause weight gain.
In fact, some cases have reported a reduction in their weight, though this doesn’t occur with everyone and it is not metformin’s main function.
One theory is that this is due to the reduction of gluconeogenesis (glucose production) performed in the liver which also leads to the curbing of hunger aka more satiety.
But It DOES Have a Downside
While it has its fair share of perks, one should still take the necessary precautions when taking metformin. Its main side effect is that it can cause GI (gastrointestinal issues).
Some other issues which you may or may not have to deal with are bloating, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea and others which have to do with your stomach.
This occurs in about 1/3 of the patients who take this drug. But the good news is that it goes away after about a week or two at most. Now don’t panic and start pondering what could these symptoms mean.
They are simply your body’s reaction in its adjustment period to this new drug. You may lower your chances of any side effects by slowly introducing metformin, and try to take it with meals at the same time each day. It’s a bad idea to take it on an empty stomach.
But keep in mind that any gestational problems may also be the result of poor control over your blood sugar levels. Which means, making changes to your daily diet in favor of healthier choices could also be the key.
If such problems persist, then the best thing to do would be to contact your physician. One more bad side to metformin is that it has been known to cause a deficiency in vitamin B12, especially if taken over the course of many years.
So, you might want to take a B12 blood test. In the case that you are indeed deficient, you can quickly fix this by taking supplements of this vitamin.
And should you learn to take control of your blood sugar through a healthier diet and lifestyle, there may come a time when you won’t need to take metformin anymore!
How Effective is Metformin?
Generally speaking, it is not as effective in small doses, and yet one should still ease their way into it by starting small. Namely, it’s best to start with 500mg a day and climb your way up to 1000mg two times a day.
But be careful not to exceed 2500mg daily, as this is the maximum recommended dose. The thing is, we cannot say for sure what dose is ideal for you.
Each person reacts individually: some find the minimal dose to be sufficient, others don’t get the results they need until they reach the maximum dose.
And yet for a third party, even the strongest dose may not offer the wanted results. We cannot stress enough how important a healthy and well-balanced diet is for maintaining one’s blood glucose in check.
If it is done right, you would not need to take metformin in the first place. Only those whose hormonal signaling and biology is altered cannot achieve this by themselves and need medication to obtain balance.
But even if you do opt for metformin and other medications, healthy food choices should always complement any drug you take.
The restriction of carbs is of particular importance here, mainly the most dangerous kind – white starches such as pasta, bread, rice, and potatoes. Not to mention simple sugars.
A List of Metformin Perks
When compared to any other diabetes medication, metformin:
- Does not cause weight gain (in some cases, it can even lead to weight loss)
- Won’t cause hypoglycemia
- Can significantly lower one’s glucose levels (33% chance of preventing diabetes)
- Won’t cause bone loss
- Can protect against other diseases such as dementia, stroke, cancer and cardiovascular issues
- Is not injectable
- Traces its history in herbal medicine back thousands of years
Those Who Should Avoid Metformin
As beneficial as it is, there are some specific groups where metformin is likely to cause more harm than good. Those are:
- People with kidney disease
- People with liver disease
- Those who drink too much alcohol
- Those with heart-related issues
- Anyone taking a CT scan or X-Ray which require dyes, should at least pause from taking metformin
Now that you have been informed a little more over what this drug does, doesn’t do and might do, it is up to you to decide whether to take it or not. We can only advise you to allow your doctor to share this decision with you.
After all, they are the ones which are best informed when it comes to your family history, personal goals and current blood sugar levels.
Another idea you could try is keeping a journal where you will document any drugs you may take and their possible side effects. That way you will always stay informed. And that means you will be one step closer to maintaining a good health!