Numbers show that in 2019 alone, around 85,739,443 metformin prescriptions were issued in the United States. That means metformin ranks fourth of this country’s most commonly prescribed medications. If you, or someone you know, are also taking metformin, it’s important to learn what to do or avoid doing to increase its effectiveness. Read on to see some of the most useful tips for taking metformin.
What is metformin?
Metformin is an oral anti-diabetic drug sold under the brand name Glucophage. Metformin is prescribed for the management of type 2 diabetes. Like some other medications, metformin has some off-label uses, such as for prediabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), gestational diabetes, and weight gain resulting from antipsychotic medications such as olanzapine.
Is metformin effective for managing diabetes?
Metformin is effective for managing or preventing diabetes, as confirmed by many studies. For example, Diabetes Spectrum published a paper evaluating the effectiveness of metformin in preventing type 2 diabetes.
The paper reported that metformin significantly decreased the incidence of diabetes mellitus by 31% compared to placebo. However, it wasn’t more effective than lifestyle intervention which reduced diabetes incidence by 58%. Scientists concluded that metformin was well-tolerated and effective for preventing or delaying diabetes in high-risk persons.
Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism published a review to determine whether metformin should remain the first-line treatment for diabetes. The paper found no reason not to include metformin as soon as a person is diagnosed with diabetes.
Some studies explored how metformin compares to other options such as berberine. When it comes to berberine vs metformin, evidence shows they have similar effects. While metformin could be more powerful, they may work better in combination because berberine is a natural metformin. But when it comes to ozempic vs metformin, the latter is more practical for people who don’t like injections.
Metformin works by making the body more sensitive to insulin. At the same time, it lowers the absorption of sugar and decreases its production. That’s why it can aid the management of diabetes and prevent it in high-risk groups of people.
What are the side effects of metformin?
Every medication has some side effects. Not every person taking metformin will experience adverse reactions, but it’s useful to know the risks.
Common side effects of taking metformin include:
- Upset stomach
You may want to consult a healthcare provider if you experience unusual muscle pain, difficulty breathing, feeling cold, dizziness, or slow or irregular heart rate.
Avoid stopping metformin on your own or tweaking the dosage. Consult a doctor who will adjust the dosage based on your needs and condition.
5 tips for taking metformin
People with type 2 diabetes usually get metformin as the first-line medication for this condition. In order to get the most from metformin, you may want to follow the five tips listed below.
1. Take metformin with food
Metformin is supposed to be taken with meals. Avoid taking the tablet on an empty stomach. Taking metformin with food helps decrease side effects that may occur at the beginning of the treatment. Ideally, you should take medicine with or right after your evening meal. Make sure to swallow the tablet whole without crushing, breaking, or chewing it.
2. Avoid certain foods
Some foods can impair the effectiveness of metformin or increase the risk of adverse reactions.
- Alcohol interacts with metformin. While moderate use isn’t likely to cause problems, regular alcohol intake or binge drinking can. The best thing to do is to avoid alcohol entirely.
- Saturated fat may increase inflammation and make it more difficult to manage diabetes or lose weight.
- Trans fats have inflammatory properties.
- Simple and refined carbs reduce the effectiveness of metformin. You may want to avoid white rice, white bread, white pasta, soda, candies, desserts, snacks, crackers, sugar, and other low-fiber and heavily processed foods.
- Excessive sodium has a higher risk of heart problems and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Metformin doesn’t make your diet restrictive. Instead, it encourages you to make healthy changes and reduce the consumption of foods that may jeopardize diabetes management.
3. Increase intake of certain foods
While some foods can decrease the effectiveness of metformin, others can improve blood glucose management.
You may want to enrich your diet with the following foods:
- Vegetables – ideally, half of your plate at every meal should account for vegetables. Opt for non-starchy options such as broccoli, leafy greens, asparagus, cauliflower, and cabbage, among others.
- Low-carb fruits are better for glucose balance. Berries are a good example of delicious yet low-carb fruits.
- Lean protein can help regulate blood glucose. Choose chicken, turkey, fish, and other lean sources of protein, but make sure to avoid saturated fat.
- Healthy fats protect heart health and exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. Good sources of healthy fats are nuts, fish, avocado, and olive oil, all of which are abundant in unsaturated fats.
- Complex carbs are abundant in fiber, which slows the rate at which the body turns carbs into glucose. This leads to more effective blood sugar management and healthy insulin levels. Complex carbs include unrefined grains such as whole grain oats, brown rice, whole grain bread, and quinoa. These foods could also help with metformin weight loss, i.e., allow you to lose weight despite diabetes, while also using this medication.
4. Stay away from the sun
Generally speaking, you should stay from the sun and its harmful UV rays as it is. But it’s even more important when you’re taking glyburide-metformin. This medication increases sun sensitivity, thus making you more likely to get sunburned.
When taking this drug, apply sunscreen before heading out and reapply accordingly. It’s also useful to wear protective clothing. Keep in mind this applies only to cases when people take a glyburide-metformin combination.
5. Don’t treat it as a weight loss drug
It’s not uncommon for people to treat metformin as a weight loss medication. Evidence shows metformin won’t cause that significant weight loss and doesn’t exhibit a dramatic effect on visceral fat mass. Even though metformin can be an adjunct to healthy lifestyle measures, you shouldn’t rely only on this medicine to slim down. Losing weight is tricky, especially with diabetes, but it is achievable.
Metformin is the first-line treatment for diabetes. A growing body of evidence confirms its effectiveness. To get the most from metformin, it’s important to modify your diet, adhere to the dosage instructions, and take it with or after meals. If you’re experiencing side effects, you may want to contact your healthcare provider or get emergency medical assistance.
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- Metformin: historical overview
- A short biography of metformin
- Metformin and Type 2 Diabetes Prevention
- Should metformin remain the first-line therapy for the treatment of type 2 diabetes?
- Metformin: an old but still the best treatment for type 2 diabetes
- Metformin and berberine, are two versatile drugs in the treatment of common metabolic diseases
- The effect of metformin on fat distribution and metabolic syndrome in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
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