Metformin helps manage blood sugar in the body. It is used to treat type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome (in some cases).
There are a few essential food and drink items to avoid while taking metformin to reduce side effects and ensure that we control blood sugar levels in the body.
Metformin and diabetes
Doctors use metformin to treat type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes and to help prevent diabetes if you're at risk of developing it or are experiencing prediabetes.
Type 2 diabetes means that the body fails to produce enough insulin or that the insulin the body produces doesn't work correctly. This is also known as insulin resistance, when the body cannot effectively manage sugar or insulin levels.
Doctors manage this condition through diet changes or meds, and it is crucial to avoid high blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia). Metformin is often prescribed if dietary changes and exercise don't control blood sugar levels adequately.
This medication aims to lower blood sugar levels by reducing the amount of glucose produced by the liver and improving how the body handles insulin. For many, diabetes doesn’t cause symptoms- but this doesn’t mean metformin isn’t doing its job.
Metformin is prescribed under many brand names, including Axpinet, Glucient and Glucophage.
Metformin and PCOS
This medication also reduces the symptoms of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) in some cases.
PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that affects the ovaries. Many women struggle with this illness, and it can cause wide-ranging symptoms such as painful periods, acne, irregular menstruation and infertility.
Type 2 diabetes is also more common for those with PCOS. Metformin acts as a preventative medication for those who are at risk.
Side effects of metformin
This medication is highly effective and well-tolerated by most people who take it. It is the first-choice treatment recommended by the American Diabetes Association in the United States.
However, there are a few common side effects of metformin. These can often be reduced by understanding how and when to take this medication and what to look out for.
Side effects include sickness, diarrhoea and stomach aches. You can reduce these side effects by always taking metformin with food.
Unlike other diabetes drugs, metformin does not cause weight gain. In fact, this medication reduces appetite, leading to some instances of weight loss.
Metformin-associated lactic acidosis (MALA) is a rare side effect of this drug. This is due to increased lactic acid in the blood while taking metformin. Although lactic acidosis is a life-threatening complication, we can reduce this risk factor with specific lifestyle and dietary adjustments.
High sugar foods
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is mainly lifestyle-related. The causes of this condition include obesity and poor diet.
Due to the nature of this illness, it is essential to avoid high sugar foods while taking metformin so the medication can effectively manage sugar levels in the body.
The failure to limit sugar intake can also lead to problems with bodily functions, such as kidney function, and it is important to limit sugary foods whether taking metformin for this condition or not.
Although metformin monitors blood sugar levels, it is vital to stick to a low sugar diet to help this medication work.
This does not include those using sugar to treat hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
Foods that are high in sugar include:
- Cakes, pastries, biscuits and other carbs
- Drinks such as juice, fizzy drinks and milkshakes
- Sweets and chocolate
- Ice cream and rich desserts
- Sugary cereals and dried fruits
As well as these high sugar foods, avoid simple and refined carbohydrates. These include foods such as white bread, pasta and white rice. This is because refined grains contain fewer nutrients and more sugar than whole grains. This makes it harder for metformin to manage blood sugar levels in the body.
Although healthy fats are an essential part of our diet, avoid saturated and trans fats while taking metformin for type 2 diabetes and associated illnesses.
These foods can all worsen insulin resistance and raise blood sugar levels.
Managing sugar levels
Metformin reduces blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is essential to avoid foods that interfere with blood sugar management.
Karela is one such food. This bitter gourd lowers blood sugar levels in the body. While this may sound like a good thing, this food interferes with blood sugar management and can stop diabetes from being controlled as well as it should be.
Karela is used to flavour certain foods, and it can also be added to juice and tea. If in doubt, check the label of food products and always speak to a healthcare provider about any dietary concerns.
The contraceptive pill also affects blood sugar levels in some cases, so a change in dosage may be necessary when using this form of contraception alongside metformin.
Metformin and alcohol
It is safe to drink alcohol and take metformin. However, this should not exceed two units per day, as more alcohol than this increases blood sugar levels and makes it harder for this medicine to do its job.
Alcohol also prevents the liver from storing and releasing glucose, which can cause a build-up of glucose in the blood. Many alcoholic drinks contain high sugar levels, and avoiding alcohol can reduce a crucial risk factor for this illness.
Drinking alcohol while taking metformin can also increase the amount of lactic acid in the blood. Some surveys state that grapefruit has the same effect when taking this medication. Grapefruit increases the risk of lactic acidosis while taking metformin and is best avoided to maintain healthy sugar and lactic acid levels in the blood.
Metformin and other medication
A few medications cannot be taken in conjunction with metformin.
This may mean that a doctor needs to monitor your blood sugar levels while taking the two drugs together. Still, it does not always mean that this medication is not an option.
You should avoid steroid tablets such as prednisolone should, as well as diuretics such as furosemide. There are also some hormone complications associated with this medication. For example, those using hormones such as testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone can be at risk while taking metformin.
Medication used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure can also cause issues while taking this drug.
It can be dangerous to take metformin at the same time as other diabetes medications. Therefore, before taking this medication, it is essential to discuss any potential drug interactions with a doctor or healthcare professional.
Doctors may consider a different medication or reduce the dosage of metformin depending on the medication interactions of individual patients. As with any medication decision, it is all decided on a patient-by-patient basis.
Understanding what to avoid while taking metformin
Metformin is a vital medication used to treat type 2 diabetes and make sure
your body can manage blood sugar levels effectively.
You should avoid a few foods when taking this drug, including those high in sugar, and there are also a few medication interactions to understand before starting this drug.
It is essential to know the foods to avoid while taking metformin to aid the role it plays in diabetes management. It is also necessary to be aware of the various risk factors associated with this medication, such as lactic acidosis.
By understanding the foods to avoid while taking metformin, you can reduce the risk of experiencing serious side effects, improve diabetes management and enjoy a good quality of life while taking this drug.