Are there any foods to avoid while taking metformin?

Are there any foods to avoid while taking metformin?

 · 7 min read

Metformin treats diabetes and other illnesses. While many people can manage this condition with a healthy diet, sometimes extra help is required. It can be daunting to start a new medication for the first time, but there are a few foods and other drugs to avoid to make it easier to tolerate.

  • Metformin treats type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes and, in some cases, PCOS
  • Taking metformin with food reduces the sides effects of sickness and stomach pain
  • It’s important to manage blood sugar levels while taking this drug, so that it works.Avoid high sugar foods and make certain lifestyle changes
  • We can avoid certain food and drink items to reduce the risk of lactic acidosis while taking metformin
  • Foods to avoid while taking metformin: FAQs

    • What foods are good for type 2 diabetes?

      There are a few foods that can help you manage type 2 diabetes without the help of medication. Olive oil is one such food when consumed in moderation.

      For those looking for dietary support when taking metformin, it is best to seek medical advice first and foremost.

    • What is the best way to take metformin?

      You can take metformin with food to reduce stomach pains, sickness and other uncomfortable side effects.

      Taking this medicine with an evening meal is a good choice, and a doctor will recommend the best way to split dosages over the day to make sure the body gets used to it.

    • What form is metformin?

      Metformin is only available via prescription as a liquid or oral pill.

      It is available as standard tablets or extended-release tablets.

      It is possible to access free diabetes prescriptions via the NHS, including metformin and other medication.

    • Are there any supplements to help diabetes?

      Those with type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, and so a supplement can often help to prevent this.

      This vitamin is only needed in small amounts, but it is essential to healthy body function.

      Before taking a new supplement alongside any current meds or supplements, speak to a doctor.

    • What dosage of metformin is usually prescribed?

      Metformin tablets come in different strengths - your doctor will decide the correct dose.

      The maximum daily dose is 2,000mg per day, usually taken as four 500mg tablets throughout the day.

      Liquid metformin comes in 5ml doses of 500mg, 850mg or 1,000mg. Sachets are available as 500mg or 1,000mg doses.

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    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.

    This drug is not officially approved as a treatment for PCOS in the UK, and it is not FDA approved in the United States. Despite this, it can positively affect those struggling with PCOS symptoms.

    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.

    Eleanor Jones
    Eleanor Jones
    Eleanor joined Health Times in 2022 and is an experienced health and lifestyle writer.
    The content on healthtimes.co.uk is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construedas professional medical advice or guidance. Should you need professional medical advice or guidance, you should consult with such a professional in their relevant field. Likewise, you should always seek professional medical advice before starting a diet, exercise regime or course of medication, or introducing or eliminating specific elements from your lifestyle. We strive to write accurate, genuine and helpful content, and all views and opinions expressed within this article are specifically the views of the author.