Metformin: The Benefits of the Diabetes Drug
One of the most common preventable diseases in the Western world, Type-II diabetes hosts a variety of side effects that can make anyone’s day-to-day seem impossible to get through. Aside from diet and exercise, one of the more promising forms of support is a medication called Metformin.
Backed by science to be an effective way to complement your diabetes treatment, Metformin may be able to improve your life in more ways than one. Let’s take a look at what Metformin is, its uses, and how it just might be the next anti-aging and a cancer-fighting wonder drug.
What is Metformin?
Metformin is a prescription medication that you might recognize under the names Fortamet, Glumetza, Glucophage, and Riomet. Its primary purpose is to treat blood sugar levels in those with Type-II diabetes; however, recent studies have shown that Metformin might also be useful for several other conditions including weight loss, cancer, and women’s fertility. We’ll talk more about those studies below.
Though you may have never heard of this drug before if you weren’t facing a life with type 2 diabetes, metformin has been around for quite some time. It was originally discovered in 1922. Later on, French physician Jean Sterne would take an interest in it and began studying how it worked in humans during the 1950s. It didn’t take long before it was recognized as a true and helpful medication in 1957. The U.S. was much slower jumping on the metformin bandwagon. It was not introduced as a medication in the U.S. until 1995. This is not uncommon in America where it can take over a decade to get a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
How Does Metformin Work?
When you have Type-II diabetes, your body’s muscle and liver cells become resistant to a hormone called insulin. Your levels of blood sugar are determined by insulin. It helps to remove sugar from the blood, either by utilizing it, storing it, or excreting it. When your body is resistant to insulin, blood sugar levels rise and you can become hyperglycemic.
When you have hyperglycemia, you might notice simple side effects such as fatigue, headache, and thirst. Prolonged hyperglycemia can lead to infections, vision damage, and kidney damage. Metformin works to help Type-II diabetes in three key ways:
- First, Metformin makes your cells – particularly muscle cells – more sensitive to insulin. In this way, insulin will be able to do its job of removing sugar from the blood.
- Second, Metformin stops the liver from producing excess sugars that contribute to the problem of high blood sugar.
- Lastly, Metformin slows down the absorption of sugars into the body after you consume a meal.
Do You Need a Prescription for Metformin?
A prescription is required to purchase Metformin in the United States. You can also purchase it online from India; however, when it comes to online pharmacies, you can’t guarantee the quality, potency, or safety of the drugs. What’s more, many people report being harassed by telemarketers for months after they place one order.
If you live in the United States and want to purchase Metformin, visit your doctor. If you’re going the route of an online purchase, do as much research as you can on the company and provider.
Established Metformin Uses
These are some of the established uses for Metformin.
Control High Blood Sugar-Related to Type 2 Diabetes
As mentioned above, the most common use of Metformin is to help those who are at risk or who have Type-II diabetes. By increasing insulin sensitivity and slowing down the absorption of sugar into the blood, Metformin is an effective way to avoid the most common complications related to diabetes.
Metformin Uses That Need More Research
The medication also has several other potential uses that have been gaining a lot of attention in the last several years.
Metformin Weight Loss Results
Metformin might be a useful way to support a healthy weight loss, especially in those with obesity and a number of cardiovascular risk factors. One study published in Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes tested subjects who were obese but did not have diabetes. Those receiving Metformin lost an average of over 15 pounds while the control group actually gained weight.
In another study published in Diabetes Care, those subjects who were provided with Metformin showed a significant decrease in body weight as well as waist circumference when compared to their placebo-taking counterparts. The study also determined that Metformin was safe to take long-term; researchers concluded 10 years was entirely safe.
Despite the results of both studies, it’s important to remember that age, genetic history, and gender varied throughout. These are three very important factors that can influence results. With that said, the studies are promising.
Metformin and Cancer
One very interesting benefit of Metformin lies in the fact that it has been shown to have an effect on different types of cancer.
A study published in the Annals of Translational Medicine confirmed that Metformin showed a strong ability to inhibit different cancer cells from growing. In particular, Metformin seemed to have an effect on breast, ovarian, prostate, and lung cancer cells.
Speaking more about prostate cancer: One study in Current Urology Reports found that subjects taking Metformin had lower levels of prostate cancer cells. What’s more, Metformin was shown to improve cardiovascular risk factors, especially cholesterol, blood pressure, body fat, and blood sugar.
Metformin and Anti-aging
One of the biggest health crazes for the last decade has been the anti-aging trend. People have been trying everything from coconut oil to DHEA with mixed results. Some studies suggest that Metformin might be a promising solution to promoting anti-aging benefits.
One study published in Rejuvenation Research gave Metformin to rats and studied the brain’s response to stressors. Researchers concluded that Metformin was able to have an anti-aging effect on the brains of the rats, especially with anti-inflammatory benefits. Metformin also shows promise in humans as one study confirmed that subjects given the drug showed enhanced cognitive performance, improved mental health, and a drop in cardiovascular risk factors.
Metformin Review: What Are Users Saying
Studies have revealed that Metformin is an effective way to combat Type-II diabetes, and it might be the next anti-aging drug, but what are users saying about it?
As far as weight loss, opinions vary but most seem to agree that Metformin promotes healthy weight management, even if it’s not the intended effect. The weight loss that is caused by Metformin is probably a combination of the diet your doctor recommends as well as the fact that your body is able to properly utilize glucose.
Reports of Metformin being effective but a bit harsh on the stomach are common; however, as we’ll discuss more below, the best way to remedy this is to take the medication with food. Also, some researchers some suggest that there is an adjustment period that results in some gastric distress. But your body will adjust and the side effects will subside.
Once the blood sugar and glucose levels are stabilized, one common report found that users of Metformin had increased energy levels. This can occur for two main reasons: First, you’ll be avoiding that dreaded sugar crash as the body will be able to effectively utilize glucose. Second, weight loss may occur. The loss of excess weight has long been connected with an increase in energy. It might not give you the same jolt as a stimulant-based pre-workout supplement, but the difference will be clear.
While some report more energy, there are those that haven’t had the same luck. Admittedly, the fatigue and drowsiness that some report is rare. As the review above points out, Metformin worked wonders for the husband, but not for the wife. Not every medication will work perfectly for every individual.
Speaking of rare side effects, one condition that can result from the use of Metformin is lactic acidosis. If you look through the medical literature and the information from your doctor, you’ll see that this is not a commonly observed condition; however, it can happen. As the review above mentions, it does cause pain throughout the body due to imbalanced pH levels.
The Recommended Metformin Dosage
There are two types of Metformin: immediate-release and extended-release. This refers to how quickly the medication with digest and assimilate in your body.
According to Drugs.com, the standard dosage for the immediate-release Metformin is 500 mg twice per day or one serving of 850 mg. This dosage will increase every week by 500 mg or every other week by 850 mg. It all depends on how well you tolerate the medication. You should not exceed more than 2,550 mg per day.
Metformin HCL Extended Release
For the extended-release version of Metformin, you will take an initial dose of 500 to 1000 mg per day. This can increase by 500 mg each week depending on how well you tolerate the medication. Do not exceed 2,500 mg per day.
Regardless if you are placed on the immediate or extended-release of Metformin, it’s important to follow the diet plan that is provided by your doctor. The proper meal plan complements Metformin, ensuring better results and minimized side effects.
The Metformin Side Effects
Have you ever watched those prescription drug commercials and at the end they have a disclaimer that it may produce unwanted side effects? Just naming the number of side effects sometimes seem like it lasts half the actual commercial. With that said, just like with almost all prescription and non-prescription drugs, there are side effects with metformin.
An upset stomach could occur while taking metformin. The problems could get quite unpleasant with nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Like other times when starting a new medication, it takes your body a bit to recognize metformin and adapt to it. It may solve itself in a few days or a couple weeks. However, vomiting is not much fun, so if you have any concerns discuss it with your doctor. There may also be some heartburn that could bother you. Plus, a possibility of gas as well. Starting new medicine with a low dose can sometimes help out these symptoms as your body gets used to it.
Low B12 Levels
Vitamin B12 is essential to your health. It assists with the body’s nerves and keeps blood cells healthy. In addition, it makes our DNA and also is good for brain health. Plus, it prevents anemia which can make people weak and exhausted for no apparent reason. B12 cannot be produced in your body naturally, it is brought into the body by the foods you eat. The foods that are high in B12 are essentially dairy products and various meats.
However, with metformin, research has shown that it can reduce the B12 level in your body. This can cause chaos in your health. People with low levels of B12 are more prone to dementia and depression. The problem is that it may not be noticeable at the moment you are taking metformin but can add up after time.
A deficiency in B12 also can weaken your bones, making you more susceptible to fractures. A lack of B12 may not show up on the outside, but it could be wreaking havoc on the inside. B12 creates red blood cells and the cells then carry oxygen to the rest of the body. If you have fewer red blood cells, this is when anemia can creep up and make you feel much older.
Lactic acid usually builds up in your body when you are working out or doing something strenuous. Gradually, your body gets rid of it because the kidneys kick in and remove it before it enters the danger zone. Lactic acidosis is a deadly condition where the lactic acid just keeps on building and the body is not able to get rid of it like it should.
When you are taking metformin, the amount of lactic acid in the body increases. So if lactic acidosis occurs, you may be feeling weak, dizzy, nausea, varying heart rate, and trouble breathing. Seek medical help without delay if this happens to you. Lactic acidosis is quite rare and it may never show its ugly head. But just in case, you know what to look for and the steps you should take if you feel the symptoms start coming on.
Low Blood Sugar
Metformin brings down blood sugar levels, so it would make sense that a side effect could be taking the blood sugar down too low. There are symptoms of low blood sugar that you should be aware of. A few of the major symptoms that you might notice quicker are headaches, weakness, being a bit shaky, sweating, and a fast heart rate. You probably already know ways to bring up low blood sugar. A quick way is to drink something sugary that can work its way into the blood quickly.
Once again, you may hear this term that you are hypoglycemic. The first four letters of it, hypo, essentially means low or beneath. So when you hear the word hypoglycemia it basically means low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia essentially is the same as having low blood sugar.
The Risks of Mixing Metformin and Alcohol
While on Metformin, we would advise avoiding drinking alcohol as this can increase your risk of developing low blood sugar or lactic acidosis.
Another way that you can increase your risk for these complications, which goes hand in hand with drinking alcohol, is fasting or dehydrating yourself. For example, if you spend a lot of time in a sauna without properly hydrating. Or if you become sick with diarrhea, the dehydration from this will increase your risk for hypoglycemia or lactic acidosis.
- Hypoglycemia: The opposite of hyperglycemia, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) occurs when the glucose levels in the blood fall below 4 mmol/L (72mg/dL), according to Diabetes.com. The immediate tell-tale signs that you have low blood sugar are going to be hunger and lightheadedness. Other common symptoms include trembling, sweating profusely, and nausea.
- Lactic Acidosis: This is when your body has an excess of lactate, more commonly known as lactic acid. While some lactic acid in the body is good, especially during glucose metabolism, too much can result in low blood pH levels. In other words, your blood becomes extremely acidic when there should be a balance between alkaline and acidity. Symptoms of lactic acidosis begin with fatigue and cramping. Eventually, you might notice pain all over the body. Gastric distress and diarrhea are also common. Left untreated, lactic acidosis can lead to jaundice and be life-threatening.
Alternatives to Metformin
While metformin is usually the very first drug prescribed for type 2 diabetes, both because of its effectiveness and low price, there are other alternatives you can look into. These alternatives will not need a prescription from your doctor, but you should still discuss what you are taking with your doctor.
Eating healthier and exercising
The easiest alternative to taking metformin for your type 2 diabetes is to go about with a lifestyle change. Eating healthier and exercising will result in weight loss and your glucose levels will be thanking you. A proper diet can control your blood sugar spikes and valleys if you are dedicated to changing your life.
Chromium is a mineral that helps to transport glucose throughout the entire body. Chromium increases the sensitivity to insulin so it can manage blood sugars well if taken regularly.
Gymnema Sylvestre is a plant found generally in Asia and the Pacific region. You know the supplement should be good for type 2 diabetes when it is named Sugar Destroyer in some of the translations. Both the leaves and the roots are used to treat type 2 diabetes. If it is taken daily, it can work as well as metformin, but without the side effects. Many people take this all natural alternative.
Magnesium is often heard of when speaking about daily vitamins. It is amazing to know that 95 percent of the world’s population is deficient in it. Magnesium works with the insulin receptors and manages the food you are eating. While it probably cannot be your only treatment for type 2 diabetes, it can be combined in with the treatment to get better results.
Pycnogenol is not an easy supplement to find. But if you are searching for all natural alternatives to metformin, this could work for you. It is actually made from the bark of a French pine tree. There are almost four decades of research on pycnogenol, so if you are interested in it, information can be found. It will also reduce blood pressure and bad cholesterol while keeping your insulin levels regular.
Metformin: A Complement to Diet and Exercise
Metformin is a proven way to address complications with Type-II diabetes. As researchers continue to study the medication, it may become an effective way to address weight loss and certain types of cancers. You might even find it on the supplement store shelf as an anti-aging remedy. Just because it is proven to be effective for increasing insulin sensitivity and balancing blood sugar levels does not mean it’s a cure-all.
Metformin should be looked at as a complement to diet and exercise, and not the one and the only way to stop diabetes. Low carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins Diet and the Ketogenic Diet have been shown to be effective at combating diabetes. Physical exercise is also key to fighting the disease.
If you’re considering Metformin for weight loss, you might want to wait until there is a more scientific consensus. In the meantime, try a thermogenic supplement such as green tea extract or garcinia cambogia.