Metformin is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes, along with minimizing the risk of developing it. Although not officially approved for this purpose, Metformin can also be used to treat PCOS. This medication reduces your blood sugar levels and improves the way your body reacts to insulin. It is prescribed if changes to your diet and regular exercise do not seem to show significant results in reducing the blood sugar levels.

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How Metformin Works?

Metformin works by lowering your postprandial (after meal) and basal (baseline) blood sugar levels. Both of these measurements play a crucial role in managing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Metformin works in the following ways to lower blood sugar levels.  Makes the body more sensitive to insulin

Insulin is a hormone that removes sugar from the blood cells, thereby providing them with the energy they need to function. When the concentration of sugar in the blood increases, cells are not able to efficiently absorb sugar. This results in a buildup of excess sugar also referred to as insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. 

Metformin acts as an insulin sensitizer. It decreases insulin resistance, which enables cells to absorb and utilize more sugar, which in turn reduces the amount of sugar in the blood.

Decreasing sugar absorption

One of the primary ways that sugar enters your body is through the foods and beverages you consume. Anything you eat travels through your stomach to your intestines, where nutrients like sugar are then absorbed. Metformin decreases the intestine’s ability to absorb sugar, which results in less sugar in your bloodstream.

Lowers the production of sugar

Although you get most of the sugar from the foods you eat, your body naturally produces sugar as well. A large share of sugar production in your body happens in the liver. Metformin acts on your liver and reduces the amount of sugar it produces.

 

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Who Should and Should Not take Metformin?

Metformin is prescribed for adults and children aged ten or above. However, this medication is not suitable for everyone. Please speak to your doctor or medical professional if you fall into any of the below categories:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Severe infection
  • Recent history of heart disease treatment
  • Allergy to metformin or other related medicines
  • Severe circulation problems or breathing difficulties
  • Frequent consumption of alcohol

Additionally, you should stop taking Metformin if:

  • You need to have an X-ray or scan that involves injecting a dye into your blood.
  • You are about to have a surgery where you will be put under general anesthetic.

Side Effects of Metformin

Like all medications, Metformin can cause side effects, though serious side effects are rare. Consult with your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms that don’t resolve themselves within one to two weeks:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach ache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Be sure to speak to your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of these rare, but serious side effects:

  • A feeling of discomfort with excessive tiredness, shallow and fast breathing, cold body, or slow, fluctuating heartbeat. 
  • Signs of liver problems, such as yellow skin, eyes, and nails. 
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency: severe tiredness, lack of energy, sore and red tongue, mouth ulcers, muscle weakness, blurred vision. 
  • Skin disorder: skin rash, itching, redness

Metformin and Pregnancy/Breastfeeding

You can take metformin during pregnancy, either in combination with insulin or alone. You can take Metformin while you are breastfeeding as well. Although it passes into breast milk, the amount is too low to affect the infant. But to be safe, consult your doctor before taking Metformin if you are trying to get pregnant, already pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

Metformin and Other Medications

Metformin is usually unreactive, but there are some medications that can interfere with the effectiveness of this drug.

If you are taking one or more of these medicines, your blood sugar levels might require frequent monitoring.

  • Diuretics such as Furosemide  
  • Steroid tablets like Prednisone
  • High blood pressure and heart problem medications
  • Male and female hormones like testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen
  • Other diabetes drugs

Some women might also need to make a small adjustment in their Metformin dose if they start contraceptive pills, as they can affect the way your body handles sugar.

With society’s reliance on fast food increasing, the chances of developing type 2 diabetes increases along with it. If you are suffering from diabetes or are at a risk for developing it, Metformin can help with balancing sugar levels in your body. It makes your body more sensitive to insulin, decreases the amount of sugar absorbed by your intestines, and lowers the sugar levels produced in the body, thereby reducing the overall sugar levels in the bloodstream.

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