Metformin – What Every Diabetic Should Know

Diabetes affects millions of people throughout the world and for all the ones who know that they have it and are doing something to control it there will be just as many who do not know they have it. It is caused by the pancreas not creating enough insulin and this leaves you with too much sugar in the blood as your body can not process it properly.

Metformin is a drug that is used to treat diabetes. Its main role is in regulating the amount of sugar in the body and this alone will help the diabetic. It only treats type 2 diabetes and there are other medicines available for those suffering from type 1. It is a member of a group of drugs known as biguanides and they have been used effectively for some time.

How Does It Work?

Metformin manages to control the amount of sugar in the blood in three distinct ways. Firstly it works on the food that you eat. Most foods have some degree of sugar in them and too much can cause the diabetes to become worse. The amount that the body absorbs is important and Metformin makes sure that not too much gets through. If too much does get through the body cannot deal with it and it is then that you become ill. Secondly it keeps down the amount of sugar that is produced by the liver. If this can be slowed down, there will be less sugar travelling around the body and the outcome will be that you are less likely to be ill. Its final function is to make sure that insulin is regulated. It works on both injected insulin and that produced naturally by the body. As a result of this some people who already have to inject may find that they no longer have to do this, or at least cut down the amount of times they have to do it.

It will be important how much Metformin that you take and the amount will be prescribed by your doctor. This will be an exact amount and it is vital that you keep to this level. The drug can only work effectively if it is used in the right way. It is important to remember that you are taking this drug to control your condition and it will never cure it. There will clearly be times when you feel much better and are not aware of the normal symptoms that you may suffer from, but this does not mean that you should stop taking it. All this will do is cause the condition to worsen and may lead to your dosage having to be increased.

Normally you will be expected to take 500mg twice daily and this will be taken around the time you eat. This will eventually be increased to 500mg three times a day. In more serious cases the prescription can be for up to 6 500mg tablets a day but this will be in severe cases. It is safe to take it with other oral blood glucose lowering tablets such as sulphonylureas and thiazolidenediones (Glitazones).

What Else Needs to Be Done?

It will still be necessary to limit what you eat and also exercise whenever possible. Metformin should be taken at the same time each day, but if for some reason a dose is missed wait until the next one and take as normal. There is no benefit from taking two doses close together or from doubling up the dose in one go. Missing an occasional dose will not make a great deal of difference but if it happens regularly you may find that the Metformin cannot deal with the extra sugar.

Lactic acidosis is a condition that can be caused by drinking alcohol while you are taking Metformin so it will be best to check how much alcohol if any can be drunk. If the doctor says that you should never mix the two than that is the decision you must live with. There are unfortunately some side effects to Metformin and this is something you must accept and find a way to combat. They normally only occur during the first couple of weeks that you take the product, but they can be quite nasty and debilitating at the time. They include vomiting, dizziness, and an upset stomach, loss of appetite and most unusually loss of taste. Even if you are suffering from these symptoms you should not stop taking it. Reducing the dose and taking it at the same time you eat will minimize the effects, and once your body is used to taking this, the symptoms should also disappear. It is at this time that you can start building yourself back up to the normal prescribed amount.

Some people claim that taking their medication up to an hour before a meal does not cause them any problems. It could be that they are lucky and just will not suffer indigestion or wind, but each user will find out which way is best for them.

Another more concerning condition that can be caused is hypoglycemia – this is a low sugar level. It is very rare for this to happen but it must be kept in mind that it could happen. The symptoms of this are dizziness, weakness, loss of color, sweating and a general inability to move as you normally would. The one good thing about this symptom is that others may notice and be able to warn you that there is something not quite right. It is more than likely that your doctor will tell you to eat products that are high in sugar until the level has regulated itself. It is sensible to make sure that you carry items such as candy or sugary drinks with you and also make sure that the people you spend time with are aware that you are having problems with your sugar level. The time that can be saved by having help from others can be the difference between you feeling a bit out of sorts and having a full on diabetic incident.

Some people will never be able to benefit from using Metformin and these are people with certain types of heart failure, people who suffer with conditions that affect their kidneys or lungs and lastly anyone who will insist on having two or more units of alcohol per day. Giving up alcohol should be the obvious choice to allow you to take medication that has such a good success rate at controlling diabetes and cuts back the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Advantages Over Insulin

There are a number of advantages of taking Metformin over insulin injections. It can act as a hunger suppressant and losing weight will only help you manage your condition. It can also be taken with insulin when it plays a major part in keeping weight off. As the insulin used is often pig insulin, this can be the reason that some people suffer stomach problems, so Metformin helps to work against this.

While there are differing opinion about how effective Metformin is and also the best way and time to take it, most people agree that there are advantages and also that they are better able to control their diabetes. Slow release Metformin does seem to give the user more choice, but as long as you feel well and your test results are good, take it when you feel you will get the most benefit.


  1. Excellent write up, very educative.

  2. I have been on Metformin for at least 8+ years. Recently I bought a book called "Diabetes without Drugs" by Suzy Cohen. It has been the most educational book on Diabetes, and the most important thing I learned was about Metformin. It's great what it does but on the other side of negative is what it strips from your body. You must take B-complex and D3 for sure because it does deplete these. My husband and I both discovered this after reading the book and did what Suzy Cohen suggested. It made all the difference in our lives. Still taking Metformin but now with supplements that were striped from us.

  3. I had just started taking this medication and then 1 and 1/2 days later had missed one dose. Your article cleared up my concern and that I should take it the next morning. Thanks!

  4. You failed to inform the reader of the horrendous issues with diarrhea which metformin causes in some people.

    My metformin dosage is constantly being adjusted because of this complication which interrupts daily life on all levels.

  5. Some good info…

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