It is important that you know what you are taking with type 2 diabetes. And the question is, what is metformin?
Well I’m going to break it all down for you and put it in plain English so you can understand what it does, the side effects of it and why so many doctors use it.
Metformin is in the class of drugs called biguanides and the brand name for it is Glucophage. It is the only drug available in this class of medications and the metformin moa is different than other classes.
A drug very similar to metformin called phenformin was pulled off the market in the early 1970’s due to cases of a serious condition called lactic acidosis. Lactic acidosis is fatal in 50% of the cases. This is a condition where lactic acid builds up in the blood.
Metformin is the gold standard. Just about every doctor that I have worked with has said that they use it first and if not the first drug, definitely as the second drug for people with type 2 diabetes.
The way metformin works is it reduces glucose or sugar from being secreted from by your liver. This is a major problem in type 2 diabetes. Normally the liver produces sugar when your body is in a fasting state, long periods without meals or in between meals.
But in type 2 diabetes your body is tricked to believe that you are in a fasting state and your body liver keeps on producing more sugar. This happens even if you have just eaten a meal.
The reason this happens is because your cells aren’t getting the sugar they need so your body feels deprived. It’s like a domino effect all started by insulin not able to do its job properly. The medical term for this is insulin resistance.
Metformin used to be one of the few diabetes drugs that were known to be effective at helping people lose weight. But now there are more drugs on the market that are much more effective at helping you lose weight.
Another thing that metformin does is it decreases the rate at which your intestines absorbs sugar. And it helps to make your cells more sensitive to insulin in the muscle and fat tissues.
Metformin has been shown to lower fasting blood sugar levels by 40-70 mg/dL and lower A1C by 1.2-2 percentage points in clinical studies. And it has also been shown to improve triglycerides and LDL (the bad cholesterol).
Metformin Side Effects
The most common side effects with Metformin are:
- gastrointestinal side effects such as diarrhea
- abdominal discomfort
- some patients also experience a metallic taste from it
But the most severe of all of the side effects is lactic acidosis as we discussed earlier. In studies lactic acidosis was fatal 50% of the time it occurred. This can happen when metformin accumulates in the blood.
The data also suggests that you shouldn’t take metformin if you have kidney disease, congestive heart failure, or are undergoing radiologic studies or exams where you’ll be using iodinated contrast materials.
Prior to using any of this material, please consult with your physician.