What to Avoid Eating When Taking Metformin

Metformin is a commonly prescribed medication for type 2 diabetes. It helps regulate blood sugar levels and enhances the body’s response to insulin. While taking metformin, it’s crucial to support the medication with proper diet and lifestyle changes to achieve optimal results.

Foods to Avoid While Taking Metformin

Although metformin does not have specific food interactions, there are certain foods and substances that can hinder its effectiveness:

  • Alcohol: While moderate alcohol consumption might not pose significant problems, it’s best to avoid excessive drinking or regular alcohol intake since it interacts with metformin. Consult your healthcare provider before consuming alcohol if you have kidney or liver issues.

  • Simple and refined carbs: Metformin helps lower blood sugar levels, but it works best when you avoid foods that cause glucose spikes. Foods high in sugar, such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, candy, soda, desserts, chips, and crackers, should be minimized. These foods can increase the burden on metformin to regulate blood sugar levels effectively.

  • Saturated fat: Diabetes increases the risk of inflammatory disorders like cardiovascular disease. Saturated fats, commonly found in red meat and dairy products, can exacerbate inflammation and make weight management and diabetes control more challenging. Opt for low-fat dairy options and choose lean protein sources.

  • Trans fat: Trans fats, often found in store-bought baked goods and fast food, should be avoided as they contribute to inflammation and increase the risk of heart disease.

  • Excess sodium: Diabetes raises the risk of hypertension and heart problems. Since most Americans consume excessive salt, it’s essential to limit your sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day or less.

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Foods to Consider While Taking Metformin

In addition to taking metformin, incorporating certain foods into your diet can support blood glucose control:

  • Complex carbohydrates: Opt for unrefined grains like brown rice, whole grain oats, whole-grain bread, and quinoa. These foods contain fiber that slows down the conversion of carbs into glucose, resulting in more stable blood sugar levels. Fiber also promotes gut health and may aid in weight loss.

  • Healthy fats: Prioritize unsaturated fats found in fish, nuts, avocado, and olive oil. These fats combat inflammation and protect heart health.

  • Fiber: Many Americans fall short in consuming enough fiber. Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber per day from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. If necessary, consider a fiber supplement after consulting with your healthcare provider. Avoid taking fiber supplements simultaneously with metformin to prevent interference with drug absorption.

  • Lean proteins: Incorporate lean sources of protein such as turkey, chicken, fish, and tofu. These proteins can help control blood sugar and minimize saturated fat intake.

  • Vegetables: Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, leafy greens, and cauliflower. These vegetables offer vital nutrients without drastically affecting blood sugar levels.

  • Low-carb fruits: While all fruits contain beneficial nutrients, choose lower-carb options to maintain glucose balance. Berries, for example, are low in carbs and packed with fiber.

When to Take Metformin

Your healthcare provider or pharmacist will guide you on the proper use of metformin. Immediate-release tablets are usually taken twice daily with meals, while extended-release tablets are taken once daily with food.

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Should Metformin be Taken with Food?

Indeed, metformin should be taken with food. Doing so reduces the likelihood of side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, gas, and bloating.

Precautions and Risks

Metformin carries a black box warning, which is the most severe type of warning issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In rare cases, metformin may cause an accumulation of lactic acid in the body, leading to a potentially fatal condition called lactic acidosis. If you experience symptoms like flushing, warmth on the skin, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, heart rate changes, or muscle pain while taking metformin, seek emergency medical care immediately.

Certain medical conditions make metformin unsafe, such as kidney problems or disorders, metabolic acidosis, and heart failure. Before any surgical procedures or radiological testing, you may be asked to temporarily discontinue metformin, as the iodine contrast used in these procedures can interact with the medication.

Metformin also has potential interactions with other drugs, including oral contraceptives, calcium channel blockers, coenzyme Q10, ranitidine, dofetilide, morphine, digoxin, beta blockers, procainamide, triamterene, cimetidine, corticosteroids, quinidine, vancomycin, phenytoin, garlic, diuretics, sympathomimetics, estrogens, green tea, phenothiazines, and chromium.

When to Seek Medical Advice

If you have diabetes, whether or not you take metformin, it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider for guidance on an appropriate diet. They can also refer you to a registered dietitian or other experts who can assist in creating a personalized diet plan to support healthy blood glucose levels and achieve overall health goals.

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