After having been diagnosed as diabetic, I have had to introduce new things in my routine, particularly with medication and my diet. So aside from my usual breakfast and vitamins, I now have added metformin. Metformin is the most common type of treatment for treating Type 2 diabetes and is often the first-line medicine for controlling blood sugar and improving insulin resistance (1).  

Handling side effects

While I know that metformin would be good for me, it was not what I felt when I started taking it. My doctor has told me that that some side effects may happen; that I may feel sick in the stomach, diarrhea, and sometimes, a loss of appetite (2).

When you start with metformin, it might seem a big step especially when you are not used to taking maintenance medication. You might even feel that you have lost control of diabetes and efforts in changing old habits didn’t help at all. Mitch Genato of LifeScience Health and Wellness Center advises that it is actually the reverse, that “taking metformin, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle gives you more control of your situation.”

But when I began to feel sick, I thought: this was supposed to help me - why does it make me feel bad? Should I just stop, and just be extra careful with my diet? “While sticking to a healthy diet is good, it should not and cannot replace medicine,” cautions Mitch.

Simple steps such as taking metformin with food (to reduce the feeling of being sick), applying heat pads or a hot water bottle to reduce stomach pain, and eating smaller meals to aid digestion, can go a long way in giving you relief from the side effects that gradually taper off with time. “Usually, these issues decrease over time once your body gets used to the medicine. Consistency is the key,” says Mitch.

Since Vitamin B12 deficiency may happen with long-term metformin use, multivitamins supplementation may potentially protect you against the deficiency (3). So upon checking this with my doctor, I was advised to add a Vitamin B12 supplement along with the usual vitamins I was taking,

* Read our blog on vitamins and supplements for diabetics

The mindset change

Perhaps this is the underlying issue – the difficulty of accepting a type 2 diabetes diagnosis and the adjustments that go with it. For some, starting to take metformin can be taken as a sign of failure to manage diabetes. It is a most natural way to react, especially when efforts have been made to live healthy but these has not been enough to treat diabetes.  Another factor to think about is a dislike or hesitation to take new medication, or adding new medicine on top of a current medication routine. Don’t forget too that all change is hard, and requires much effort to start.

The one thing that can help ease in – and maintain - these changes is to change your mindset about metformin. “Your mindset drives decision making, and reframing certain ideas can go a long way in helping you stick to the right medication routine,” says Mitch. He recommends journaling as a good strategy to jumpstart your mindset transformation. “When you note what’s going on during the times you feel good, and the times when you don’t feel good, you can observe and track the triggers of your reactions to metformin, whether side effects or ideas. As a bonus, this will also help you and your doctor manage your diabetes symptoms better.”

Now on to the biggest practical factor that hinders metformin adherence – cost. Don’t hesitate to bring this up with your physician, and explore if you can switch from branded to generic.  Another strategy is to buy more to save more in the long run; which you can now do with our Subscribe and Save offers on selected Diabetes Care products and Multivitamins, where you can get as much as 20% off on your maintenance medicine. You can also pay for your medicine on easy terms with Sureserv <link to Mediclick sureserv page>.

My biggest takeaway from this coaching session was a change in mindset when it comes to the cost of metformin. I know I have to buy them anyway no matter what, so Mitch helpfully suggests to “think of medicine not as an expense. Think of it as savings -spending on medicine now will reduce bigger hospital expenses later.  And it will pay for itself with your good health.”