Metformin and Alcohol: Side Effects And Health Complications

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Doctors prescribe Metformin medication to help manage prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Usually, doctors advise not to consume alcohol while taking metformin as excess amounts of alcohol intake do not contribute to diabetes management and safety. It is found that the side effects caused due to the use of alcohol with metformin might even lead to death.

Side Effects And Health Complications

Metformin and alcohol exert too much pressure on the liver leading to serious health problems. Let us see what happens when alcohol and metformin are taken and why doctors advise not to take them together.

Alcohol And Metformin- What Happens?

First of all, people who intend to take metformin should consult a doctor and get advice on the effects of alcohol use along with this medication. According to a survey in 2014, around 14.4 million people in the United States have been using metformin.

The reason why doctors are prescribing more and more metformin is that it controls glucose release in the body and prevents prediabetes from turning into type 2 diabetes. 

Metformin effectively exerts pressure on the liver thereby decreasing the release of glucose and also lowering the absorption of glucose by the intestine. Now, when a person drinks alcohol, it seriously affects the blood sugar levels in the body. When you consume alcohol, the liver undergoes stress to eliminate the poison.

This stress increases exponentially when too much alcohol is consumed leading to the overworking of the liver. This results in the liver getting tired and releasing less glucose. 

With continued use of alcohol, the cells in the body become very less sensitive to insulin leading to less intake of glucose from the blood. This is why the glucose levels go high in the blood. Over time, alcohol consumption damages the liver thereby reducing the ability of the liver to secrete and control glucose. This damage to the liver caused by excess alcohol use coupled with regular intake of metformin leads to complete stress on the liver

So, taking both alcohol and metformin leads to serious health issues like lactic acidosis that require medical attention. 

Alcohol And Metformin- Side Effects

It is a fact that metformin intake causes some common side effects like diarrhea. But, alcohol intake worsens these conditions and they include stomach pain or discomfort, muscle cramping, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, excess gas, sour stomach, and indigestion or heartburn. These short-term side effects usually last for about 1 or 2 weeks will prolong for many weeks and even turn out to be fatal. 

Health Complications

People with diabetes taking alcohol along with the use of metformin are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with the following conditions: 

  • Lactic acidosis

The metformin drug and alcohol slow down the rate of lactate uptake by the liver thereby lowering the processing of glucose into a simpler form. Some of the symptoms of lactic acidosis include cramping or pain, particularly around the gut, diarrhea, fast or shallow breathing, fluttering heartbeat, general discomfort, muscle seizures, tiredness, intense weakness, decreased appetite, low blood pressure, high pulse rate, nausea, and vomiting. 

  • Hypoglycemia 

If you take alcohol while using metformin, it can lead to a dip in blood sugar levels in the body resulting in hypoglycemia. Some of the signs of hypoglycemia include weakness, headache, racing heartbeat, sleepiness, extreme hunger, blurred vision, confusion, nausea, shakiness, dizziness, trouble thinking, cold sweats, and so on. 

  • Vitamin B 12 deficiencies

Metformin together with alcohol use may reduce vitamin B12 absorption leading to cardiovascular and neurological issues. The complications that you might have to face include neuropathy, confusion, numbness, dementia, delirium, loss of memory, anemia, headache, and inability to concentrate. 

So, there are some serious health issues caused due to the intake of metformin and excess amounts of alcohol. 

Final Thoughts

So, it is evident that taking both metformin and alcohol is not good for health. This is not beneficial for balancing blood sugar and also leads to other serious health issues like hypoglycemia, vitamin B12 deficiencies, and lactic acidosis. Excess intake of alcohol damages the liver and when combined with the effect of metformin, the stress on the liver increases reading to its abnormal functioning.

Experts suggest that you do not take alcohol while using the metformin pills due to these consequences. Make sure to follow expert advice and be careful while taking metformin.

About Tim Mathew

Tim Mathew is an Endocrinologist specialized in general endocrinology, diabetes, and lipid metabolism. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in a science-related discipline and completed a medical school program in New York. Once Tim Mathew quoted that Endocrinology is both a challenging and rewarding medical specialty, so he wants to specialize in it. To know more about Tim Mathew kindly go through our about page.

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