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Metformin And Alcohol: Safe To Take Together?

Metformin and Alcohol

Metformin is a prescription drug from the class of biguanides used to treat type II diabetes.  It reduces blood glucose levels by reducing the amount of glucose produced by the liver or obtained from food. It also reduces the absorption of sugar in the intestine and increases the body’s response to insulin.

The average blood sugar level for the fasting state is 100mg/dl or less, and for the non-fasting state, it is 140mg/dl or less. A blood sugar level of 200 mg/dl or more indicates diabetes.

Metformin is effective and most widely used for treating diabetes. However, it should not be taken in the following cases-

  • If you are allergic to Metformin
  • If you have liver or renal disorder
  • Dehydration
  • In type 1 diabetes
  • If you drink much alcohol

How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect The Diabetic Person In A Fasting And Non-Fasting State?

Chronic alcohol consumption in a fed state, i.e. when the glucose level is high after having a meal, can lead to an increased amount of sugar lever, which leads to a condition called hyperglycemia.

However, chronic alcohol consumption during fasting leads to hypoglycemia, which can have equally life-threatening consequences.
This is because the body requires an optimum amount of blood glucose to function the brain.

How Does The Alcohol And Metformin Mix Affect The Biological System?

Some side effects are observed after intake of Metformin, which can intensify due to alcohol consumption. These include-

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting, Nausea
  • Bloating/ excess gas/ indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Loss of appetite

What Are The Risks Associated With Metformin And Alcohol Together?

Some life-threatening side effects are observed on the consumption of alcohol while on Metformin, which includes-

  • Lactic acidosis
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Deficiency of vitamin B-12

How Much Alcohol Intake Is Safe For Diabetic People?

Excess alcohol intake can lower the blood glucose level, which can be dangerous for diabetic people. It dehydrates your body and stops you from sleeping correctly. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends not more than two drinks for men and not more than one drink for women in a day. Our body can metabolize one drink per hour and not more than three standard drinks per day.

A standard drink is equivalent to:

  • 330 ml of mid-strength beer
  • 30ml of spirits/ hard alcohol (whiskey, gin etc.)
  • 150ml of wine (white or red).

What Type Of Alcoholic Drink Is Best For Diabetic People?

Though alcohol consumption is harmful to the health of diabetic people due to some or other side effects, if he still wants to drink, then selection of the best alcohol drink is very important. Some of the drinks are described below-

  • Cider and low-sugar beers should be avoided as they contain less sugar but more alcohol content.
  • Low-alcohol wines should also be avoided as they have higher sugar content than usual.
  • Consuming drinks with a greater quantity of sugar should also be limited, such as liquors and sweet sherries.
  • Some drinks like ales, beers and ciders contain carbs and can increase blood sugar levels initially. However, beverages such as dry wines, prosecco and spirits contain fewer carbs in alcohol.

Quick FAQ

What are the symptoms of lactic acidosis?
The interaction of Metformin and alcohol leads to a condition called lactic acidosis. It is a condition in which blood turns acidic, and lactate is built up in the body, which results in organ dysfunction and may be fatal. Symptoms include stomach discomfort, tiredness, difficulty breathing, tachycardia, muscle pain and lightheadedness.
Should I stop taking Metformin if I am drinking alcohol?
Interaction of alcohol and Metformin can lead to serious complications; it is recommended to avoid or stop taking alcohol while on Metformin. However, Metformin should be stopped after a recommendation from the concerned doctor.
What are special dietary instructions that need to be followed?
It is recommended to do exercise and eat healthy food while on treatment. Foods rich in trans and saturated fats and carbs and that contain excess sodium should be avoided. Fibre-rich food is otherwise considered healthy, but it might absorb some medicines and reduce its concentration in blood.
Should I drink much water while consuming Metformin?
Metformin must be consumed with a glass full of water. Also, drinking water while on the treatment of Metformin is an additive to the medicine as it dilutes the glucose and reduces hunger which helps reduce the blood glucose level.

Conclusion

It is occasionally safe to drink alcohol in moderate amounts while on Metformin. Excess consumption of alcohol can lead to severe complications such as lactic acidosis, hypoglycemia and vitamin B-12 deficiency. People having a diabetic condition need to show a precautionary life with dietary restrictions on the consumption of certain foods and beverages. A healthy life can be beneficial towards moving toward a better future and keeping yourself restricted to specific dietary habits.