Alcohol is one of the most commonly consumed substances worldwide. In fact, drinking too much alcohol is among the leading causes of preventable death worldwide. Alcohol use can also increase your risk for a host of other health complications like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Metformin is an oral diabetes medication that helps control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. While there are some concerns about combining alcohol with metformin, common side effects from drinking too much alcohol include dehydration and a decreased threshold for metformin side effects. However, if you monitor your intake accordingly and take precautions when using these two drugs together, it’s safe to drink alcohol while taking metformin. Read on to learn more about how metformin and alcohol interact before taking either as part of your treatment plan.
How Alcohol Works
First, let’s understand how alcohol works. Alcohol is a type of psychoactive drug that is consumed as either a beverage or a drug. When consumed, alcohol is metabolized by the liver into a variety of toxic metabolites that can cause a host of complications. Alcohol also has a direct effect on the central nervous system (CNS), slowing down your body’s functions due to the depressant properties of alcohol. Alcohol is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream and distributed throughout the body. Alcohol is broken down primarily in the liver by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase.
The amount of time it takes for alcohol to leave your system depends on a variety of factors. These include your age, weight, gender, metabolism, and how regularly you drink alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the longer it takes for your body to rid itself of the toxins. If you are taking any medications, they may also prolong the amount of time it takes for your body to metabolize alcohol.
The Dangers of Mixing Metformin and Alcohol
Metformin is one of the most common diabetes medications prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes. Alcohol, however, can impair the way that diabetes drugs work in the body, especially when mixed with certain medications. In fact, alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of diabetes medications by as much as 50%, which makes it even more important to monitor your blood sugar levels when drinking.
Metformin is a big concern when combined with alcohol. Drinking with metformin can cause your blood sugar levels to increase and put you at risk for health complications. Metformin works to reduce the amount of sugar in your bloodstream that is broken down from food by the liver and turned into energy.
Metformin is metabolized in the liver, which breaks it down into byproducts that are excreted in the kidneys. Alcohol, however, can reduce the liver’s ability to metabolize metformin, which can lead to higher levels of metformin in your blood. Metformin toxicity occurs in many people who take the medication, but it often goes undiagnosed. This is because metformin toxicity symptoms are often mistaken for the return of diabetes symptoms.
The Dangers of Drinking Too Much Alcohol
As mentioned above, alcohol is a type of drug that has many detrimental side effects. When consumed in excess, alcohol can lead to a variety of health complications, including liver disease, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Although the amount of alcohol you drink is important, it is equally important to consider the timing of your alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol before or during a meal or shortly before taking any type of diabetes medication can cause the medications to be less effective. This is especially important when taking metformin.
Metformin is often prescribed to people with diabetes to help lower their blood sugar levels. The medication works by reducing the amount of glucose (sugar) your liver produces, while increasing your body’s response to insulin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps the body process glucose.
When drinking too much alcohol before taking a diabetes medication like metformin, the alcohol can delay the time it takes for the medication to be absorbed into the bloodstream and/or delay the time it takes for the medication to be metabolized in your liver. This can cause blood sugar levels to be higher than normal and can increase the risk for complications.
How Metformin Works to Help with Diabetes
Metformin can help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels by reducing the amount of glucose your body makes from the food you eat, as well as increasing your body’s response to insulin.
Metformin works primarily by increasing your body’s response to insulin, which is a naturally occurring hormone in the body that helps glucose be taken up by cells to be used as energy.
Metformin is also thought to work to reduce the amount of glucose produced in the liver by turning off an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase.
Other Tips for Safer Alcohol Consumption While on Metformin
If you are taking metformin and you are worried about its interaction with alcohol, there are a few things you can do to be more cautious. Here are some tips for safer alcohol consumption while on metformin:
- Be aware of the timing of your alcohol consumption. If you are taking metformin, try to space out your alcohol consumption throughout the day rather than drinking several drinks at once.
- Eat before and while you are drinking to help prevent your blood sugar from rising.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels frequently to be sure the alcohol is not causing them to rise too high. This is especially important if you are taking a single dose of metformin or a sustained-release dose daily.
- Take the recommended dose for your diabetes medication even if you are drinking.
- Be mindful of other drugs you may be consuming. Alcohol can increase the side effects of many medications, including some allergy and pain relievers, medications for heartburn, and sleeping pills.
- Tell a friend or loved one that you are taking metformin and drinking alcohol. It is important to have someone nearby in case you experience any side effects from the drugs.
Alcohol is a drug that is metabolized by the liver, but unlike most drugs, it is metabolized into toxic byproducts. Metformin is a diabetes drug that is metabolized by the liver and alcohol can impair the way that the drug works in the body. If you are taking metformin, remember to be cautious with your alcohol consumption to prevent your blood sugar from rising too high.
If you are taking either metformin or alcohol, remember to be cautious with your intake and monitor your blood sugar levels to be sure the drugs are working properly.