Metformin: how to stop taking it and what are its effects?

Metformin is a drug to treat diabetes. The side effects it produces become very annoying for some people. Likewise, there are some FDA warnings regarding its use.

Last update: 07 May, 2022

Metformin is a reliable drug for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. However, it is also possible that it can cause significant side effects in some people, so it is not always the indication of rigor.

Also, in 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended the withdrawal of metformin extended-release tablets from some manufacturers. This was because they found an unacceptable level of a possible carcinogen in these drugs.

It is estimated that metformin has been prescribed to more than 120 million diabetic patients in the world. However, it is possible for it to cause negative effects on the digestive system. For this reason, many people choose to stop taking it.

What is metformin?

Metformin is the most common medication worldwide for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Its role is to help control blood sugar levels. It is taken orally with food and comes in two forms: tablets and clear liquid.

This drug is also prescribed for people with prediabetes and in some cases polycystic ovaries. It is used alone or in combination with other active ingredients. He belongs to a family known as biguanides.

Metformin does not cause weight gain and it is considered the most accessible drug on the market for the treatment of diabetes. Experts agree that it is possible to stop taking it by adopting a healthy lifestyle. However, this must always be authorized by a healthcare professional.

How does it work?

Metformin is not a medicine to cure type 2 diabetesbut to treat their symptoms. Its basic action is to reduce blood sugar effectively.

This is achieved through 3 mechanisms:

  1. Decreases glucose production by the liver.
  2. Reduces the absorption of glucose by the intestine. This delays the arrival of sugar in the bloodstream.
  3. Increases sensitivity and reception of the cells of the body to insulin. This allows glucose to be better used as an energy source.

In addition, metformin helps with other aspects associated with type 2 diabetes, such as the following:

  • Reduces appetite. This favors moderate weight loss.
  • raises cholesterol wellor HDL.
  • Reduce the cholesterol evil or LDL.
  • It contributes to lower the level of triglycerides in the blood.
Metformin has an indirect effect on blood cholesterol, which helps in the general management of a diabetic patient.

Risks and Side Effects of Metformin

Many of the people who consume this drug have digestive problems. A study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism in 2017 points out that the most common gastrointestinal symptoms are diarrhea and flatulence.

Other common problems are the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • abdominal cramps
  • loss of appetite
  • metallic taste

In general, metformin is not recommended for people who have the following history:

  • Liver disease.
  • Serious kidney problems.
  • Psychoactive substance use disorder.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

have been detected some cases in which metformin decreases the absorption of vitamin B12. This only occurs after prolonged use of the drug. In any case, the physician should monitor the nutrient values ​​for the duration of drug use.


Hypoglycemia is a condition in which there are low levels of sugar in the blood. It is a rare effect of metformin, but it may happen. Most commonly, this occurs when combined with other active ingredients or insulin.

Lactic acidosis

Lactic acidosis is a condition that can be fatal. It has to do with the accumulation of lactic acid in the blood.

It is a rare side effect of metformin, estimated to only occur in 1 in 100,000 patients. This usually occurs in people who also have kidney failure.

How to stop taking metformin?

Metformin is an important part of the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but in some cases it is possible to reduce the doses or stop them. For this, The first thing is to consult with the treating doctorsince he is the one who has the correct criteria.

Without medical supervision, it can be very risky.

It is possible to stop taking metformin and even overcome type 2 diabetes with some lifestyle changes, as we will see later. Meanwhile, certain criteria must be met before the drug can be reduced or withdrawn:

  • Your fasting or pre-meal blood sugar level should be between 80 and 130 milligrams per deciliter.
  • Glycosylated hemoglobin must be less than 7%.
  • The glucose level should be equal to or less than 180 milligrams per deciliter after eating.

If those criteria aren’t met, stopping metformin might be too risky. What is indicated is that the doctor supervises the entire process.

Changes in lifestyle

A study published in 2017 noted that it is possible to control type 2 diabetes through knowledge, attitudes and dietary practices. This is a healthy lifestyle, based on a proper eating plan.

Other research from 2018 found that half of program participants achieved remission of type 2 diabetes after a year of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Thus, the best way to get off merformin, when the criteria are met, is by adopting proper habits.

In general, the changes that need to be made include the following actions:

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Reduce carbohydrate intake.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Do not smoke and do not drink alcohol.
The regular practice of exercise is something basic to try to stop antidiabetic medication or reduce doses.

Other available options and alternatives to metformin

Sometimes it is possible to substitute metformin for other drugs. This could be indicated for those cases in which there are very bothersome side effects, but the patient is not in a position to stop taking antidiabetics completely.

Possible substitutes are as follows:

  • Prandin ® or repaglinide.
  • Canagliflozin or Invokana ®.
  • Dapagliflozin or Farxiga ®.
  • Empagliflozin or Jardiance ®.
  • Actos ® or pioglitazone.

Also there are some medicinal plants that could be used to reduce the symptoms of diabetes. Among them are bitter melon, fenugreek, apple cider vinegar, aloe vera and neem. Any of these options must have the corresponding medical approval.

It is worth insisting that to stop taking metformin it is necessary to have a professional visa. Otherwise, not only may the symptoms of diabetes increase, but complications may also appear.

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