Metformin is one of the three common medications/supplements used to manage PCOS symptoms. Generally, studies show that inositol and berberine are more effective, but metformin is still commonly prescribed by doctors for people with type-2 diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). That means many of you may be on metformin! But, did you know there are foods you should avoid if you’re taking this medication?
Metformin works by reducing the amount of glucose that’s released from the liver and by helping your cells convert glucose to energy. Basically, metformin helps with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can domino into plenty of other PCOS symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, high testosterone, irregular periods, ovarian cysts, acne, hair loss, swollen ankles/feet/hands, intense cravings, dark skin patches, skin tags, frequent urination, extreme thirst, high blood sugar, and more. Really, almost every PCOS symptom can be traced back to insulin resistance in some way, which is why it’s so important to get it under control!
As mentioned, metformin can be used to manage insulin resistance, but there are foods that can counteract it or negatively affect the results. So, I’ve compiled a list of foods you should avoid while taking metformin. Here they are:
8 Foods to Avoid When Taking Metformin for PCOS
Believe it or not, drinking alcohol actually lowers blood sugar. This is because when you drink alcohol, your liver has to stop releasing glucose to instead process that alcohol. And, remember, metformin also lowers blood sugar by reducing the glucose released by the liver.
The combination of metformin and alcohol then could actually make your blood sugar drop too low. It has the potential to induce hypoglycemia or lead to a rare condition known as lactic acidosis. In summary, you should definitely avoid alcohol when taking metformin!
There are other reasons to reduce alcohol use with PCOS as well. You can read about those reasons HERE.
High Sodium Foods
Metformin will reduce the amount of glucose your liver releases. However, food also triggers the release of glucose, and some foods more than others. Foods with lots of sodium will prompt more glucose release, which could counteract metformin’s efforts to keep your blood sugar under control.
Too much sodium can also lead to high blood pressure, kidney stones, heart disease, and more. So, consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. That might seem like a high amount, but that’s actually about 1 tsp of salt! If you do use salt in your meals, opt in for a Celtic sea salt to get in minerals like magnesium, rather than table salt that is processed with no nutritional value.
Saturated fats have a similarly negative effect as sodium. They can boost insulin resistance, making the metformin less effective. Saturated fats include full-fat dairy products like butter and cheese as well as red meat.
These are easy to replace in your diet by opting for lean proteins like chicken breast, salmon, and eggs and healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. And, dairy can be cut out altogether–that’s what I recommend for most Cysters. Here’s more about the effects of dairy on PCOS.
Refined and Simple Carbs
Simple and refined carbs such as white bread, cereal, white rice, bagels, and white flour also raise your insulin resistance. There’s no reason to fight the metformin by introducing so much sugar into your body!
Instead, avoid these foods and opt for complex carbohydrates like whole grain bread, vegetables, and beans.
We’re trying to keep our blood glucose levels low, so eating glucose will obviously hinder the effectiveness of metformin, raise those numbers, and worsen insulin resistance. Things like soda, desserts, pastries, and other sweet snacks are all big contributors to our sugar intake.
When you need a sweet fix, try naturally sugared fruits paired with protein instead. This will help you satiate your cravings without affecting your metformin and its work.
Over Processed Foods
You’ve probably heard the term “processed foods,” but what does it actually mean? Manufacturers drastically alter the original state of foods before they place them on store shelves, turning them into processed foods. Various methods alter foods in numerous ways. On one end of the spectrum, foods may undergo simple processes like washing and cutting, while on the other end, they might receive additional flavors, colors, and preservatives. The more processed, usually means the less healthy.
Over processed foods include things like packaged snacks, condiments, cereal, mass-produced bread, lunch meats, hot dogs, sausage, and many cheeses. These can all spike your blood sugar, making metformin less effective. When you can, always opt for less processed versions of food!
Fried foods are an example of saturated fats, so they raise those glucose levels. They’re also inflammatory and have been linked to higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and obesity. All around, they’re not the best choice for a PCOS diet, but especially if you’re on metformin.
Fiber At the Wrong Times
I know what you’re thinking fiber is supposed to be good for you! That’s true. Fiber is good for you. However, when taking metformin, you should make sure you space out when you take your medication and when you consume fiber.
This is because fiber can bind to the diabetes medication and make it less effective. Again, don’t stop eating high-fiber foods altogether, just avoid them right before or right after taking metformin.
Metformin is most effective when you avoid these foods!
Doctors frequently prescribe metformin to assist in the management of PCOS. You’ll get the best results if you avoid the foods I listed above.
However, as mentioned earlier, inositol lacks the common side effects of metformin and has demonstrated greater effectiveness for most individuals with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Here’s more about what metformin does for PCOS. After you read up on that, listen to this episode of my podcast about why Ovasitol is our favorite supplement for PCOS! If you’re part of the small population of people that doesn’t tolerate inositol well, berberine is also a good natural alternative to metformin!
For more on healing your PCOS naturally and reversing your symptoms, head over to my blog and listen weekly to A Cyster and Her Mister! And, if you want to be surrounded by supportive people and helpful resources to get you through your healing journey, download The Cysterhood app! No matter what you need, I’m here for you!