Metformin is a popular drug used to treat the ever-growing disease of diabetes and those suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a serious medical condition in which a female has excess androgens (male hormones) in her body.
Although suspected for years, scientists have now confirmed that the widely used prescription medication, metformin causes vitamin B12 deficiency and anemia. Studies also show that long-term use of the drug exacerbates the two conditions(1,2).
Of equal concern, the drug has been linked to the development of lactic acidosis–an excess amount of lactic acid in the body that can be fatal. In a study of metformin-related lactic acidosis cases, scientists discovered that mortality rates increased when levels in the blood exceeded five milligrams. Based on their findings, they believe that metformin accumulates in the body(3).
Obviously, the issue of lactic acidosis is bad enough, but what about the vitamin B12 deficiency? Is it a big deal?
Absolutely, B12 is a crucial vitamin involved in red blood cell division and formation, as well as neurological functions, and it plays an essential role in DNA synthesis. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to permanent nerve damage, blindness, deafness, dementia, jaundice, memory loss, fatigue, difficulty walking and balancing, hallucinations, and even cardiovascular disease resulting in a heart attack or stroke(4,5).
One of the hallmarks of inadequate levels of vitamin B12 is anemia, and an early warning sign of low B12 is often tingling in the hands and/or feet.
Obviously, metformin use may have some serious consequences that you’d want to avoid. So, are there other ways to treat diabetes and PCOS without the risks?
Natural Diabetes Treatment
Studies show that dietary intervention is the best way to treat pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes without the use of pharmaceutical drugs(6-10). Long-term, results are more effective than pharmaceutical use because the same diet that treats diabetes has the ability to protect you against other diseases. Diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease are common among diabetics, so it’s best to implement a plan to take care of every possible issue at the same time.
In addition to preventing disease, patients who choose to treat their condition with the recommended dietary changes typically lose a great deal of weight and feel better overall. Essentially, rather than “managing” your diabetes with pills, you’re curing it and reaping additional rewards with food. And depending on your health insurance, your bank account may feel better too ; )
If you’re suffering from diabetes or have been diagnosed with or suspect that you are pre-diabetic, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, The End of Diabetes, or How Not To Die. The authors of these books, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and Dr. Michael Greger, respectively, are experts in disease prevention and natural treatments, and the books contain extensive information about how to cure diabetes.
Natural Cures For Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
When it comes to hormones, I turn to the wisdom of Harvard-trained medical doctor, Sara Gottfried. Her book, The Hormone Cure, is the ultimate guide to natural hormone treatments. In fact, I recently began using her protocol to treat PCOS in one of my girls. Within days of beginning the recommended supplements, she started her menstrual cycle and says that she’s feeling much better.
Dr. Sara provides invaluable nutritional and lifestyle information in her book, and she offers advice on pharmaceutical therapies as a last resort when natural treatments are not enough. It’s also important to know if you’re dealing with multiple imbalances, which is often the case. The best things about The Hormone Cure are the included questionnaires which help you determine what you may have too little or too much of in your body, and how it gives you step by step instructions for dealing with each imbalance nutritionally, with exercise and relaxation techniques, with supplements and herbal therapies, and finally, with traditional medicine.
Here’s a quick snapshot of Dr. Saras’ recommended supplements for PCOS:
- 200-1,000 mcg daily of chromium picolinate
- 600 mg twice daily of D-chiro-inositol
- 2 grams daily of myo-inositol
- 2,000 IU daily of vitamin D
Those following a plant-based diet or who wish to avoid GMOs should be cautious in a choosing a vitamin D supplement as the majority contain vitamin D made from factory farmed animal skin–those fed GMO grain. My family uses Dr. Fuhrman’s Vegan Daily Formula + D3, which includes the ever-important vitamin B12.
- Aroda, Vanita R., Sharon L. Edelstein, Ronald B. Goldberg, William C. Knowler, Santica M. Marcovina, Trevor J. Orchard, George A. Bray, David S. Schade, Marinella G. Temprosa, Neil H. White, and Jill P. Crandall. “Long-term Metformin Use and Vitamin B12 Deficiency in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, February 22, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26900641.
- Kang, Donghoon, Jae-Seung Yun, Sun-Hye Ko, Tae-Seok Lim, Yu-Bae Ahn, Yong-Moon Park, and Seung-Hyun Ko. “Higher Prevalence of Metformin-Induced Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Sulfonylurea Combination Compared with Insulin Combination in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Cross-Sectional Study.” PLoS ONE 9, no. 10 (October 09, 2014). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25299054.
- Boucaud-Maitre, D., J. Ropers, B. Porokhov, J.-J. Altman, B. Bouhanick, J. Doucet, E. Girardin, E. Kaloustian, V. Lassmann Vague, and J. Emmerich. “Lactic Acidosis: Relationship between Metformin Levels, Lactate Concentration and Mortality.” Diabet. Med. Diabetic Medicine, February 16, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26882092.
- “Vitamin B12 — Health Professional Fact Sheet.” National Institutes of Health. February 11, 2016. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/.
- Skerrett, Patrick J. “Vitamin B12 Deficiency Can Be Sneaky, Harmful – Harvard Health Blog.” Harvard Health Blog RSS. January 10, 2013. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-be-sneaky-harmful-201301105780.
- Pan, A., Q. Sun, A. M. Bernstein, M. B. Schulze, J. E. Manson, W. C. Willett, and F. B. Hu. “Red Meat Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: 3 Cohorts of US Adults and an Updated Meta-analysis.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 94, no. 4 (August 10, 2011): 1088-096. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21831992.
- Rumawas, Marcella E., Nicola M. Mckeown, Gail Rogers, James B. Meigs, Peter W.f. Wilson, and Paul F. Jacques. “Magnesium Intake Is Related to Improved Insulin Homeostasis in the Framingham Offspring Cohort.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 25, no. 6 (December 25, 2006): 486-92. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17229895.
- Hruby, A., J. B. Meigs, C. J. O’donnell, P. F. Jacques, and N. M. Mckeown. “Higher Magnesium Intake Reduces Risk of Impaired Glucose and Insulin Metabolism and Progression From Prediabetes to Diabetes in Middle-Aged Americans.” Diabetes Care 37, no. 2 (October 02, 2013): 419-27. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2013/09/23/dc13-1397.short.
- Le, Lap, and Joan Sabaté. “Beyond Meatless, the Health Effects of Vegan Diets: Findings from the Adventist Cohorts.” Nutrients 6, no. 6 (May 27, 2014): 2131-147. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4073139/.
- Trapp, C., and S. Levin. “Preparing to Prescribe Plant-Based Diets for Diabetes Prevention and Treatment.” Diabetes Spectrum 25, no. 1 (February 01, 2012): 38-44. http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/25/1/38.full.