Natural Alternatives To Metformin

Whether your goal is to get off pharmaceutical medications or you are alarmed at the FDA recall of metformin, [1] many are looking for natural, effective alternatives.

Fortunately, there are ways that some patients can safely transition to natural, high grade supplements with similar benefits of metformin without the side effects.

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What Does Metformin Do?

Metformin is currently a first line therapy for type 2 diabetes and is the most prescribed blood sugar lowering medicine in the world.

It was first prescribed in Europe in the 1920s for the treatment of type 2 diabetes but it was discontinued because of its risk of causing life-threatening lactic acidosis. [2]

Metformin has been used since the 90s in the United States for a wide spectrum of blood sugar related and insulin resistance disorders as well as for off label uses like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), fertility problems, longevity and diabetes prevention.

Metformin works by decreasing the liver's ability to produce glucose (blood sugar), which decreases the intestinal absorption of glucose and increases insulin sensitivity.

Side Effects Of Metformin

Metformin has a black box warning for lactic acidosis.  This is where lactic acid accumulates in the muscles and liver and can be life-threatening. 

Though this scenario is rare, it can happen, especially in those with kidney, liver, or heart diseases. [3]

Taking metformin can cause B12 deficiency.

B12 deficiency can contribute to many conditions including memory problems and several studies show that long term use increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. [4, 5, 6]

For those patients who have neuropathy, anemia and chronic pain syndrome, and those with MTHFR genetic variants, it can be disastrous.

A long-term severe B12 deficiency has been linked with increased risk of cancer [7], heart disease, and can contribute to severe detoxification problems.

Metformin can hinder benefits of progressive resistance training including muscle hypertrophy. [8]

Lifestyle Changes To Improve Blood Sugar

Rather than swapping metformin for another pill, you can introduce lifestyle changes to drastically improve your blood sugar regulation and overall metabolic health.

Incorporating just a few small changes along with adding some nutritional support can make a world of difference.

Read How To Reverse Type II Diabetes Naturally

Alternatives To Metformin 

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) 

NAC is considered a semi-essential amino acid, which means that it can be made in your body from other amino acids.

It is crucial for the production of glutathione which is a powerful detoxifier and antioxidant.

In women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a condition where insulin resistance is the primary contributor to the disease, NAC was shown to be superior to metformin in improving cholesterol levels, fasting blood sugar and fasting insulin levels. [9, 10]

NAC has been shown have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that improve insulin sensitivity.

It also protects the body from cellular damage, promotes optimal liver detoxification, can protect the lungs, and thins mucous for those with allergies or respiratory congestion. [11]


Berberine is a plant derived chemical that is found in plants like goldenseal, goldenthread and oregon grape.

Berberine protects against atherosclerosis and has potent anti-inflammatory properties.

Its properties can reduce heart failure pathology, reduce insulin resistance, and has been shown to reduce fat mass in those with diabetes while improving cholesterol levels.[12]

Berberine has also been shown to produce changes good bacteria in favor of better blood sugar control[13]

Berberine had comparable benefits to that of metformin and rosiglitazone, a diabetes drug). [14, 15]

Functional Medicine For Blood Sugar Regulation

Functional medicine uses the latest in diagnostic testing with scientifically proven supplementation.

Read more about Functional Medicine

If your medication is not adequate in reducing your blood sugar levels, you have a poor quality of life, other health conditions or other symptoms then I may be able to help.

Rather than prescribe a drug as the first step of treatment, I investigate why you are having blood sugar regulation problems and in most cases, we can relieve symptoms naturally and restore long-lasting health.

Dr. Brian Lum at an online functional medicine consultation

I offer online and in-person functional medicine appointments.

During your hour-long new patient appointment we go over your entire medical history, family history, medical history, previous testing and current symptoms and goals.

Based on what we find, I can order the specific testing to confirm your diagnosis and evaluate your physiology from a holistic perspective.

Begin Here

I offer Telehealth services including online functional medicine consultations and in-person functional medicine and soft tissue appointments.

I personalize treatment and even work with your primary care physician or order testing if you are out of state or outside of the country.

If you would like to speak with me directly you can schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation here or call my office directly at 913-728-5291.

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