One of the most useful-and widely used-medications for type 2 diabetes, metformin, is known to cause digestive distress for some of the people who take it. One reader found, however, that drinking the fermented milk beverage kefir could help alleviate the symptoms.
Metformin and Diarrhea:
Q. I have type 2 diabetes for which I take metformin. Unfortunately, this medicine gives me severe diarrhea. At times I have been afraid to leave the house. My doctor just shrugs and says diarrhea is a side effect of metformin.
I have discovered that drinking kefir in the evening helps control the diarrhea. I don’t like the tart taste, but the drink has helped me a lot. It took about three weeks before it took effect and I got control of my bowels.
A. Diarrhea can be a symptom of a serious metformin side effect, lactic acidosis. Ask your doctor to check for this complication.
Why Might Kefir Help?
Kefir is fermented milk. This provides probiotic bacteria that may help stabilize your intestinal flora and help control diarrhea (Rosa et al, Nutrition Research Reviews, June 2017). Kefir appears to provide a range of health benefits (Bourrie, Willing & Cotter, Frontiers in Microbiology, May 4, 2016).
People with diabetes may also find that kefir can help lower blood sugar and HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar over time) (Tonucci et al, Clinical Nutrition, Feb. 2017). Even though the taste doesn’t please you, you’re smart to stick with plain kefir. Many of the flavored kefir products are sweetened, which might not be good for blood sugar control.
Taking Care of Your Diabetes:
We discuss the pros and cons of metformin along with many other strategies for blood sugar control in our Guide to Managing Diabetes.
Everyone with diabetes needs to be monitoring blood sugar as well as managing any symptoms. While natural approaches can be beneficial, they should not be used as a substitute for appropriate medical care.