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Medications Commonly Used in Treating Diabetes


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  • In case you absolutely need to use a diabetes drug, be mindful of the possible side effects so that you know when to seek help should problems arise
  • To bypass potential complications brought on by conventional drugs, it is better to try natural methods to reverse diabetes

Upon confirming a diagnosis of diabetes, most people are prescribed medications to help treat their symptoms and lower blood sugar levels. However, this isn’t really the best way to help improve your condition, because these drugs can come with many side effects.

In a study released by the BMJ, patients who underwent intensive glucose-lowering treatments increased their all-cause mortality by 19 percent, with a 43 percent increase in cardiovascular death.1

In case you absolutely need to use conventional drugs to treat diabetes, be mindful of the possible side effects so that you know when to seek help should problems arise.

Type 1 Diabetes Drugs Are Insulin-Based

For Type 1 diabetics, insulin is the most common form of medication prescribed. It’s injected into your system and comes in different types depending on how severe your depletion is. Here’s an overview of the different insulin medications:

  • Short-Acting Insulin — Short-acting insulin takes time to be absorbed into your body. One example is Humulin S, which is taken 20 to 45 minutes before a meal. Its peak reaches after 30 minutes and lasts for two hours, and then tapers off slowly for the next three to four hours.2
  • Rapid-Acting Insulins — Rapid-acting insulins are the inverse of the short-acting versions. They’re injected just 15 minutes before meal time, have a one-hour peak and continue to work for another two to four hours..3
  • Long-Acting Insulins — Long-acting insulins are slowly absorbed by the body, with a minimal peak effect and a stable plateau that lasts most of the day. These are used when controlling blood sugar levels overnight while fasting or in-between meals. The onset is usually one to one and a half hours upon intake, followed by a plateau that can last anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.4

Type 2 Diabetes Medications Come in Various Forms

There are many types of drugs that are used for Type 2 diabetes depending on what the problem is. Here are the most common types sold in the market and their potential side effects:5,6,7

Metformin — This type is typically the first one to be prescribed upon diagnosis.

Metformin works by improving the sensitivity of your tissue to insulin so that sugar can be metabolized properly. It is also used to lower glucose production in the liver. Side effects of metformin include nausea and diarrhea.

Sulfonylureas — This group of drugs works by helping your body produce more insulin to allow the sugar in your bloodstream to be processed. Possible side effects of using these medications include weight gain and lower blood sugar levels.

Meglitinides — This class of drugs works similarly to sulfonylureas, but faster with a shorter effect. Weight gain and low blood sugar levels may occur as a result.

Thiazolidinediones — These medications work by increasing your body’s sensitivity to insulin, similarly to metformin. However, they’re not really recommended, as they have been linked to serious side effects, such as an increased risk of heart failure, bone fractures and bladder cancer. 

DPP-4 Inhibitors — Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) is an enzyme that destroys the hormone incretin, which is a substance that helps the body produce more insulin when it is needed.8

As the name implies, DPP-4 inhibitors reduce the function of the said enzyme, allowing the body to make more insulin.

GLP-1 Receptor Agonists — Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is an incretin hormone produced in the L-cells of the distal ileum and colon that plays a role in insulin secretion.9

Using this framework, GLP-1 receptor agonists function by copying the functions of natural incretin hormones in your body to stimulate the release of insulin, as well as inhibiting the release of glucagon in your pancreas.

However, they may cause digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite and vomiting.10

SGLT2 Inhibitors — Sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) is a protein responsible for glucose reabsorption in the kidney.

By blocking this function, SGLT2 inhibitors increase glucose secretion and lower blood sugar levels. Women who take this medication may have an increased risk of yeast and urinary tract infections.11

Amylin Analogues — Amylin is a hormone produced by your pancreas and released the same time as insulin, but in very small quantities. Its main responsibility is to control post-meal glucose levels.12

In the same way, amylin analogues imitate the function of the hormone, and is usually taken before a meal to prevent blood sugar spikes. Possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, headaches and hypoglycemia (if taken alongside insulin)13,14

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Beware of Each Medication Used to Treat Diabetes

Diabetes medications have developed a negative reputation because of their many side effects. To bypass potential complications brought on by conventional drugs, it is better to use natural methods to reverse diabetes.

If you absolutely need to use one, however, it is important that you educate yourself as to the risks and benefits of the drug you’re taking, and when to ask for help.

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