By: Katherine Marple
My name is Katherine Marple, and I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 13 years. I’m the first in my family to have the disease, so I’ve done most of the research and made most of the discoveries on my own. One of those discoveries was the power of metformin (in addition to insulin) to help me control my diabetes.
Before metformin, I tried many different medications and methods of delivery, as well as low-carb diets, to control my glucose levels and lower my A1C. Humalog, Humulin, R, and Novolog all eventually lost their potency, and I finally came to Apidra (currently the fastest bolus insulin on the market). But as of 2010, even Apidra couldn’t lower my A1C of above 8%.
I switched to a low-carb diet to lower the amount of insulin I needed, hoping that it would lower my postprandial glucose levels. I ate only between 30 to 80 carbohydrates per day. A piece of bread is 15 carbs and one banana is 22 carbs, so an entire day on 30 carbohydrates is extremely low. I also cut out anything white from my diet, including white pasta, white breads, white flour, white rice, potatoes, sugar, and milk.
When my postprandial glucose numbers still hovered at 300 two hours after a meat and vegetable meal, I looked into a possible gastroparesis diagnosis. Gastroparesis is a delayed stomach-emptying condition from which many long-term type 1s suffer. It is caused by nerve damage in the stomach muscles.
I went in for testing, and when the results came back negative, I was nearly defeated. After fighting for years to combat my glucose levels, no method was working. I felt like I had tried every single option out there, to no avail.
Then I began putting my scientific brain to work. Over the years with type 1, I had needed to increase even my basal dosages on an almost six-month basis. Because I was basically the same weight over ten of those years, those increases didn’t make sense unless I was also suffering from insulin resistance.
That’s when I came upon a highly informative and well researched article published in January 2010 on diabetesmine.com. The author suggested using metformin in addition to insulin injections to help treat the insulin resistance seen in some type 1s.
Wikipedia reports that metformin was first used to lower glucose levels in the 1920s, before insulin therapy was discovered. This information gave me the confidence to give the drug a try.
It took three long conversations with my endocrinologist before he would write the prescription of metformin for me. It was unheard of to use pill supplements to control glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes. After assuring my endocrinologist that I would never stop my insulin injection therapy, but would only lower my insulin dosages as metformin did its job, he agreed to write the script.
I used metformin for only three months. In that time, I lowered my twelve-year A1C plateau of 8% to 6.9%. I had never had a lower A1C in all of my diabetes life. Also during that time, I slowly introduced carbohydrates back into my diet, starting with very small portions at dinnertime only. My postprandials were the best I had ever seen them. It truly appeared that I had been cured of all of my diabetes ailments.
After lowering my basal dosages to half what they were pre-metformin, I took myself off the pill. I truly believe that metformin is the reason my A1C dropped significantly and my diabetes control improved. It seems to have “re-booted” my body in the three months that I used it.
I do think that doctors need to be consulted before we try new therapies to control our diabetes. However, I do not believe that doctors should always have the final say. They tend to only prescribe what they know, not always what is best for you. Try as they might, they will never fully recognize the complexity of our bodies and our disease.
Every single person with diabetes is different and reacts differently to certain medications. At the end of each day, it’s my body and my life. This particular method worked for me.
I will continue to try new therapies to better my diabetes life. I will continue to research and petition until my diabetes life is just a memory and I can stand proud as a former type 1 diabetic.