General Warnings

Is Metformin Gluten-Free?

What is gluten?

Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is responsible for most of the adverse health effects of gluten. Gluten is controversial these days. Most sources claim that it is safe for everyone except those who have celiac disease. On the other hand, some health experts believe that gluten is harmful to most people. According to a 2013 survey, more than 30% of Americans actively try to avoid eating gluten.

What is Metformin?

Metformin is a prescription drug used to treat type 2 diabetes. It belongs to a class of medications called biguanides. People with type 2 diabetes have blood sugar (glucose) levels that rise higher than normal. Metformin doesn’t cure diabetes. Instead, it helps lower your blood sugar levels to a safe range.

Metformin is also often prescribed off-label to treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but it isn’t currently FDA-approved for this use.

Metformin can cause mild and serious side effects. Most side effects are mild and primarily affect your digestive system. Severe side effects such as lactic acidosis are less common but require prompt medical attention.

How does metformin work?

Metformin doesn’t treat the underlying cause of diabetes. It works by lowering blood sugar, or glucose with the following mechanism:

  • decreasing liver production of glucose
  • decreasing absorption of glucose from the gut
  • improving insulin sensitivity in peripheral tissues, increasing tissue uptake and use of glucose
  • Metformin helps with other things in addition to improving blood sugar.

These include:

  • lowering lipids, resulting in a decrease in blood triglyceride levels
  • decreasing “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
  • increasing “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
  • possibly reducing your appetite, which may result in modest weight loss

Is Metformin Gluten-Free?

Not all brands of metformin are Gluten-free, taking a gluten-containing metformin brand can produce some unwanted side effects in some people. Gluten intolerance is found among people who take Metformin, especially for people who are female, 60+ old, have been taking the drug for 10+ years.

How do I know if my metformin is gluten-free?

To know if your metformin is gluten-free, read the ingredients label. Certain starches, such as corn, do not contain gluten. But a wheat starch on the label means that the metformin is not safe for people with celiac disease.

What are the side effects associated with using metformin?

Side effects of metformin include:

  • physical weakness (asthenia)
  • diarrhea
  • gas (flatulence)
  • symptoms of weakness, muscle pain (myalgia)
  • upper respiratory tract infection
  • low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • abdominal pain (GI complaints), lactic acidosis (rare)
  • low blood levels of vitamin B-12
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • chest discomfort
  • chills, dizziness
  • bloating/abdominal distention
  • constipation
  • heartburn

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs interact with metformin?

If your doctor has directed you to use this medication for diabetes, your doctor or pharmacist may already be aware of any possible drug interactions and may be monitoring you for them. Do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicine before checking with your doctor, health care provider, or pharmacist first.

Severe Interactions of Metformin include:

There are no severe interactions from the use of metformin.

Serious Interactions of Metformin include:

  • Contrast media (iodinated)
  • Ethanol
  • Ioversol

Drug Interactions with Metformin are:

  • Metformin has moderate interactions with at least 74 different drugs.
  • Metformin has mild interactions with at least 87 different drugs.

This document does not contain all possible interactions. Therefore, before using this product, tell your doctor or pharmacist of all the products you use. Keep a list of all your medications with you, and share the list with your doctor and pharmacist. Check with your physician if you have health questions or concerns.

You may also find useful information on Does Metformin Expire?


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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