A spoon full of sugar, and an Immodium chaser: PCOS life and Metformin

Welcome to the the wonderful world of Metformin! This was going to be our infertility miracle drug, right? It was going to help me lose weight, balance out insulin and sugar in by body so my eggs could be whole and healthy and my hormones balanced.

Well, It may have helped me lose 40 lbs in a year, but I’m pretty sure my gut will be messed up for the rest of my life. That, and I am still not pregnant. I started Metformin August of 2015 by my OB/GYN. I was diagnosed after an ultrasound and some lab work with PCOS, or Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. I wasn’t devastated, I knew many people with children who had PCOS, and I still see a lot of women give birth who have it as well. I knew Metformin wasn’t going to be a magical medication that would get me pregnant, but I knew it would help me lose weight. Little did I know that Metformin’s warning about GI symptoms would send my gut into turmoil! I started as instructed, taking 500mg daily and increasing over 4 weeks to my set dosage of 2000mg daily. I did well with the 500mg, and okay with the 1000mg, but anything above that and I will spend several hours on a throne of white.

I was sick, and devastated, but mostly sick. This magical medication was going to kill me!?!?!?! Well, that may be a little dramatic, but I sure felt like it was possible at 3 am as I sat there wishing I were sleeping as my insides poured out of me. After about 2 weeks of this non stop pain, unto which I created the “butt box”, I went to the only place I knew I could get helpful information; Dr. Google. I surfed for what felt like days, though it was likely hours, for answers about what I could do to stop this volcanic eruption my gut had become. While most sites and bloggs talk about the “minor GI upset” the medication caused, none of them talked about the real life problems. Like that I could never eat a salad again, or drink a little coffee with my cream and sugar.

If you have ever done any medical research into gastric bypass, you may have heard of a problem called Dumping syndrome. Well my friends Metformin will give you the fast non surgical route to dumping syndrome. What this means is every time you eat something sugary or greasy, your stomach and intestines will dump it or push it through so fast that you do not even have a chance to digest it. This leaves not only the, “oo look yesterday’s corn” aspect of going to the bathroom, but adds “oh, the salad I ate 1 hour ago”. So because my fellow internet writers are not as open about what comes out of them and why, I was doomed to find these things out on my own.

What not to eat, and what you can try.

Don’t ever think you can have iceberg lettuce in your salad ever again. Instead try baby spinach. For some unapparent reason, Iceberg lettuce will not digest, and it triggers at least 2 hours of gut stabbing pain that you can later identify on it’s way down to the sewers. (I am trying not to be too descriptive, but I also want to get my point across)

Don’t drink a soda. Diet doesn’t help here. Though most of the problem in dumping syndrome is sugar, the diet sodas sugar substitutes seem to cause the same problem. Instead, drink tons of lemon water and iced tea. You need to hydrate after all that pooping, and anything other than these two items seem to not agree.

Don’t eat anything fried. This one is rough, but its no joke. Metformin seems to cause anything with grease to slide right out. Instead, bake your favorite fried items, like baked “fried” chicken. And replace any oil with Olive oil. It seems to help.

Don’t eat deli meat. Something about the slimy processed meat bugs me anyway, but I have found it travels almost as fast as the lettuce and is just as recognizable as the corn.

There are a few other foods and what not to avoid, but I want to touch on a few bits of advice instead.

Make a butt box. You will thank me later. My box is a small snap on lid box the size of those 97 cent pencil boxes you had in school. Inside I have 3 Preparation H wipes. These are made with witch hazel and they are a lifesaver after you have pooped for the 5th time in an hour. Next I have a small tube of diaper rash cream. Yep, all that wiping and stomach acid will leave your tender parts, extra tender. Next, I have two meds in pill form. Imodium and Kaopectate. One will stop the liquid poops and the other will stop the nausea and sharp gut pains. Lastly, I have petroleum jelly based hemorrhoid cream. I don’t have a magical pattern into which I use these items. One will feel better one time, and another will the next time, but all are very worth it. I carry it in my work bag and I have one at home next to the toilet.

Carry a small notebook. This is used to log your intake and your output. If you start to have a really bad gut day, write down what you ate so you can figure out what caused the problem. Hard to believe, but not everything you eat is trying to kill you, and not everything affects everyone the same. I learned I can handle a 6oz Dr. Pepper as long as I have some zesta crackers and peanut butter right before. I don’t have any idea how this works, but it does. I also know I will avoid a carmel McCafe at all costs, not even a sip.

And my last bit of advice does not come from a medical professional, it comes from me, a person who takes the meds and lives the consequences; It is okay to skip a dose or two for special days. Now if you take this medication because you are a diabetic, you should not skip your meds, but if you are taking it to help you get pregnant only, its probably going to be okay with your doctor (just ask them). I found if I skipped my dose the night before my special day, and the morning dose that day, I would be fine. I would then start back up with the meds that were due that evening. The only time I didn’t take the meds that evening, is if I had any alcohol. This advice is for everyone, you think fried food makes your bottom burn, try having 3 oz of wine.

Again, none of this should be taken as medical advice, please talk to your doctor, they may have help or other ways for you. Mine put me on the extended release of metformin, and it made it to where I could predict when I would start to have bowel troubles that day and I could plan around them. I still skip my dose for days like thanksgiving and annual baking day, but otherwise I am managing okay with what I have learned. Sadly, I am not losing as much weight as quickly, but at least I am functioning again.

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