Dealing with the metformin side effects.
By Travis Grubbs
October 2008 — Have you ever pooped in the woods? If you are into activities like camping, hiking, hunting, or fishing, you are likely to answer "yes" to this question (and wishing I had not reminded you). There have been a few, thankfully rare, occasions where I have had to perform this activity in the great outdoors. I am an avid deer hunter and during the fall and winter months, I try to spend a lot of time in the "deer woods." I have learned that if you spend enough time in the woods you will eventually be faced with deciding where to do #2. This reality taught me to pack toilet paper in my hunting pack.
After getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes I faced another reality: metformin side effects. My doctor is a big fan of this medication and he quickly prescribed it for me upon my diagnosis. Metformin, like other medications, comes with its share of side effects. I have been on it for the last two and a half years and I have noticed that when I "have to go" I do not need to delay in proceeding with a "plan of action."
Before metformin, my brain would receive a message in the form of something like, "Hi Travis, you need to be thinking about taking a bathroom break." I still get these types of messages, but since being on metformin my brain has started receiving messages more like "Warning! Warning! A bowel movement is imminent! Proceed immediately to an appropriate facility to complete this bodily function!" This means that when I am up in a deer stand or sitting at the base of a tree, I have my handy roll of toilet paper nearby. I have learned that one of the characteristics of living with diabetes is "Modesty be damned."
This "sense of urgency" that metformin side effects have added to my life also got me to thinking about what would happen if my blood sugar dropped while I was twenty feet high up in a tree or a mile deep in the woods. Deer hunting is normally a solitary activity, so if I were to experience a low the only witnesses would probably be squirrels and birds (I tend to attract these critters during a deer hunt). Dealing with a low in the woods concerned me a lot more than searching for a nice secluded spot to drop my pants (remember, modesty be damned).
As I debated about how to address hunting with diabetes, I considered the following options:
Cease or curtail my hunting? Screw that! End of discussion.
Include glucose tablets and snacks in my hunting pack. This is a good idea. I have learned that the condition of the glucose tablets should be periodically checked for over heating / melting, which leads to them getting stuck in their container. I also include a zip locked bag of nuts and a canteen of water.
Take my meter to the woods with me. I have decided to begin packing my extra meter. Some of my recent lows have begun with me feeling light headed. I may start testing before I climb into a 15' to 20' tall deer stand.
Other items I have on hand. I also take along my cell phone, a first aide kit, and my diabetes wallet card to assist me in case of an emergency.
I think it is important to live your life to the fullest extent possible, while adapting to the changes brought on by health and age. For me to give in or give up is an admission of defeat, which is not an option. I manage my diabetes, and I deal with its inconveniences, so that I can live my life. I encourage you to do the same.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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