Acarbose, Precose, Glucobay, Miglitol and Glyset are all ‘Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors’, also known as AG Inhibitors or Starch Blockers. They work by blocking the enzymes that break down carbohydrates and complex sugars (like fructose), which helps prevent blood sugar spikes after meals. Most carbohydrates are among the “high GI” (glycemic index) foods that raise your blood sugar very quickly. The only foods that raise blood sugar levels faster than carbohydrates & complex sugars are alcohol and simple glucose.
Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors are taken with the first mouthful of food at each meal. They take full effect about an hour after you take them, so that times the dose just right to “catch” most of the carbs in your meal before they are broken down into glucose.
Because AG Inhibitors are interfering with your digestive system, they can cause some unpleasant side effects. These side effects can include bloating, cramping, diarrhea, nausea and excess gas. Also, diabetics with liver disease or pre-existing intestinal problems generally should not take starch blocking diabetic medications.
However, most patients who CAN take AG Inhibitors find that the side-effects decrease over time as their bodies adjust to their new “style” of digestion. Initial side-effects can also be minimised by starting with a very small dose of starch blocker medication, and increasing the amount you take as your body adjusts. You can start by taking half of one AG inhibitor pill before one meal each day, gradually increasing until you are taking a half pill before every meal, and then again gradually increasing until you are taking a full pill with each meal.
A pleasant side effect you may find with Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors is moderate weight loss. You are, in effect, going on a sort of low-carb diet when you take Precose, Glyset or one of the other AG Inhibitors.
Because this class of diabetic medication will inhibit the conversion of foods such as fruit and fruit juices into blood glucose, if you find yourself in a hypoglycemic condition, you should take simple glucose to raise your blood sugar more quickly.
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