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Type 2 diabetes | 2 min. read

GLP-1 treatment for type 2 diabetes

Over time, as diabetes progresses, it may be necessary to start on one treatment or a combination of two or more. The most common treatments are:

  • Metformin
  • Thiazolidinediones (TZDs)
  • Sulfonylureas
  • SGLT-2 inhibitors
  • DPP-4 inhibitors (gliptins)
  • GLP-1
Here, we will focus on GLP-1 and what it can do for you.

How does GLP-1 work?

GLP-1 works with your body’s own ability to lower blood glucose and HbA1c. It helps your body release its own insulin and is designed to respond when your blood glucose rises. Simply put, GLP-1 slows down food leaving your stomach and helps reduce the amount of glucose released from your liver. When your blood glucose is high, it increases the amount of insulin released from your pancreas.

Common side-effects

Like all medicines, GLP-1 medicine can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them. Common side effects of GLP-1 include:

  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Diarrhoea

Low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia) is also common when GLP-1 is used with another antidiabetic medicine. Low blood glucose is more likely to happen if you also take a sulfonylurea or insulin.

For a complete list of side effects, see the Patient Information leaflet that comes with your GLP-1 pack. 

Dealing with side effects

Nausea and diarrhoea usually go away over time. There are no general solutions or proven tricks that can make side effects disappear, but here are some ideas.

If you are experiencing nausea, try to:

  • Avoid greasy or sweet foods
  • Avoid frying – instead, choose one of the 3B’s method (Bake, Barbecue, Boil)
  • Avoid big meals. For example, you could switch from 3 large to 6 small meals per day
  • Avoid activity after eating
  • Stop eating as soon as you are full
  • Drink beverages slowly and choose clear or ice-cold drinks

If you are experiencing diarrhoea, try to:

  • Take frequent sips of water or a rehydration drink to avoid dehydration
  • Avoid spicy foods, alcohol, chocolate, strong tea, carbonated sodas and caffeine
  • Reduce the intake of fibre until symptoms lower or disappear
  • Avoid greasy, fatty or fried foods

Please note that these tips aim to reduce side effects and are not indications for a long term diet.

If nausea OR diarrhoea persists or you have questions about your side effects, speak to your doctor about your experience. Your doctor may help you develop a balanced eating plan and make sure you respond correctly to the side effects.

Nausea and diarrhoea could also be caused by something unrelated to GLP-1 injections. Therefore, you should inform your doctor when these symptoms occur.

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