The "magic bullet" and the "pill for every ill." Great analogies. The truth of the matter is there is no panacea for the plethora of health problems we face. However, some natural health supplements make you stop and think about the value they can bring to your life. In this instance, we are speaking of Berberine.
Berberine is the active component in certain plants, including goldenseal, barberry and oregon grape. Berberine has been used in Indian and Chinese medicine for centuries; today, it is still used as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug in China, where it is used to treat gastrointestinal infections.
In recent years, Berberine has moved into the limelight due to newly published research for blood sugar control -- (insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. It also deserves accolades for its positive effect on liver health, heart health -- (reduction of high cholesterol), intestinal health/gastrointestinal challenges and weight loss support
Can You Imagine, Berberine Supports All That!
To understand Berberine's amazing benefits, you need to know how it works. After ingesting Berberine, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and then travels to all cells in the body, much like most vitamin and mineral supplements. However, it differs when it gets to the cells because it binds to several different targets and changes their functions (similar to how pharmaceuticals work). The primary role of Berberine, once in your cells, is to activate a particular enzyme called AMP-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK), also referred to as the master switch that regulates all aspects of cell function and metabolism. Once Berberine has reached your cells, it goes to work on a few different systems
- Berberine benefits blood sugar because it stimulates glucose uptake into the muscle cells and lowers fasting glucose, fasting insulin and post-prandial glucose. Berberine helps to lower blood glucose in type II diabetes by increasing receptor expression
- Berberine is also known to delay the breakdown of carbs into simple sugars, reducing sugar spikes and protecting the pancreas from repeated damage due to blood sugar diseases.
- There have also been clinical studies on Berberine and its short-term effect on the metabolic characteristics of women with polycystic ovary syndrome. (a metabolic disorder associated with insulin resistance)
- Berberine inhibits inflammation through various pathways
- Berberine has anti-microbial benefits and helps prevent fungal, parasitic and bacterial infections. It seems to inhibit the secretions of some toxins produced by bacteria in your intestines which may explain its use in Chinese medicine as an anti-diarrhea supplement. It also helps with bile and bilirubin secretion, which further aids in digestion
- Berberine shows promise in lowering total cholesterol triglycerides and low-density protein (LDL) and helps increase high-density protein (HDL)
- Berberine helps with weight loss due to its effect on the fat-regulating hormones such as insulin, adiponectin and leptin. It may also inhibit the growth of fat cells at the molecular level (studies were done on 500 mg 3 times a day).
- Berberine also seems to inhibit the secretions of some toxins produced by bacteria in your intestines which may explain its use in Chinese medicine as an anti-diarrhea supplement.
- In preliminary studies, Berberine can "increase neurotransmitters including serotonin (47%), dopamine (31%) and norepinephrine (31%) in the brain." Researchers state that "Berberine exerted an antidepressant-like effect."
Berberine only stays in your cells for a few hours, so it is suggested that you spread out your dosage throughout the day. The dosage based on the studies is 500 mg three times a day. It would be best if you did not stay on this supplement all the time. It is recommended that you take Berberine for 8 weeks and then take a break of 4 weeks before resuming another 8-week program. Berberine can affect other prescribed medications and, over time, increase or decrease their effectiveness
If you are taking blood sugar medications, you cannot use this supplement without supervision as it will affect your blood sugar. Some reported possible side effects are related to digestion, and there are some reports of cramping, diarrhea, flatulence, constipation and stomach pain. You should not take Berberine if you are pregnant or trying to conceive