In functional medicine imbalanced blood sugar is a very common root cause. Luckily, it is is also one of the easiest things to fix. An important strategy in balancing blood sugar is a botanical called berberine.
The US faces an epidemic of blood sugar imbalances
Almost 84 million Americans, or about one third of the population, has prediabetes. This is also known as metabolic syndromes and is a precursor to type 2 diabetes and many common health disorders.
Berberine for high blood sugar and diabetes
A natural plant compound, berberine is found within the stems, bark, roots, and rhizomes (root-like subterranean stems) of numerous plants such as barberry, goldenseal, Oregon grape, tree turmeric, and Chinese goldthread.
Berberine is generally well tolerated and has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat digestive issues and infections. The extract has a deep yellow color and is also commonly used as a dye.
Recently, berberine has become known for its ability to reduce high blood glucose. By working at a cellular level, it helps move glucose (sugar) from your blood into your cells where it’s most needed.
Berberine is also good for you if your blood sugar levels are in normal range.
Berberine activates AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase), an enzyme that modulates how the body produces and uses energy.
AMPK responds to changes in metabolism in the body and regulates fat, glucose, and energy imbalances.
Metabolic syndrome, or pre-diabetes, happen when AMPK pathways are turned off by a high sugar diet and a sedentary lifestyle. This activates fat storage, reduced ability to burn fat, high blood sugar, diabetes, and energy imbalances.
High blood sugar inhibits AMPK while exercise activates it.
The effects of berberine’s effect is similar to what you’d see in someone who increased exercise while restricting calorie intake because it activates AMPK, making it a useful tool in the management of type 2 diabetes.
Berberine as effective as metformin
Other known AMPK activators include resveratrol and the diabetes drug metformin. Scientists compare berberine to metformin because it is so effective at balancing blood sugar in both animal and human studies.
Berberine also helps with other conditions that respond positively to metformin, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the reduction of weight gain from antipsychotics, and potentially cancer.
Berberine’s many benefits
While berberine is most frequently considered for pre-diabetes, inflammation, and cancer, it can potentially help manage other conditions, including high cholesterol, obesity, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), leaky gut, lung inflammation, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease due to these actions.
Berberine’s benefits include:
- Supports healthy blood cholesterol levels.
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.
- Moderate weight-loss effect.
- Antibacterial qualities.
- Reduces the effects of tobacco smoke-induced lung inflammation.
- Inhibits growth and proliferation of cancer cells.
- Helps protect the brain.
- Releases nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes arteries, increases blood flow, and protects against atherosclerosis.
- Stimulates bile secretion and bilirubin discharge.
- Supports the intestinal mucosal barrier.
How much berberine should you take?
To balance blood sugar, the recommended dose is 500 mg two or three times a day. Spread your dose out throughout the day because berberine has a short half-life. Take berberine with meals.
Studies show gut bacteria is an important factor in transforming berberine into its usable form; supporting microbiome diversity increases its effectiveness. Eat a diet of varied and plentiful produce (go easy on the sugary fruits) and perhaps supplement with short chain fatty acid supplementation (SCFA) to boost your gut microbiome health.
How long can I take berberine?
Because regular use of berberine can affect cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes in the liver, researchers recommend using berberine for eight weeks with two to four weeks off before starting back up.
Cautions with berberine
Berberine does come with some cautions:
- Berberine is UNSAFE for pregnant women and nursing mothers as it can pass to the baby’s brain.
- Berberine can interact with a number of medications, increasing the risk of adverse reactions.
- Taking berberine together with medications that lower blood sugar can push it too low.
- Berberine can lower blood pressure so use it with caution if you already have low blood pressure.
Contact my office for more info.
How to learn if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact my office.
About Dr. Josh Redd, Chiropractic Physician — Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, and New Mexico functional medicine
Dr. Joshua J. Redd, DC, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, author of The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, is a chiropractic physician and the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center with practices in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. He sees patients from around the world who suffer from challenging thyroid disorders, Hashimoto’s disease, and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to his chiropractic degree, Dr. Redd has a BS in Health and Wellness, a BS in Anatomy, and a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He speaks across the nation, teaching physicians about functional blood chemistry, low thyroid, Hashimoto’s, and autoimmunity. You can join his Facebook page here.