Obesity is epidemic in today’s society and is a significant public health threat. You don’t have to look far to see the effects of our high-sugar diets and sedentary lifestyles. Keeping blood sugar balanced is key to preventing metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Prevention is always the best course. Fortunately, there are natural alternatives to prescription medications that aren’t associated with negative side effects. Let’s explore the connection between berberine and blood sugar.
Berberine is a medicinal alkaloid found in many plants, including goldenseal, barberry, and Oregon grape. It has long been heralded for its antimicrobial properties, with more recent research demonstrating that this botanical extract has many benefits beyond its ability to combat microbes. Berberine is one of the main healing constituents of goldenseal, a popular herbal antibiotic.
Long used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, berberine has demonstrated time and again, its safety and efficacy in alleviating many conditions. Of course, any medication or supplement has the potential to cause side effects, and its up to the individual user to determine if any compound is safe for them personally, and in what dosages.
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Berberine and Blood Sugar
Not only is berberine antibacterial, it’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting agent. Berberine is used to treat GI-related symptoms, such as, food poisoning, intestinal parasites, and traveller’s diarrhea.
It’s also a popular remedy for digestive disturbances, including upset stomach, GERD, constipation, SIBO, and leaky gut. Research studies have demonstrated berberine’s ability to reduce cholesterol levels, improve blood pressure, and protect the heart and mitral valves.
Ongoing studies show that berberine is a valuable treatment for dementia and memory loss due to its effects on neuroplasticity, while also alleviating depression and anxiety by modulating important neurotransmitters in the brain. Because of its impressive antioxidant properties, berberine reduces diabetes-related oxidative stress and inflammation.
Berberine decreases blood-sugar levels, improving glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Blood sugar and insulin resistance are implicated in many chronic health conditions.
Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase is known by its acronym AMPK, an enzyme that is often referred to as a metabolic master switch because of its key role in regulating metabolism and maintaining energy homeostasis.
AMPK-regulated pathways are turned off in metabolic syndrome – it’s referred to as a syndrome because it comprises a variety of conditions including:
Each of these risk factors individually is detrimental to health, but in combination can lead to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
If you have any of the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, please start addressing it now. A great place to begin is getting familiar with your blood sugar levels.
Berberine’s effectiveness in regulating blood sugar is due to its activation of AMPK. Activation of this enzyme mimics results similar to those achieved only through exercise and calorie-restriction. Only one other compound is known to activate AMPK and that is resveratrol.
Berberine And Metformin
Berberine favorably impacts glucose metabolism, promotes healthy insulin secretion, and inhibits gluconeogenesis in the liver, a process in which the body creates sugar from sources other than carbohydrate or glycogen. Protein, for instance, can be converted into glucose via gluconeogenesis.
Evidence is now emerging about berberine’s effect on the gut microbiota, a mediating factor in both obesity and type 2 diabetes. Both metformin and berberine exert their effects by modulating intestinal flora, and increasing bacteria in the large intestine that produce small-chain fatty acids (SCFA).
Small Chain Fatty Acids
These fatty acids are responsible for fermenting fiber in the colon, and are the primary energy source for cells lining the large intestine. Animal studies have shown that these fatty acids improve enzymatic activity in the liver and muscles to normalize blood sugar.
Berberine balances the microbiome by attacking harmful bacteria, while leaving beneficial bacteria untouched. This makes it a useful therapy for bacterial dysbiosis, SIBO, parasites, and candida. Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, berberine is a beneficial supplement for any condition that is inflammatory in nature.
Berberine And Cancer
Berberine is an important supplement in the cancer arena because of its ability to decrease tumor growth, and inhibit metastasis and angiogenesis, two deadly processes that enable cancer to spread. It’s also been shown to induce apoptosis, a self-protective mechanism that prevents cancer by destroying tumor cells before they become malignant.
Studies on colonic cancer cells demonstrate that the anti-tumor effect of berberine may be due to its ability to inhibit the COX-2 enzyme, which is known to prevent tumor formation. In regard to breast cancer, berberine is showing promise in slowing new cancer growth via its impact on MCF-7 cells, the most widely studied breast cancer cells. It also inhibits SP cells, a type of highly-proliferative stem cell associated with metastasis.
Berberine’s anti-cancer effect may be due to it ability to metabolically alter cancer tumor cells by changing the way they metabolize fuel. Additionally, it stabilizes energy homeostasis by activating AMPK. Interestingly, cancer malignancy has been directly linked to loss of AMPK. Berberine is currently being studied for its effect on brain cancer.
How To Take Berberine To Lower Blood Sugar
It’s advised to always use caution when taking high doses of berberine as it has the potential to cause stomach upset and possibly diarrhea. Taking it three or four times throughout the day will prevent side effects and boost its effectiveness.
The standard dosage ranges from 500 to 2,000 mg daily, depending on the specific condition you’re taking it for. Berberine can be taken in capsule-form or as a tincture, and should be taken between meals.
For microbial use, supplementation should continue for a minimum of 60 days. If using for diabetes, take berberine for six months before accessing blood work. Fasting insulin and HbA1C should be evaluated to determine the efficacy of supplementation, and how long it should continue.
The fact that a natural compound is rivaling prescription drugs, such as statins, blood-pressure medications, and metformin is nothing short of astounding.
The healing properties inherent in the plant kingdom are truly amazing. There’s no doubt this superstar supplement should be included in any natural healing protocol.
Have you used berberine? How did it work for you? Let me know in the comments:)
(1) PubMed: Berberine interfered with breast cancer cells metabolism, balancing energy homeostasis.
(2) frontiers in Pharmacology: Effects of Berberine and Its Derivatives on Cancer: A Systems Pharmacology Review
(3) Journal of Cancer: Berberine Enhances Chemosensitivity and Induces Apoptosis Through Dose-orchestrated AMPK Signaling in Breast Cancer
(4) MDPI: Berberine, an Epiphany Against Cancer
(5) Gene Food: Micro-dosing berberine: good idea? bad idea?
(6) NCBI: Cancer Stem Cells and Side Population Cells in Breast Cancer and Metastasis
(7) Journal of the National Cancer Institute: MCF-7 Cells—Changing the Course of Breast Cancer Research and Care for 45 Years
(8) Anticancer Research: The Story of MCF-7 Breast Cancer Cell Line: 40 years of Experience in Research
(9) healthline: How Short-Chain Fatty Acids Affect Health and Weight
Disclaimer: This article is strictly for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice.