Berberine: A Holistic Fountain of Youth?

There are so many great supplements out there, but it’s hard to know which is the right supplement for your needs.  That’s why I love talking about some of the most commonly suggested ones in my functional medical practice.  One fantastic supplement that I even take myself is called Berberine.  It’s derived from a little yellow flower and can do so much for our bodies- from anti-aging at a cellular level to enhancing or even replacing diabetes medication (WITH the help of a doctor, of course.)

​Let’s look at some of the other reasons I love suggesting Berberine…


Berberine is one of the most anti-aging compounds out there. It’s natural and plant derived. It has your body make less sugar, use insulin better, lowers LDL cholesterol, reduce infections and can even help with weight loss.


In my functional medical practice, I suggested this for my patients who had a diet high in sugar and processed foods, and tested high in hemoglobin AIC (indicating potential high blood sugar.) I also taught them a healthier approach to nutrition, of course!  Berberine helps your body become more sensitive to insulin (the hormone that puts sugar back into cells). Studies have shown that it’s comparable to many diabetic medications on the market such as Metformin. Patients already on a blood sugar medication may use this, but with caution, as it could cause blood sugar to become too low, unless they are being watched closely and tested by a doctor.
Because of its effect on blood sugar, it can also assist in weight loss.  It also affects a hormone in your body called Leptin, which stimulates your appetite.  


Berberine can also support cholesterol- by lowering total cholesterol numbers, LDL and triglycerides while raising HDL, which is your good cholesterol.  While it helps with this, I don’t generally recommend messing with your cholesterol unless it’s necessary, due to it’s important role in hormone production within the body.  I’ve seen too many men come in with testosterone issues due to medication to reduce cholesterol. Diet should always be the first focus, and is key in reducing “bad” cholesterol.  The real cause of the build up on the walls of your arteries (leading to heart disease) is really poor nutrition which, in turn, causes inflammation on the vessel walls. This inflammation attracts the LDL cholesterol (aka “bad” cholesterol) causing the buildup on the vessel wall. So the true cause of heart disease is not necessarily the high cholesterol but a high degree of inflammation. 


Berberine is especially helpful for women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which causes an over-production of testosterone by the ovaries.  Insulin support, reducing testosterone, and the added benefit of weight loss support are all vital for those suffering from PCOS.


Another really cool thing about Berberine is it’s antimicrobial effects.  When patients would test high in their inflammatory markers (CRP) I would suspect an infection or inflammation somewhere in the body, even if we couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from.  It’s antibacterial, antiparasitic, and antiinflammatory properties would make it a go-to for me for these kind of patients! ​


Berberine can be taken in a dose of 500mg 1-3 times a day, with meals due to it’s effect on blood sugar. If you’re taking a blood thinner such as Coumadin, it’s important to talk to your doctor prior to taking this supplement.  It can also affect other important medications such as antidepressants and beta blockers, so absolutely talk to your doctor before taking this to ensure there are no negative interactions with your current medications.


While I have so much knowledge and experience with holistic medicine, I don’t have experience with YOU and your specific body situation.  Any information here is not meant to replace the expertise your doctor brings to the table.  Instead, it’s to inform you so you know how to talk to your doctor, and ask for recommendations specific to your needs.


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