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How To Get The Best Results From Your Berberine Supplements

Over the past year, berberine has blown up across social media due to talk of it being a natural alternative to GLP-1 weight-loss drugs, but this buzzy supplement has long been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. 

For the record, the way berberine works is worlds away from how GLP-1s function. But berberine is pretty special, nonetheless. It comes down to its potent bioactive properties, explains Jerry Bailey, D.C., LA.c., a certified nutritionist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, and functional medicine physician with Lakeside Holistic Health. “Research shows that berberine activates an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), often referred to as a ‘metabolic master switch,’ which plays a crucial role in the regulation of metabolism, encouraging improved insulin sensitivity and decreased sugar production in the liver, and assisting in the management of lipid levels,” he says. “Furthermore, berberine’s benefits extend to promoting heart health, supporting weight management, and helping the body maintain the balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria and fungi” 

Because of its ability to impact various pathways in the body, berberine has become a compelling choice for just about anyone seeking to enhance their health. Read on to learn more about berberine’s benefits, as well as how to maximize your results. 

  • ABOUT OUR EXPERTS:   Jerry Bailey, D.C., LA.c., is a certified nutritionist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, and functional medicine physician with Lakeside Holistic Health. Kiera Lane, N.M.D., M.S.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., is a naturopathic doctor and director of Arizona Natural Medicine.

The benefits of berberine

Let’s dive into some of the most notable benefits of berberine supplements.

1. blood sugar management

Berberine may help support healthy blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity and improving glucose metabolism, according to naturopath Kiera Lane, N.M.D., M.S.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., director of Arizona Natural Medicine. “Berberine activates the enzyme AMPK, which plays a key role in glucose uptake and insulin signaling and can lead to improved glycemic control,” she says. 

Read More: 12 Things To Do If Your Blood Sugar Results Come Back Abnormal

Research, including one study published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, has shown that berberine can significantly reduce fasting blood glucose levels in individuals with blood sugar issues. Another study published in Metabolism, meanwhile, found that berberine supported overall glycemic control and healthy HbA1c levels in a similar population.

2. weight management 

Potentially the biggest draw to this supplement as of late is its purported ability to encourage a healthy weight. How? Berberine helps enhance the function of fat-regulating hormones like insulin, leptin, and adiponectin, contributing to decreased fat storage and improved metabolism, explains Bailey. One study published in Molecular Medicine Reports found that administering berberine resulted in a significant reduction in body weight gain and fat accumulation despite a high-fat diet.

3. heart health

Seeing as 77.5 percent of men and 75.4 percent of women ages 60 to 79 have some degree of cardiovascular disease, the notion that berberine can support heart health is huge. Research published in the journal Drugs found that berberine can promote favorable changes in cholesterol levels, which is good news for those with long-term heart health concerns. Bailey also points out that berberine works to support arterial health, which is a key factor in overall cardiovascular function.

4. bacterial balance

Research published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Analysis suggests that berberine can help balance levels of beneficial bacteria and work against harmful bacteria and fungi in the gut. Meanwhile, animal studies (like this one published in Atherosclerosis) have shown that it can enhance the production of short-chain fatty acids produced by beneficial gut bacteria. Because of these benefits, functional doctors often include berberine in protocols geared toward improving gut health, explains Bailey.

Should You Try Berberine?

If you’re looking to enhance your wellness in the specific areas berberine has been scientifically proven to support—including blood sugar management, weight control, cardiovascular health, and gut health—Bailey recommends trying berberine. “Particularly, those struggling with metabolic syndrome—a cluster of conditions that include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels—might greatly benefit from berberine’s multifaceted support,” he says. “Since this natural compound has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, promote a healthy weight, and support healthy cholesterol, it offers holistic support for many of these folks’ concerns.”

Read More: 7 Things That Throw Off Your Blood Sugar Balance

Those worried about long-term blood sugar regulation and cardiovascular function can also turn to berberine as an element of their preventative health strategy, Bailey suggests.

Of course, as with any supplement, potential users should consult with their healthcare providers before starting berberine. This is especially important for those with pre-existing conditions or currently on medication in order to avoid any adverse interactions or side effects. 

How To Get The Most Out Of Berberine Supplements

Here are some key tips to keep in mind to reap maximum benefits from adding berberine supplements to your routine.

1. Consider dihydroberberine

You may have heard of dihydroberberine, a chemically modified version of berberine that’s garnered attention for its enhanced bioavailability and effectiveness. This recent development is as compelling as it seems, since traditional berberine is known to suffer from poor bioavailability, meaning a significant portion of what’s consumed isn’t effectively utilized by the body, explains Bailey.

“Dihydroberberine is essentially berberine that has undergone a reduction process in which it is converted into a compound that is more readily absorbed by the human body,” Bailey says. “It is more easily absorbed in the gut, leading to higher concentrations in the bloodstream and, consequently, amplifying its therapeutic benefits.” (Try Vthrive The Vitamin Shoppe’s Dihydroberberine, which also contains ceylon cinnamon extract for blood sugar support.)

2. Check that ingredients list

Carefully examine a prospective supplement’s ingredient list and look out for any unnecessary fillers, binders, or artificial ingredients. “High-quality berberine supplements should contain minimal ingredients, primarily focusing on berberine itself, and possibly natural ingredients to aid absorption, like black pepper extract,” says Bailey. He recommends avoiding supplements with a long list of additional compounds that don’t add value or could potentially dilute the effectiveness of berberine.

3. Look for third-party testing

As with any supplement, it’s a good idea to opt for brands that have their supplements third-party tested, which ensures the product meets quality standards and is free from contaminants. “Third-party testing offers an unbiased verification of the supplement’s purity and potency, providing you with peace of mind regarding the safety and efficacy of the product you’re choosing,” says Bailey.

4. Split Your Dosage

The recommended dosage of berberine varies, often landing between 900 and 1,500 milligrams per day, according to Bailey. Because berberine has a short half-life in the body (meaning that the concentration of berberine in the bloodstream decreases by half rather quickly), it’s best to split your total daily amount up into multiple doses throughout the day. So, if you’re taking 1,000 milligrams, go for a 500 milligram dose in the morning and another later on.

To keep your routine convenient, “look for products that make it easy to achieve this dosage without having to take an excessive number of pills,” Bailey suggests. If you’re just starting out, try The Vitamin Shoppe brand’s 500 mg Berberine HCl.

5. Be consistent!

For berberine to exert its full range of effects, consistent daily intake is essential, Lane notes. The benefits of this supplement, as with most, are cumulative, meaning that they are more apparent over time. “You’re more likely to see improvement after taking berberine for several weeks, not one week alone,” she says. Stick to your routine if you really want to move the needle for your health.

6. Pair berberine use with a healthy lifestyle

Berberine supplements can be a very real support on your health journey—but they are indeed intended to play a supporting role. An overall healthy lifestyle should always remain front and center!

A diet that promotes healthy blood sugar includes plenty of protein, minimizes refined carbohydrates (think white pasta and baked goods), and is rich in fiber from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Exercising regularly (ideally at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week), adequate sleep (7-9 hours per night), and effective stress management (think a meditation or yoga practice) also make for better metabolic health.

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