Berberine’s Metabolic Magic: How it Enhances Your Health Through the Microbiome

Hey there, welcome back to the Empowered Nutrition Podcast. I’m Erin Skinner, your host, and I’m excited to take you on a journey into the incredible world of Berberine in this episode. Together, we’ll discover the superpowers of this natural plant compound and its profound impact on our digestive, metabolic, and hormonal health.

Berberine: The Unsung Hero Imagine Berberine as the unsung hero of the supplement world. It’s not a prescription drug, but it’s gaining superstar status for its unique ability to kickstart the release of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). These GLP-1 superpowers are a game-changer in the realm of metabolic health.

Safety First: Navigating the Berberine Universe Let’s navigate the safety of Berberine. Most adults can embrace its benefits, but we need to be cautious. Expect some minor side effects like mild abdominal discomfort, constipation, or the occasional bout of nausea. But a word of advice, Berberine is best suited for those facing health challenges. For healthy individuals, it may not be the supplement you’re looking for.

Witness Berberine’s Breathtaking Feats Prepare to be wowed by Berberine’s breathtaking feats. It swoops in to save the day in the battle against diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), high cholesterol, and the formidable obesity villain. It’s a powerful ally, but having healthcare professionals as your sidekicks when introducing Berberine to your health journey is a smart move.

Dosing Drama and Cautious Calm Let’s dive into the dosing drama. The script reads 500 milligrams, two to three times a day, for one to six months. Berberine may be a powerful ally, but long-term alliances should be approached with caution. Especially if your medication squad is already on standby.

Berberine’s Secret Weapons Discover Berberine’s secret weapons as I unravel the six primary mechanisms through which it conquers the battlefield. From rallying nitrate-reducing bacteria to amping up short-chain fatty acid production, this hero doesn’t back down. It’s all part of the grand plan to reduce inflammation, optimize bile metabolism, foster Akkermansia bacteria growth, and control hormones to slay the dragons of appetite and sugar cravings.

Calling All Health Warriors Berberine steps into the spotlight when health warriors face particular adversaries. When weight loss resistance, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and PCOS are the battlegrounds, Berberine is your trusty sword. For other quests, consult your healthcare professionals for guidance.

Enduring Legacy The awe-inspiring aspect of Berberine? Its enduring legacy. Even after Berberine exits the stage, its impact on the gut microbiome continues to shine. It’s like having a guardian angel looking out for your health, long after the final bow.

The Final Act As we wrap up this episode, I hope you’ve gained a newfound appreciation for the superpowers of Berberine. This superhero in supplement form may be your ticket to a healthier, happier future.

References used in this podcast episode:

1.The Natural Medicine’s Database: Berberine (Professional Monograph) https://info.trchealthcare.com/natmed-ppc

2.Zhang Y, Gu Y, Ren H, et al. Gut microbiome-related effects of berberine and probiotics on type 2 diabetes (the PREMOTE study). Nat Commun. 2020;11(1):5015.

3.Habtemariam S. Berberine pharmacology and the gut microbiota: A hidden therapeutic link. Pharmacol Res. 2020;155:104722.

4.Zhang L, Wu X, Yang R, et al. Effects of Berberine on the Gastrointestinal Microbiota. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2020;10:588517.

5.Och A, Och M, Nowak R, Podgorska D, Podgorski R. Berberine, a Herbal Metabolite in the Metabolic Syndrome: The Risk Factors, Course, and Consequences of the Disease. Molecules. 2022;27(4).

6.Cao RY, Zheng Y, Zhang Y, et al. Berberine on the Prevention and Management of Cardiometabolic Disease: Clinical Applications and Mechanisms of Action. Am J Chin Med. 2021;49(7):1645-1666.

7.Wang H, Zhang H, Gao Z, Zhang Q, Gu C. The mechanism of berberine alleviating metabolic disorder based on gut microbiome. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2022;12:854885.

8.Li J, Meng P, Zhang J, He M. Effect of Berberine Hydrochloride on the Diversity of Intestinal Flora in Parkinson’s Disease Patients. Contrast Media Mol Imaging. 2022;2022:8381870.

9.Ming J, Yu X, Xu X, et al. Effectiveness and safety of Bifidobacterium and berberine in human hyperglycemia and their regulatory effect on the gut microbiota: a multi-center, double-blind, randomized, parallel-controlled study. Genome Med. 2021;13(1):125.

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Hey there. Welcome to the Empowered Nutrition Podcast. My name is Erin Skinner and I’m excited to share this content with you around Berberine. If you’re new here, we do focus on digestive, metabolic, and hormonal health. And certainly this topic applies to all three of those things. So glad you’re here of any three or all three or two of those things apply to you. As a side note, this talk is a simplified version of a talk that I just gave for our practitioner membership over@siboacademy.com. So if you’re a practitioner, especially focused in digestive health, definitely head on over to sibo academy.com so that you can stay updated with the most current research, clinical application and case studies in the space of functional GI work and just being more effective with complex GI cases. If you’re not a practitioner and you’re just interested in metabolic health and you’re in the right place, if you haven’t heard are time-tested program for healing, your metabolism has just come out available on the app called Lean for Life.
So definitely if you’re interested in checking out Lean for Life, we’ve set you, it is actually free to try. And then if you wanna subscribe, it’s a very low monthly cost for the initial intro phase. So definitely check out the Lean for Life app in the show notes if you’re interested in healing your metabolism. And go from and let us know if you have any questions. Without further ado, we’re gonna talk about berberine today. So you might have heard of it, you might have not, but just in case you’re like, what is she talking about? I just got off the call actually with a client who is a nurse who asked me, is Berberine a prescription drug? So great. You know, not everybody knows what berberine is basically, berberine is not a prescription drug, it’s a supplement and it’s a plant compound. There’s not, there’s no such thing as a berberine plant.
Berberine is a type of alkaloid or a plant chemical that comes from a few different types of plants. So for example, Barberry, golden Seal, Oregon, grape tree, turmeric all have berberine in them. So berberine, we’re talking about an herbal supplement when here you might, if you have heard of berberine recently, it’s probably because there’s been a lot of talk recently about berberine because it is a GLP one agonist. What that, what basically what that is is that means it stimulates the release of a hormone that’s called glucagon-like peptide. That’s the GLP one. And guess what else does that? All of these hot drugs, so like Wago v, Ozempic, Monro, all of those are, the mechanism of those is that they are GLP one agonists. Now if you take berberine, is it the same thing as taking ozempic? No. Even very, some common very food, very common foods like black tea and cinnamon stimulate GLP one. So I don’t think anybody would say like, Hey, if you put cinnamon in your coffee, you’re taking ozempic.
We all know that’s not the case. So they think of it more as a spectrum of how much something might stimulate GLP one. And basically what happens when you do that, the mechanism of these drugs is that they heavily stimulate it and then the GLP one slows the motility in your gut, which increases satiety and lowers appetite. That’s kind of a simplified explanation of how that works so that you aren’t really hungry to eat very much. And that’s how they result in weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity. So yes, there is an element of berberine that increases release of GLP one, but it’s not as much as these prescription drugs. So it’s not the same thing as taking one, but there’s a little element of that. Now let’s talk about when it’s safe to take berberine. So in adults and how in adults without, I mean we’ll talk about some contraindications, but generally it’s, it’s safe in adults with the exception of women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
It’s not safe. And it’s also not safe to be taken by children. So if you’re a relatively healthy adult, you might be a candidate. Some minor side effects that people sometimes experience or they might have a little bit of abdominal pain, a little bit of constipation, a little bit of nausea. Anything more severe than that, it should be stopped immediately. But because it has that GLP one agonist mechanism of slowing motility, that’s where some of those, where some of those side effects come from. And also because they’re modulating or changing your microbiome, which we’ll talk about more in a minute. Now, why would you want to take this? Well, there’s basically a few conditions in which berberine has good evidence as being helpful. So one of them is diabetes. This isn’t just like a minor effect. It’s actually effective on the same order as a thousand milligrams of metformin when metformin’s like basically the first line of therapy for, for for type two diabetes.
And so berberine is, it lowers hemoglobin A one C by 0.4 to 0.7% in in clinical trials, which is about what you’ll get from 500 to a thousand milligrams of metformin. So it’s pretty, it’s pretty powerful in type two diabetes and insulin resistance. And on a similar note in P C O ss, berberine has also been shown to not only improve blood sugar control, which is a big part of P C O S, but actually even improves androgens and it improves P M S symptoms, improves menstrual regularity. So it’s massively helpful in P C O Ss as well. Another ca thing that their brain’s really helpful with is high blood cholesterol or hyperlipidemia and si similar thing. It’s like this is a pretty major effect. It’s actually, it lowers cholesterol about the same amount as a statin. So it like really lowers blood cholesterol as much as a statin would, but without, but if you know much about statins, you probably don’t wanna take a statin.
So without the problematic elements of taking a statin. So it’s very effective for high cholesterol. Talking about dosing. So basically a classic sort of typical dosing that we would use would be about 500 milligrams, two or three times a day for about, somewhere on the order of one to six months. And that’s basically within what’s used in most trials. So typically up to two grams for a shorter period, like eight weeks. Or if you’re going lower like one or one and a half grams across the day, then you can go out to some studies even go out to a year. But it’s not meant to, to typically, well, it’s not really researched for longer than a year. And even a lot of studies don’t even go out past six months. So I consider it more of a shorter term intervention rather than an ongoing forever thing.
It does have some drug interactions as we’ve talked about. It’s pretty potent in terms of its physiological effects. And so that probably makes sense that it would, you’d have to be careful what medications you mix it with. So anything that’s a blood lowering medication or blood sugar lowering medication, an anti diabetes drug, especially if it’s something that can actually lower blood sugar like a glide or a, or excuse me, like a, like a insulin or a glipizide medication, you’ve gotta, you should coordinate care with ordering provider before you give berberine. Metformin doesn’t cause hypoglycemia, so that’s not as dangerous, but if they’re taken within two hours of berberine, there can be more side effects. So you’d wanna offset that. Like we said, it lowers blood cholesterol, so you wanna consider if somebody’s already on a statin and that could be a contraindication. It really impacts the effects of cyclosporine, which is an antibiotic.
So you know, this is kind of getting into like again, why it’s good to work with a practitioner when you’re getting into a serious supplement use. Because I could go on, there’s, it is also contraindicated with hypertensive drugs. I wouldn’t say contraindicated, but there’s interactions with hypertensive drugs, anything that goes along the cytochrome P four 50 pathway, which is one of your body’s primary detoxification pathways. So be so because berberine impacts that pathway, you can think of it as almost like it uses up the, that bandwidth of that detoxification pathway. So then the effect of any med you’re taking that also requires that pathway, which is many of them, you’re gonna have a increased effect of that drug almost as if you took a higher dose of it because it’s, it’s blocked from being cleared because berberine started taking up the bandwidth. So that’s something I think about as well.
And again, just working with somebody who’s qualified to help you, help you navigate your drug nutrient interactions is a really good idea. If you are taking medications and you’re wanting to also add supplements, all right, let’s talk about how berberine is so powerful at what it does. Basically what’s kind of interesting is it’s really not well absorbed. So that’s been, that’s like kind of the mystery, right? It’s like how do you, how do you get a powerful effect in clinical trials from something that you don’t even absorb? And the answer is that it massively alters the microbiome and the microbiome then those changes in the microbiome or that ecology of bacteria in your gut that change in your microbiome is what alters the metabolic health elements we’ve talked about. So obesity, diabetes, all the elements of metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, inflammatory conditions, P C O S, all of those are related to inflammation and, and, and it’s driven by the microbiome in a to a large degree.
And that’s kind of wild to think about ’cause we don’t even ever hear that when we go in for healthcare of like, wow, your cholesterol’s really high. Like what should we do? Let’s give you a stat. And so you don’t have a heart attack. Nobody ever says, oh, it’s probably ’cause your microbiome. Let’s work on that. Let’s work on your gut health. You don’t hear that. But that’s really a big part of what’s going on for most people. And so berberine, what it does is it improves the pathogenic microbiome, it improves the health unhealthy microbiome instead of going into the bloodstream and working is systemically. And we’re gonna talk about some of the specific ways that it does that. But before I do that, one really big elephant in the room, if you know anything about berberine other than the the ozempic like mimic story is that it has been shown to lower gut diversity.
And so if you know, you probably know this that in with a microbiome, it’s generally kind of like one of the first rules of the microbiome is that you want more diversity. We know that healthy populations, indigenous populations have more diversity and unhealthy populations have lower diversity. And that means numbers of types of bacteria. So more types of bacteria, good, less types of bacteria bad in the microbiome. So for berberine to lower diversity is kind of counterintuitive because we’re seeing these metabolic improvements. And yet especially in studies of people who have insulin resistance or type two diabetes, we see diversity go lower. It doesn’t always decrease diversity though. So for example, there’s a study that I’ll put in the references for you guys where they gave berberine to subjects with Parkinson’s disease and that group actually had a increase, a significant increase of their diversity.
So what berberine actually does, and this is like probably the main most important thing to take from this, what berberine actually does is, is it modulates the microbiome. So people with insulin resistance usually have a lot of unhealthy gut bacteria and not very much healthy gut bacteria. Berberine lowers unhealthy bacteria and increases healthy bacteria. And so if you, if you don’t have a lot of good things and you have a lot of bad things, if you take something that targets bad things, you have a net of less. But it’s good ’cause you have less bad things. So you have improved labs, you have improved blood sugar and improved outcomes. But if you have a healthy microbiome or if your microbiome is more just normal, you might not have a lowering of diversity. ’cause you might not have where burberine had to come in and like it wiped out so many bad, so much bad bacteria.
So another way, maybe a simpler way of saying that is that if you have an unhealthy gut microbiome, sometimes lowering your diversity is worth it. And that means lowering the unhealthy bacteria that you have. And that manifests in clinical improvement. Now let’s kind of get into some of the specific ways that berberine acts on these different health outcomes. So some of the main things that we talked about, we talked about diabetes, the way it does that is it cha lowers inflammatory bacteria and actually does increase anti-inflammatory bacteria. So like lactobacillus ruminococcus for example, increase with berberine in diabetics and that improves inflammation as well. So, and then kind of another similar stories around obesity. We see people lose weight when they take ozempic. We see unhealthy bacteria getting lower. But then we sees aside from that GLP one release that we’ve already talked about, we do see an increase of some bacteria that are associated with being a healthy weight. So that again, that modulating effect. Same thing with hyperlipidemia. So we see an increase of bacteria, oddities of akkermansia, which is I’ve already mentioned is like a critical bacteria for metabolic health. Well, we see a decrease of Prevotella and Clostridium, which are unhelpful bacteria that are pro inflammatory.
Other things that we’ve seen with berberine are improvements of liver disease, improvements of enter repeat enteropathy, so like damage to the gut lining and improvement of atherosclerosis. All that’s wrapped up in inflammation and, and the microbiome. So say basically the same thing that’s happening that’s driving those other outcomes is producing like a myriad of positive effects as long as it’s linked to inflammation and, and gut health, it probably improves with berberine basically. So I thought maybe the most helpful thing I, I’m gonna go, and this is overwhelming, just fast forward, but basically I’m gonna go through the six mechanisms that Berberine has on the microbiome that allows it to have these dramatic impacts. So one of ’em that’s kind of cool is that it actually increases what are called nitrate reducing bacteria. And what those bacteria do is they then change the berberine so that the berberine is more effective.
And so it, it has this sort of like Trojan horse thing it does where it, it creates its own success. It’s a driven little supplement. And so it, it makes basically the, it increases bacteria that activate the activate the berberine and making the more effective. And then aside from that, the actual like direct things that it does is it increases a, a group of bacteria like Roseburia for example, and ruminococcus that produce these things called short chain fatty acids. And short chain fatty acids are like the fuel for your gut lining. So it’s the things that healthy gut per bacteria make that make them healthy. It’s, it’s like when you improve the gut lining and feed the gut lining, then it’s robust and it protects you from inflammation and leaky gut basically. And so then we see that basically when that happens we see a lowering of inflammatory cytokines that then drive these metabolic problems we’ve talked about.
So things like t n f, alpha i L one, beta i l six, lipopolysaccharides, these are all these inflammatory things that happen when you have the combination of like unhealthy gut bacteria and intestinal permeability or leaky gut. So berberine basically by fueling the gut lining, it blocks the production of that inflammation. Another thing that burberine does, the third mechanism is that it actually lowers the gram-negative unhealthy bacteria that make lipopolysaccharides, which are the pro-inflammatory little nasty little bacteria bits that get through the leaky gut and drive an inflammatory response. So when we have lower L p s producing bacteria, we then have lower blood lipopolysaccharides and and research and then we see these lower inflammation levels and then improved metabolic health. A fourth mechanism of berberine is that it changes, again, change alters the microbiome, modulates it in a way that changes the way that bile is used.
So basically the bile that comes from the liver through the gallbladder goes through the gut. It’s not just this random thing that passes through into your stool. If you have the right bacteria that can decompose it, you can absorb that metabolized bile and it has important anti-inflammatory effects. And so berberine basically puts that into hyperdrive it, it turns on and increases these bacteria that make bile decompose it so that it can be absorbed and used to lower inflammation of a fifth mechanism of berberine is that it increases a very famous type of gut bacteria, which is called akkermansia phi. And akkermansia is basically something a very unique type of bacteria in the gut because it’s, as far as we know, really the only type of bacteria that drives the release from the gut lining of the mucus layer. So if you’re like, what is she talking about?
But basically if you think about, have you ever wondered like, okay, we’ve got this microbiome, we’ve got all these bacteria, it’s really about two pounds of bacteria. If you didn’t know that, where does it, how does it stick in there? How does it not just like come out with your stool? How does it stay in there? And the re the way that it does that is that your gut lining is supposed to release this sort of like gelatinous jelly layer, kind of like snot, it’s like a mucus and the bacteria lives in that. And so the problem that happens is that your gut doesn’t just release this mucus all like without stimulus. It requires this amania in order to release that stimulates the release of the mucus, thus giving your microbiome a place to live. And so why do we care about this? If you, for many, many people they’re low on Akkermansia, ’cause Akkermansia is threatened by our modern environment.
So then they don’t have enough mucus layers, so then they don’t have enough healthy gut bacteria. So then they have problems with their gut lining because the mucus is like a protective, you can think of it as like a bandaid for your gut. It’s like a protective, like gauze against your gut and it holds a healthy bacteria that make those short chain fatty acids that we talked about. So if you don’t have the mucus, like you’re kind of in trouble, you’re really in trouble honestly. So what’s cool is that akkermansia, like there’s very few things that can bring it back for you that can increase it. It’s not increased by normal things like fiber or even prebiotics like inulin or phos or zos, that that, those are things that increase more like classic gut bacteria. But Akkermansia is like its own kind of animal. It likes different stuff.
And so it’s really hard to increase it when you’re low and it’s really impactful when you’re low. So the fact that berberine really increases akkermansia is like gold it, that is a huge part of how berberine exerts its benefit. And it’s very hard to find things that do that. So that makes berberine really, really helpful. All right. And then the sixth and final mechanism of berberine is that it then, as we talked about, does change hormone secretion. So we talked about GLP one, but there’s either even other hormones that it stimulates the increase of that then feed into the gut-brain axis so that then appetite is different, hunger is different, sugar cravings is different. Mood is different in a way that causes less eating, less hunger, less high glycemic foods to happen in the diet. And that all again, results in these metabolic improvements that we’ve talked about around obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, cholesterol, P C O S.
All right. So you might be thinking berberine is just like everything, we should just all like start taking it. I’ve already told you a few cases like children and pregnant and lactating women that shouldn’t take it. But also there’s other people that shouldn’t take it. We, it really hasn’t been researched in healthy people. So if you’re, if you’re healthy right now, I don’t recommend just taking berberine. I would only say it’s a good idea if you have weight loss resistance, if you have metabolic syndrome, if you have insulin resistance or type two diabetes, or if you have P C O S, those are, those are times when I find berberine to be really helpful.
Kind of an interesting thing is there, I think in the GI community we think about it a lot for patients who have I b s, like maybe you have I B S and you’re wondering if bur brain’s a good idea. I’ve seen it work well, but there’s not a lot of research to say how much you should take or for how long or what you should expect. So you’re kind of, again, where you should probably work with a professional in that decision. But generally for the things that we talked about where berberine’s a good idea, you know, it’s, it’s like’s low hanging fruit. For me to just say, okay, we’re gonna do 500 milligrams three times a day for about start off, I’ll start off with a month to see how it goes. And if it’s going well, I’ll say three to six months and then we’re gonna stop. The nice thing about berberine and a lot of gut work in general is that unlike drugs when you stop taking berberine, it’s not like, oh, all the benefit just stops. Like so for example, with Metformin, it’s on a, it’s on a short time scale, 24 maybe max of 48 hours, you’re getting any clinical benefit from Met Metformin. Same thing with Statin, same thing with GLP one. Drugs like Wago V, you know pic, they only work while you’re taking ’em. Whereas Berberine is creating a change in your microbiome that’s more lasting
That so you continue to persistently get a benefit even after you stop taking it. So that’s one of the nice things about that and just gut work in general. So hopefully you enjoy this episode. Hopefully it made you excited about gut health in general. If not, berberine as well. I’ll definitely make sure to put the references in the show notes for you guys. Again, another thing to compliment Berberine is always just getting your diet and lifestyle optimized for metabolic health if that’s your goal. And so if you wanna do that is a whole new opportunity. We used Mylene for Life program used to be a lot more expensive. You can get very low cost now from the app. So definitely check out the Lean for Live app in the show notes and let us know if you have any feedback. Can’t wait to hear what you guys think. Talk to you soon.

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