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Berberine for Heart Health and Diabetes

Berberine is a remedy that has long been used by practitioners of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. It was considered an antimicrobial, antiprotozoal, and antidiarrhea agent. Research in humans has found that many of these claims as to the benefits of berberine are true.

What Is Berberine?

An image of berberine capsulesBerberine is an alkaloid compound found in the roots, stems, leaves, bark, and leaves of various plants. Amongst these plants are the Oregon grape, European barberry, tree turmeric, Phellodendron, goldenseal, and goldthread.

Research into its benefits in humans thus far has focused on its effect on glycemic control, liver function, blood lipids, and its effects on metabolic disorders.

Once ingested, berberine moves into your bloodstream and travels to cells. Once inside a cell, it may bind to molecular targets. It works similarly to commercially manufactured drugs in that it can change the functions of these molecular targets. It is an adenosine monophosphate (AMP) -activated protein (AMPK) activator. You find the enzyme in many cells in the body, including in your kidney, heart, liver, brain, and muscles. It plays a key role in metabolism regulation. Berberine may also affect gene function.

The different forms of berberine include berberine hydrochloride, the most common form, berberine citrate, and berberine sulfate.

Health Benefits

The most noted benefits of berberine are for those with diabetes and high cholesterol levels. This is because it may reduce blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol levels. Other benefits may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Berberine for Glaucoma

According to literature, eyedrops containing berberine may more efficiently reduce eye pressure in those with glaucoma than eyedrops only containing tetrahydrozoline.

Liver Damage

Literature suggests that it may decrease triglycerides, blood sugar, and liver damage markers in those with hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and diabetes.

Berberine for Bone Loss

It may decrease bone loss in postmenopausal women when taken in conjunction with vitamins D3 and K and a certain chemical found in hops.

Berberine for Radiation Injuries

Literature suggests taking berberine while undergoing radiation therapy for cancer may help reduce the severity of injuries resulting from the radiation process.

Berberine for Stomach Ulcers

Using berberine may help address stomach ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. It could also suppress bacterial overgrowth.

Heart Health

According to early research, berberine may address certain congestive heart failure symptoms and improve your chances of surviving the disease.

Berberine for Diarrhea

Berberine may help address diarrhea resulting from certain bacterial infections.

Berberine for Metabolic Syndrome

Taking berberine in conjunction with certain natural remedies may aid those with metabolic syndrome by improving both blood pressure and blood flow and lowering blood sugars.

Berberine for Symptoms of Menopause

Berberine combined with soy isoflavones may reduce the symptoms associated with menopause.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Berberine may benefit those with PCOS by lowering testosterone, blood sugar, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels.

Berberine for Obesity

A berberine supplement may aid in your weight loss journey.

Berberine for Blood Platelet Counts

Also called thrombocytopenia, blood platelets play a key role in your blood’s clotting ability. Taken together with prednisolone, berberine may help increase your blood platelet count.

Berberine for Burns

An ointment containing berberine may help address the damage caused by second-degree burns.

The Bioenergetic Circuit and Cardionomic Circuit

An image of the circulatory system in the human bodyThe circuits of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response are composed of related organs and systems, and each circuit performs key functions within your body. Both your Bioenergetics Circuit and Cardionomic Circuit are affected by berberine and are key parts of your NEM. The NEM stress response is your body’s automatic response to any stressful situation, physical or mental in nature.

Stress activates the NEM stress response and calls for increased cortisol production from your adrenals. As a consequence, different body processes are either elevated or reduced. You may see an increase in blood pressure, your heart rate may increase, your body may reduce its production of certain hormones, and your blood sugar levels may rise due to your body’s increased demand for energy during this time. These changes affect your Bioenergetic Circuit and Cardionomic Circuit.

Although things return to normal once the stressful situation passes, this may not be the case with prolonged stress. As the NEM stress response stays active, certain body functions may experience a state of imbalance or develop malfunctions. This can give rise to various health issues associated with adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue happens when the adrenal glands can no longer keep up with the high cortisol demanded during prolonged stressful periods. They may start producing less cortisol, depending on the stage of the condition.

Bioenergetic Circuit Dysfunction

The Bioenergetics Circuit encompasses all organs and processes dealing with your body’s energy flow. If this energy flow becomes impaired or blocked for whatever reason, you may experience several symptoms that could seriously impair your health. Your thyroid gland, pancreas, and liver make up the three main organs of your Bioenergetic Circuit.

Your thyroid produces the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. They play an essential role in your metabolism. Thyroid disruption may severely impair both your energy production and flow.

The pancreas also plays a key role in energy production. It controls your insulin levels and produces enzymes needed to break down food. If these functions become impaired, it may result in inflammation that impairs pancreatic function. This may cause blood sugar issues and low energy.

Your liver releases stored glucose when insulin levels decline. It also helps deactivate and clear metabolites from the body. Low energy levels or problems with energy flow may cause the liver to slow down. This leads to an increase in metabolites in the liver that are released back into the body. This can cause cell damage. As the liver becomes dysfunctional, it affects its ability to release glucose, thereby further hampering the energy flow throughout the body.

Cardionomic Circuit Dysfunction

The Cardionomic Circuit consists of the adrenal glands, autonomic nervous system (ANS), and cardiovascular system (CVS). Cardionomic Circuit activation coincides with the NEM stress response. Cardionomic Circuit dysfunction occurs when all three parts of the Cardionomic Circuit become dysregulated at the same time.

The first issue to arise is a disruption of your hormonal axis followed by metabolic imbalances. You may, for example, have sugar cravings, become fatigued, and experience hypoglycemia. Your sympathetic hormone system may then become dysregulated. You could experience anxiety, increased heart rate, and insomnia, amongst others. Further progression may lead to cardiac node damage, resulting in fibrillation blood pressure instability, and idiopathic supraventricular tachycardia. You may experience cardiac arrhythmias and vascular dysregulation resulting in major disruptions to your cardionomic system.

Although symptoms may start gradually, for example including stress-related heart pounding, dizziness, high blood pressure, and heat intolerance, they may become debilitating over time. You may later experience symptoms that include postural orthostatic tachycardia (POTS), atrial fibrillation, chronic insomnia, and panic attacks. You may be rendered bedridden.

Addressing These Issue With Berberine

An image of a docotr checking a young man's heartAccording to the literature, berberine may help with both cardiovascular and bioenergetics issues. This is because of its effect on, amongst others, your blood sugar levels, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels, cholesterol, and general cardiovascular health.

Berberine Benefits for Diabetes

Type-2 diabetes has become quite common in recent decades. The condition results from high blood sugar levels. This may be due to either insulin resistance or the pancreas’ inability to produce sufficient quantities of insulin.

Insulin is important for its role in maintaining blood sugar levels and regulating carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism. It also plays a role in cell division and growth because of its mitogenic effects. These mitogenic effects refer to a cell’s ability to begin division as well as its rate of division.

Literature indicates that berberine may significantly reduce blood sugar levels in those with diabetes in several ways. For example, it may:

  • Decrease insulin resistance. This makes insulin work more effectively in reducing blood sugar levels.
  • Help with the breaking down of sugars in cells by increasing glycolysis.
  • Effect a decrease in the rate of sugar production in the liver.
  • Promote gut bacteria balance.
  • Encourage carbohydrates to break down slower in the gut.
  • Lower your hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels.

HbA1c is a form of hemoglobin chemically linked to sugar. Higher levels indicate you have high blood sugar levels. Healthcare providers may do an HbA1c test to find out the state of your blood sugar levels, especially if you have diabetes. They may use these tests to determine a course of action to address high blood sugar levels such as suggesting medications or insulin.

Berberine Benefits for Heart Health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). High cholesterol and high triglyceride levels are major contributors to heart disease.

According to literature, berberine may have a mitigating effect on these factors. It may, for example:

  • Decrease total cholesterol count.
  • Decrease "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.
  • Lower blood triglyceride levels.
  • Increase "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.
  • Lower apolipoprotein B levels.

Although high cholesterol levels increase your risk of heart disease, we need to differentiate between LDL and HDL cholesterol. LDL is often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol levels, together with other substances, tend to result in plaque buildup on your arterial walls. The arteries become narrow and harden, contributing to heart disease.

HDL is the ‘good’ cholesterol. It moves cholesterol from the various parts of your body to the liver from where it is expelled.

High triglyceride levels may hamper pancreatic activity and promote the hardening of the arteries, which in turn increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.

Apolipoprotein B is a structural protein with many roles regarding lipid metabolism. Elevated levels increase your risk of heart disease.

How Safe Is Berberine?

Although generally considered a safe supplement, using berberine, as with most supplements, also has some risks. Some people may also experience side effects. Most of the side effects relate to digestion. These include diarrhea, constipation, cramping, stomach pain, and flatulence.

An image of a woman holding a babyBerberine should not be given to newborns, infants, or pregnant or breastfeeding women. It could cause kernicterus in newborns. This is a type of brain damage that can take place in newborns with severe jaundice. It can also cross the placenta barrier to the fetus or pass through breast milk.

People with low blood pressure should take note that berberine could further lower blood pressure levels.

People with diabetes should also be aware that berberine can increase blood sugar levels if they are already on blood sugar medications or insulin. This could cause complications.

Lastly, consult your doctor if you're taking other medications as sometimes berberine may interact with them.

However, it can be used with Bitter Melon Fruit (10:1 extract) and Banaba due to a compound effect. Bitter Melon contains numerous key nutrients and has a hypoglycemic effect. Banaba has strong antioxidant properties and may help lower blood sugar levels.

Please talk to your healthcare provider before using berberine or any other supplement. They are best able to determine its efficacy for your circumstances and the best dosage.

In Closing

While berberine has many potential health benefits, especially for those suffering from diabetes or heart issues, you should not use it without first talking to your healthcare provider. It may interact with certain medications, including those used for diabetes.

If you would like to know more about berberine and other natural supplements, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching may help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1 (626) 571-1234 where we will privately discuss your concerns and options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2023 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Berberine may benefit both Cardionomic and Bioenergetic Circuit function. It may help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce triglycerides, and lower cholesterol levels. This in turn could help manage adrenal fatigue, if metabolic and cardionomic issues are symptoms for you. However, you should talk to your doctor before taking this supplement as it can have some significant interactions.

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