I am Dr. Iman Hypolite, a holistic psychiatrist with over 20 years of experience, specializing in optimizing health and wellness in professional women of color.
As a holistic psychiatrist, why do I care about Berberine?
In my women’s mental health practice specializing in the care of professional women of color, many clients present for care struggling to maintain a weight that is in line with their goals for optimal health. Often this is influenced by factors such as stress, lifestyle habits, age, menstrual status, genetic factors, and metabolic conditions such as pre-diabetes, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and polycystic ovarian disease (PCOS).
Weight loss is an elusive goal and a major source of stress for increasing numbers of busy professionals with limited time to to be consistent with the self care and lifestyle interventions necessary to maintain healthy weight and overall health. Finding the time to prepare healthy meals, engage in physical activity, minimize stress, and even to get adequate sleep can be quite the feat. Yep, all four of these factors play a large role in healthy weight management. Difficulty maintaining consistency with one’s self care can be outright discouraging and lead to feelings of being ‘stuck’ and even declining health for some.
It is no surprise that medications like Wegovy and Ozempic are taking the healthcare and weight loss industries by storm. I have many clients who have been able to meet their weight loss goals with Ozempic. I have some who tried them but had intolerable side effects.
There is a growing demand for healthy alternatives to weight loss medications. There is also a growing body of evidence suggesting that inflammation is a root cause or at least a major driving factor in obesity AND mental health conditions; so the question of whether a natural supplement that could treat physical health conditions that increase the risk of mental health conditions definitely matters in my line of work!
Could there be a natural supplement that actually helps reduce weight and inflammation with minimal risk of side effects??
Insert Berberine: Keep reading and I will explain how Berberine’s effects on appetite, blood sugar, cholesterol, and inflammation might be a game changer for some.
As a Black/BIPOC psychiatrist, why do I care about Berberine?
There is no shortage of reports about how Black women, and the BIPOC/Black community at large, are at considerably higher risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, other metabolic disease, autoimmune (a.k.a. inflammatory) conditions, etc, etc. I will explore the impact this has on Black mental health in future blogs.
Studies suggest that Berberine may be a tool to add to the arsenal of interventions to fight the epidemic of heart, metabolic, and autoimmune conditions in the BIPOC community.
The potential benefits of berberine definitely matter to me because BIPOC physical and mental health matter to me!
So what is Berberine?
In the world of weight loss, there is no shortage of promises and magic potions, and that is not what Berberine is!
Berberine is a substance found in plants like European barberry, goldenseal, goldthread, Oregon grape, phellodendron, and tree turmeric. It has been used in Eastern medicine (Chinese and Ayurveda) for centuries, yep CENTURIES, to treat a host of conditions.
As Western medicine is trying to catch up with the track record of Eastern medicine’s successes, as well as the growing demand amongst patients for natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals, there is increasing research in U.S. and other Western countries, which is validating many of the tried and true Eastern, natural methods and approaches to preventing, treating, and in some cases curing some illnesses.
Berberine is being studied for a variety of potential health benefits, including:
- Reducing blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes
- Improving cholesterol levels (decrease LDL and triglycerides)
- Lowering blood pressure
- Aiding in weight loss
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving gut health and gut symptoms such as bloating and bowel irregularity
- Protecting against heart disease and cancer
Don’t get me wrong, berberine is by no means a miracle pill for weight loss or dramatic overnight improvements in health; but for some, it can support sustainable weight loss and one’s larger health goals with lower risk of harsh side effects.
As will most substances, natural and otherwise, there is a risk of potential side effects, so it is important to work closely with a physician when including any supplement in your wellness plan.
Can Berberine Actually Help With Weight Loss?
In some cases, YES!
Berberine’s ability to aid in weight loss stems from its impact on multiple metabolic processes. In a nutshell, it can optimize your body’s “fat-burning machinery”.
Here’s a breakdown of how Berberine works:
1. Insulin Sensitivity: Getting Your Body to Listen
Insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar, plays a crucial role in weight management. When your body becomes insulin resistant, it doesn’t respond effectively to insulin, leading to increased fat storage. Berberine steps in by enhancing your body’s response to insulin, which decreases excessive fat stores.
2. AMPK Activation: Your Body’s Metabolism Switch
AMPK, an enzyme that regulates energy metabolism, is like the control panel for your body’s “fat-burning machinery”. Berberine activates AMPK, boosting your body’s ability to burn fat for energy.
3. Fat Cell Storage: Reducing The Excess
Berberine directly impacts fat cells, making it harder for them to store fat and easier for them to release it. Essentially, Berberine enhances weight loss by decreasing fat-storage and increasing your body’s ability to burn fat.
4. Gut Health: A Healthy Gut for Healthy Weight
Berberine promotes a balanced gut microbiome, supporting healthy digestion and nutrient absorption, which indirectly contributes to weight loss.
A healthy gut microbiome is essential for overall health, including weight management and mental health. Also, berberine can considerably decrease that pesky abdominal bloat associated with gut microbiome imbalances.
Check back for my upcoming blogs about the gut-brain connection, and how gut health impacts mental health.
5. Anti-inflammatory Powerhouse: Reducing Whole-Body Inflammation
Berberine has potent anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Studies reveal that there is a cyclical relationship between obesity and inflammation. Some call this meta-inflammation, the metabolic inflammatory state triggered by obesity. Meta-inflammation is defined by low-grade chronic inflammation in metabolic tissues, including liver, brain, pancreas and fat cells. This inflammatory state directly contributes to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.
Berberine can help interrupt this vicious cycle through its anti-inflammatory properties, improving not only weight but also reducing one’s risk for diseases of the brain and body, including anxiety and depression!
How long does it take Berberine to Work?
The timeframe for noticeable weight loss with berberine varies depending on individual factors and one’s lifestyle habits, but studies suggest that berberine’s effects may become apparent within several weeks or months.
In Dr. Hypolite’s practice, with the high quality brands that Dr. Hypolite has sourced, many of her clients notice fair to modest reductions in appetite as soon as 7 to 10 days after initiating Berberine.
Can I Buy Berberine Anywhere? Does The Brand Matter?
In the world of supplements and alternative health, there is unfortunately a ton of mis-information and pseudo-medicine.
This does not mean that there are not scientific grounds to support the use of natural and dietary supplements. It just means that you must exercise caution and a healthy degree of skepticism. It means you should not “go it alone” and should consult with your medical providers.
Along these lines, the manufacturer (brand) and quality of the supplement matters tremendously because supplements are not highly regulated or studied as rigorously as medications. A natural supplement can vary tremendously from one brand to another.
This is why it is critical to work with a physician who has expertise not only with medications and conventional treatments but also with dietary and natural supplements. It is worth repeating, with the carefully researched brands that Dr. Hypolite recommends, many of her clients notice fair to modest reductions in appetite as soon as 7 to 10 days after initiating Berberine. The results generally improve with time.
What are the potential side effects of berberine?
Berberine is generally considered safe when taken in safe doses and when under the supervision of a physician. However, some people may experience mild side effects, including:
Digestive issues: Diarrhea, constipation, and stomach upset are the most common digestive side effects associated with berberine. Alternatively, some have found that it greatly reduces belly bloat!
Headaches: Some individuals may experience headaches, particularly when taking higher doses of berberine.
Hypoglycemia: In rare cases, berberine may cause low blood sugar levels, especially in individuals with diabetes or those taking insulin or other blood sugar-lowering medications.
Is berberine safe for everyone?
Berberine is NOT suitable for everyone. It should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as liver or kidney disease, and who take certain medications and other supplements should consult their physician before taking berberine.
Can berberine interact with other medications?
Berberine may interact with certain medications, including those used to treat diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood thinners. It is crucial to inform your physician about any interest you may have in berberine and to inform him or her of all medications and supplements you may be taking.
We do not recommend starting Berberine without speaking to your physician.
Conclusion: Berberine Is A Potential Weight Loss Tool in a Larger Toolkit, Not a Magic Bullet!
While berberine can be a valuable tool in your weight loss journey, it’s not a magic bullet. It is not effective as a stand alone strategy for sustained weight loss. In fact, nothing is. Berberine works best when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle and regular physical activity, helping you achieve your goals in a sustainable way.
Even though Berberine can be purchased over the counter, it is essential that you work with a physician who has expertise in prescribing supplements in addition to expertise about conventional treatments such as medications and lifestyle interventions.
Remember, berberine works best when combined with a healthy lifestyle, so don’t forget to nourish your body with nutritious foods and regular physical activity.
Dr. Hypolite is a holistic psychiatrist with years of experience helping her clients achieve optimal health not only with medications, but also with natural, dietary, and lifestyle interventions. If you are a professional woman interested in exploring how Berberine and other natural and conventional treatment options can support your health and goals, check out Our Services and click here to request your consultation today!
I look forward to connecting soon!
Be well, lovelies!💚
(a.k.a Iman Hypolite, MD)
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