Supplement Spotlight: Lowering Insulin with Bitter Melon and/or Berberine
What’s insulin and why should I lower it?
Insulin is a culprit in many disease plaguing us today. Made in the pancreas, insulin is pumped into the blood to move sugar into our cells. The less sugar we eat, the less insulin we make. The longer we eat diets high in sugar and stay inactive, the more chance we have of developing insulin resistance, a step on the way to developing diabetes. Our cells become resistant to insulin, needing more insulin to allow sugar in. Our pancreas has to work harder and harder, and our insulin levels go up, leading to inflammation, heart disease, fatty liver disease, PCOS (a more and more common problem affecting the ovaries) and increasing our risk of cancer. I would not be exaggerating to say that chronically elevated insulin may be the most important problem we are facing in health care today.
Diet and Exercise
Exercising and cutting carbohydrates are essential first steps in preventing and overcoming insulin resistance. Many of my patients have been and are seeing their numbers improve as they follow a healthier diet and lifestyle.
Metformin, or glucophage, is a very popular drug prescribed for type II diabetes and syndromes of insulin resistance (PCOS and fatty liver disease). The drug works very well but has common side effects: it can lower B12 levels and cause chronic diarrhea. The dose of metformin is between 500 and 2500 milligrams a day.
Natural Treatments: Berberine
Berberine is a yellow powder found in several plants including oregon grape root (berberis aquefolium). Berberine has a strong color and is still used to dye wool in India. Berberine is traditionally used as a natural germ-killer, and can be effective as an alternative treatment for bacterial, fungal and viral infections. More recent research shows that berberine lowers insulin, cholesterol, and inflammation very effectively.
Berberine is typically safe and a good starting dose is 400-500 milligrams three times a day. Because it can kill bacteria, berberine can cause stomach upset in some people. If you take it and notice this, lower your dose. I would prefer you talk to me first if you are thinking of taking berberine. A good product is Berberine Synergy from Designs for Health. I like the combination of berberine and alpha lipoic acid, which also lowers insulin and is good for the liver. Contact my office to set up a direct account with Designs for Health.
As with all medications, I caution against use in children and in pregnancy without direct supervision.
Natural Treatments: Bitter Melon
Bitter Melon (momordica charantia) is a traditional food used in many Asian cuisines. As a medicine, bitter melon extract is effective for digestive complaints, diabetes and insulin resistance. I have used bitter melon for years with great success and extremely rare side-effects. I dose the 500 milligram capsules two twice a day to start. Results show up in as little as two weeks. Contact the office to order this product.