Balance your blood sugar or it will control your life. According to the CDC last year, by the end of 2015 more than 100 million U.S. adults had diabetes or pre-diabetes- and that number has been steadily increasing. That is almost1 out of every 10 people. Luckily, most of us can see it coming and do something about it. Long before it becomes a diagnosable disease, your blood sugar becomes out of balance. Cravings, moodiness, hormonal imbalances, heart disease, liver challenges, sleep disturbances, and more dis-ease can follow. Many people, especially overbooked women, experience fatigue regularly, make food choices in response to sudden shifts in mood and energy levels, lack the energy to exercise regularly, and do not feel able to make time for self-care and sleep.
When your blood sugar shifts, your appetite and food choices do as well. The curse is the blessing, however. Your body is craving food to solve its problem- and food can solve its problem. You can choose the right foods and supplements at the right times to support balanced blood sugar. You can use food as medicine to rebalance your blood sugar. Amazing, isn’t it… Unlike expensive medications, you have to eat food to live anyway- so why not make it work for you! Food is energy. Blood sugar is a form of food energy in your blood. You can manipulate the energy you take in (carbohydrate, fat, and protein) to manage your blood sugar. But food is more than just calories to burn! Food contains vitamins, minerals, plant chemicals like polyphenols, and more metabolic manipulators that affect how you store, use, and burn energy. Part of my age-defying weight-management strategy in my new book, Glow15, is achieved through re-balancing blood sugar using food as medicine. Read on to learn more!
Each component of my Glow15 approach has multiple metabolic benefits including support for blood sugar balance:
Let’s look more deeply into berberine, our blood sugar control superstar, which has profoundly beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity.
Berberine is a natural alkaloid used traditionally to treat digestive diseases in Ayurvedic medicine for over 1000 years. It is from China and India and found in the roots, stems, bark, and rhizomes of herbs such as goldenseal, barberry, golden-thread, and Oregon grape. It has several health benefits beyond treating digestive ailments, such as reducing cholesterol absorption and improving cardiovascular health, reducing inflammation, boosting lung health, and supporting healthy gut bacteria. Berberine also has weight-reducing and fat-burning powers. Berberine activates a compound called AMPK, a “metabolic master switch” that turns on thermogenesis (burning more fat for heat while reducing white fat production). In one study, those who took berberine three times daily for 13 weeks lost an average of 5 pounds — a great boost to your weight management plan! In clinical trials, berberine benefits include decrease body mass index and waist circumference while improving lipid and glucose profiles. In patients with high cholesterol, berberine has been shown to reduce cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol without major side effects, significantly reducing heart disease risk.
Moreover, berberine has also been shown to lower fasting blood sugar and A1c as well as both metformin and rosiglitazone. These researchers suggested considering berberine as an alternative to these medications!
Berberine is a very safe herb to supplement. Because it is a normoglycemic agent, it should be safe to take with other diabetic medications, though caution should be taken with any chemicals that affect blood sugar- including food. If you have high bilirubin levels, hold off on berberine as it may slow your liver’s removal of bilirubin.
Because berberine may lower blood pressure and thin blood, be careful with berberine if you are on blood pressure or anticoagulant medications. Berberine can increase blood levels of cyclosporine by slowing its metabolism and is contraindicated in those taking cyclosporine. Gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea are the most common side effects associated with berberine. Because berberine is found in herbs such as goldenseal or barberry that we do not normally eat at a meal, supplement this one: Berberine is in some herbs (like goldenseal and barberry) but not in common foods. Take 500 mg capsules three times daily at meals to reduce the potential for stomach upset and spikes in blood sugar.
Always take berberine with food because, despite its positive digestive effects over a period of time, it may cause transient gastrointestinal distress- and diarrhea, in some cases. You may wish to take berberine for three months, then pause and evaluate your lab results, especially your blood sugar and/or A1c, to check your progress. While berberine is not the only herb that helps balance blood sugar, it certainly is a reliable and heavy hitter with many other metabolism-balancing benefits!
Learn more about polyphenols that help you feel and look younger, such as turmeric or EGCG, in my new book, Glow15. Balance your blood sugar, melt off extra pounds, and get radiant, glowing skin with results in as little as 15 days!