Everyone relies on their body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, trusting that their endocrine system will compensate for their level of physical activity, consumption of food, and need for metabolic energy so they can maintain a state of activity and health. However, even individuals with a healthy endocrine system can experience high or low blood sugar levels, leading to a host of health complications. Indeed, deviant but asymptomatic blood sugar levels caused by diet, anxiety, or seemingly benign genetic factors can inflict silent damage on the heart and liver, making blood sugar a major contributor to cardiovascular disease and early death. Maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is therefore a core concern for the maintenance of good health and wellness.
Individuals with disorders of blood sugar regulation are at a high risk of significant damage and might face acute health crises as a result of deviations of blood sugar. As such, individuals with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, or a metabolic syndrome learn to carefully regulate their dietary glucose intake. Meanwhile, individuals with type 1 diabetes or advanced type 2 diabetes must provide their endocrine system with pharmaceutical support, such as insulin infusions to avoid crises.
Keeping blood sugar at a steady and healthy level can be extremely challenging.
For otherwise healthy individuals who want to maintain a healthy blood sugar level, a growing number of experts in the scientific community believe that nutritional strategies that support healthy blood sugar levels, particularly berberine supplementation, might be beneficial.
The human body is constantly influenced by a multitude of factors that impact blood sugar, including diet, activity level, and stress level. Under ideal conditions, the body uses endocrines to compensate for the impact of these variables and minimize blood sugar fluctuation, thereby ensuring there is enough glucose present for cells to perform their jobs.
The most important of these endocrines is insulin, the primary hormone responsible for lowering the level of blood sugar. Insulin prompts cells to use glucose and save whatever is left over in storage molecules called glycogen.
Given the imperfect nature of the body’s blood sugar regulation mechanisms, individuals desiring to maintain a healthy blood sugar level can benefit from supplementing their body’s regulatory systems.Such individuals might want to make lifestyle changes to avoid an unhealthy level of blood sugar from developing or use a natural therapeutic, such as a nutritional supplement or other natural remedy. Although there is no single food or nutritional supplement that is ideal for all individuals, there are a number of potential solutions.
The grifola frondosa fungi, also known as the “hen of the woods” or “maitake mushroom”, is an edible mushroom that has been used for a variety of purposes in traditional Chinese medicine. Now, researchers believe it can provide natural support for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Thus far, studies have been promising; one 2015 study in rat models, for example, found that maitake consumption has significantly positive results on blood sugar metabolism.
Although comparisons between rat models and human patients are imprecise, maitake mushrooms added to a person’s diet would likely be a beneficial tool for maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. For individuals who dislike the flavor of the mushrooms or who would prefer more control over the amount consumed, mushroom extract capsules might be a good alternative.
Despite a long history of human consumption for both nutritional and medicinal purposes, large clinical trials documenting the mushroom’s glucose regulatory effects in healthy patients remain forthcoming. Given an abundance of positive data in animal models, however, subsequent research will likely elucidate the safe use of maitake for the purpose of healthy blood sugar regulation.
Although the evidence for maitake is compelling, clinical research suggests cinnamon can provide an even more effective benefit for maintaining healthy levels of blood sugar. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation found that individuals who consumed 3 grams of cinnamon powder per day over the course of four months had healthier fasting glucose levels than the study participants who consumed a placebo. Other studies have had even more promising results; one trial found that participants who consumed 1 gram of cinnamon each day for 40 days experienced better results in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels compared to the participants who consumed a placebo.
This means that daily cinnamon intake could be a way of helping to maintain already healthy levels of blood sugar.
It is important to note that the quantities of cinnamon shown to produce beneficial effects are far larger than what most people would be comfortable consuming in their typical diets. As a result, encapsulated cinnamon supplements are preferable. Cinnamon-scented feces and gas appear to be the only consequences of consuming cinnamon in the quantities necessary to benefit blood sugar, and no opposing hormonal reaction has been found.
Cinnamon and maitake might be effective at decreasing blood sugar, but they aren’t the only viable options for natural blood sugar regulation, nor is lowering blood sugar the only concern for patients. Rather, the real health goal is to keep blood sugar within a narrow range at all times. For this purpose, berberine might be the best therapeutic candidate.
Berberine is a compound found in barberries, turmeric, cork, and certain cultivars of poppy. While berberine was originally used in ancient Chinese medicine as a natural anti-inflammatory, recent analyses have focused on berberine’s ability to alter cellular metabolism. By altering cellular metabolism, berberine might be the blood regulation tool which patients have sought.
Berberine is exceptionally effective as a blood sugar regulator because it can reverse insulin resistance and restore the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. A seminal 2010 study found that berberine was as effective as first-line pharmaceutical treatments like metformin for lowering blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Significantly, berberine retained its effectiveness in patients with hepatitis B or hepatitis C-induced liver damage, who are often more difficult to treat because a compromised liver might not be able to process medications as efficiently as those who are healthy. In these patients, berberine also reduced liver enzymes associated with liver malfunction, indicating that it was beneficial for their livers independently from its beneficial effect on blood sugar.
Researchers have a working model for how berberine can cause these beneficial effects: unlike therapeutics or supplements that prompt insulin secretion, berberine reduces the quantity of excess chemical energy in liver cells. In one study on rate models of type 2 diabetes, this led to a decrease in blood glucose levels of over 50%. Meanwhile, non-diabetic rats who were given berberine maintained healthy blood sugar even when fed high-glucose diets.
The mechanism that berberine utilizes means that berberine might also be useful for raising low blood glucose levels, which could have multiple health benefits for patients. Researchers suspect that this effect might be due to interference with the efficiency of cellular energy generation. When cellular energy generation is highly efficient, excess glucose is more likely to occur because less glucose is needed for a given amount of cellular function.
When cellular energy generation is less efficient, however, the reverse is not necessarily true; if energy generation requires more input to accomplish the same amount of work, cells might run at an energy deficit, prompting the liver to liquidate adipocytes into soluble glucose. Thus, berberine has the potential to lower pathologically high blood sugar levels while also raising low blood sugar levels in patients with healthy diets. This means that healthy patients could regulate their weight more effectively.
Given pervasive stressors and rich sources of glucose in the modern environment, patients need every bit of help they can get to keep their blood sugar at levels suitable to their long-term health. Current research suggests that berberine might be the most significant new blood sugar regulation therapy to be discovered since insulin infusions and could provide significant benefits to patients with diabetes as well as those without any known health problems.
Depending on how healthy a patient’s liver is, berberine’s beneficial effects can persist for as long as 20 hours, meaning that a once-per-day dosing schedule is sufficient for most patients. When taken once per day, berberine is safe to take for at least 12 months. There aren’t any documented reports of berberine overdoses, but patients should stick to less than 5 grams per day consumed orally because it hasn’t been tested for long-term use beyond that amount.
However, some patients, including those with endocrine disorders, metabolic disorders, liver disorders, blood disorders, and cardiovascular conditions should be aware of potential side effects, including low blood pressure and inhibition of red blood cell recycling. For patients with metabolic disorders, these side effects are of less concern than berberine’s primary effect of regulating blood sugar, which might or might not contradict medications they are taking for the same purpose. As such, patients seeking to start berberine to help their body regulate its blood sugar levels should only do so while in consultation with their doctor.
As more critical questions regarding berberine are answered by clinical trials and other scientific research, its promise as a natural blood sugar regulator becomes more clear. Indeed, for some patients, berberine might become a replacement for the current crop of pharmaceuticals used for blood sugar regulation. Given berberine’s mild side effect profile and high efficacy as a blood sugar-regulating agent, it seems inevitable that larger clinical trials will only spur its popularization.
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