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Natural Health

Berberine Is the Natural Ozempic That’s Helping Women Over 50 Lose Weight

The bioactive has been shown dramatically lower blood sugar — MD explains how to put it to work for you

It seems every weight-loss conversation these days includes mention of prescription medications such as Ozempic. But taking injectable shots — and paying the steep price when insurance won’t cover them — are deal breakers for many of us. Plus, who wants to stop enjoying food? So our ears perked up when stumbled over several berberine weight loss stories that revealed there’s a natural herb doctors are recommending that’s helping people lose weight in a similar way to the weight loss injectables.

We knew exactly which doctor to consult when it comes to berberine’s benefits: Women’s health expert Taz Bhatia, MD, who trained at a traditional Western medical school but is also deeply knowledgeable about the wisdom of natural, holistic approaches practiced in Eastern medicine. Dr. Taz absolutely believes there is a place for natural remedies in modern medicine. The Super Woman Rx author says, “I’ve been talking about herbs for years and now the science is proving it.” And she assures, “Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine have been using berberine safely for thousands of years.”

Keep reading to discover the science behind berberine’s weight loss benefits, real-life berberine weight loss stories and how to get the best natural results yourself.

How berberine speeds weight loss

Oregon grape berries—a source of berberine for weight loss
Berberine is made from the roots of plants like Oregon grape Murphy_Shewchuk/Getty Images

Berberine is a bioactive compound derived from the roots of plants such as Indian barberry, goldenseal and Oregon grape and which has characteristic yellow color. Although the name may be new to you, this plant compound has a healing history that stretches all the way back to 650 BC. Berberine plays a role in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Traditional Middle-Eastern medicine and Native American traditions — which have all relied upon the herb for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties.

1. Berberine helps regulate blood sugar

Experts call berberine “natural Metformin” for its ability to control the blood-sugar spikes that cause fat storage. Research shows berberine lowers blood sugar by up to 57%, compared to the prescription diabetes drug Metformin, which only lowers it by 25%. Dr. Taz enthuses: “Berberine may be one of the best supplements on the planet for insulin resistance, which is a nearly universal problem for women over 40.” 

Insulin resistance is a condition caused by excess circulating insulin that the body is unable to recognize or use. In a healthy body, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream to escort sugar into the cells to use as energy. But for those who suffer from insulin resistance, when insulin knocks on cell doors, the cells won’t open. This shift turns “on” the body’s fat storage mode. (Click through for more ways to cure insulin resistance naturally.)

2. Berberine lowers inflammation

Stanford University’s Gregory Hammer, MD, points out, “berberine reduces inflammation and damage in the body using the enzyme AMPK.” Biohackers may know this enzyme as a sort of metabolic master switch that determines whether fat will be stored or burned. In one study, folks who boosted their AMPK production lost 636% more belly fat than those who skipped it.

“Berberine is similar to turmeric, both known to decrease inflammation, which can manifest itself as bloating in the belly,” says UC-Berkeley-trained weight-loss coach Nagina Abdullah. She lost 40 pounds and has helped 1,300 other women shed weight with spice-powered slimming. (Click through for turmeric drink recipes for weight loss.)

3. Berberine cuts down on ‘food noise’ to eliminate cravings

If you’ve ever found yourself caught in an endless loop of mental chatter, focused on what and when to eat, you’ve experienced “food noise.” It’s like trying to function while a speaker of your least favorite music blares in your ear around the clock, with no way to turn down the sound. “These intrusive thoughts about food are preventing many women over 40 from being able to shed stubborn pounds,” contends Dr. Taz. And they especially flare around mid life, due to hormonal fluctuations.

Dr. Taz adds, “The reason Rx-drugs like Ozempic have been so popular is they cut down on food noise.” The good news: Berberine quiets the chatter in our mind so we can take the time to think clearly and make healthy eating choices.

Berberine helps with the new over-50 ‘syndemic’

All these weight-gain symptoms are related. Cravings kick off an endless cycle of blood sugar instability and inflammation. Dr. Taz says, “I call it hormone soup: lots of things happening all at once.” And leading health experts call it a “syndemic” — a phenomenon in which two or more epidemics collide and play off each other synergistically to increase their damage. (Like how Covid and food shortages collided to worsen everyday immunity.) Luckily, berberine can help improve all the factors of this perfect storm: inflammation, cravings and blood sugar spikes. (Click through for 4 easy hacks to balance your blood sugar.)

Berberine is convenient and affordable

Yes, berberine works. And dieters love the huge savings of this all-natural route. For a comparision: Prescription Ozempic shots cost around $1,200 a month without insurance; this herb costs just $39 a month. To get the benefits of quieting inflammation and food noise, while correcting insulin resistance, Dr. Taz recommends using berberine as part of a 30-day reset along with a clean, whole-foods diet. (Click through to discover Dr. Ian Smith’s 30-day plant-based plan.)

How to take berberine for weight loss

The standard dose of berberine is 500 mg per day to start, building up to 1 gram per day, says Dr. Taz. Take one capsule, up to twice a day, at mealtime. One brand to consider: NAOMI Berberine (Buy at NaomiW, $39 for 60 capsules).

If people want to take berberine long-term, Dr. Taz recommends following a 6-weeks on, 10-days off cycle. Why? She explains, “Just like many cholesterol medications, berberine is metabolized in the liver, so the liver needs a break and should be monitored.”

Diet tweaks to make the most of berberine

1. Add these foods for fuel

VeselovaElena/Getty Images

Dr. Taz advises eating a whole-food diet that includes 30 grams of protein every 4 hours, plus plenty of delicious fruit, veggies, healthy fats, and even occasional comfort grains like brown rice. “Undereating is one of the biggest traps I see patients fall into,” she says. “When you’re dealing with blood sugar issues, not eating is not the answer.” (Click to learn how morning protein is key to weight loss.)

Dr. Taz recommends preparing your kitchen for the month ahead by “trashing and stashing” certain foods. Rid your home of inflammatory foods like white flour, white sugar and processed foods like sodium-laden soup cans. Instead, stock up on natural ingredients such as brown rice or couscous, fresh and frozen fruits and veggies, healthy fats like olive or coconut oils, spices, herbal teas and proteins in the form of beans, lentils, nut butters, beef, chicken, fish or eggs. You can also enjoy gluten-free chickpea pasta and natural sourdough bread.

2. Support gut health

yogurt with berries: foods to eat as part of berberine weight loss plan
Arx0nt/Getty Images

Dr. Taz advises that berberine works best when the gut microbiome is healthy. The best way to prepare your gut for healing, she says is to eliminate refined sugar and alcohol from your routine, both of which are known to aggravate and weaken gut lining. She adds, “also eat a variety of whole foods to encourage bacterial diversity.” (Click for a recipe to make your own gut-healing yogurt at home.)

3. Protect the liver

The liver is the number one detox organ in the body, tasked with processing all the dietary fat and environmental toxins that enter our system. Dr. Taz contends, “food-noise cravings can be worsened by a liver that is bogged down by chemicals from processed foods.” That prevents the liver from doing it’s other job: helping with blood-sugar regulation. Her favorite gentle liver-cleansing tips: Add a green smoothie to your daily routine that contains plant-based detoxifiers such as dandelion greens or parsley and cilantro. (Click through for more healthy smoothie ideas.)

4. Move your body often

Eating adequate protein isn’t enough to protect against the normal muscle loss that comes with age. We need to move throughout the day to build muscle. Dr. Taz explains, “I grew up with the idea of the one-hour workout. But I ask that you forego the idea of only moving once a day.” Instead, she suggests 20 minutes of weight training in the morning, 20 minutes of walking in the afternoon and 20 minutes of activity like biking or swimming in the evening. “Moving throughout the day keeps the body in a metabolically active place where you’re constantly burning belly fat.” Her mantra for healthy aging: “Not expired. Just rewired.”

Berberine weight loss stories

Dr. Taz is seeing women lose 2 belly inches quickly and feel energized and “as light as a feather,” without suffering from hunger. She says, “The notion of an unavoidable middle-age spread is a total myth. We just need to understand the chemistry of what’s happening in our body.”  She adds, “Change is possible. I see it every day. Learning to recognize these issues and shift them can be the difference between trying to survive and thrive in life.”

Dr. Taz’s advice helped Dot Stoller, 59, avoid gaining a single pound for nearly 15 years, while keeping her blood work on check. And Emi Hosoda, MD, age 53, lost 100 pounds with the help of a supplement blend that contained berberine.

Berberine weight loss story: Kathleen Nicholson, 57

Kathleen Nicholson before and after
Jocelyn Espejo with Branding by Jo

I’m addicted to sugar! That’s what Kathleen Nicholson told herself, unable to resist opening her kitchen pantry and reaching for a snack. She didn’t have the energy to battle her wild cravings anymore, causing her to wonder, Should I just give up the dream of ever losing weight?

After a lifetime of trying to slim, Kathleen felt mentally and physically exhausted. She had so much pain and inflammation in her knees, she required surgery. Already taking medication for high cholesterol, Kathleen knew she’d have to start taking another medication any day now for her prediabetes. She reveals, “I was racing against time, but everything became 10 times harder in the menopause years.”

Then a friend told Kathleen about the natural herb berberine, known to help lower blood sugar and quiet cravings. Kathleen began taking a 500 mg capsule of NAOMI Berberine every morning. She recalls, “It was easy to add to my routine. And it had no side effects.”

Within 2 weeks of starting the supplement, Kathleen felt less hungry and more in control. And her weight began dropping, especially in her belly. “I lost 9 pounds the first month!”
Kathleen stuck to her new habit and was amazed to watch her blood sugar regulate. Her A1c dropped from a pre-diabetes level of 5.9 to a healthy 5.3 in less than 3 months. “I was thrilled I would no longer need prescription medicine,” she says. She was even more shocked to see her total cholesterol plunge from 267 to 179 in just 6 months, allowing her to get off Rx medication, with her doctor’s approval.

Now Kathleen is flooded with a sense of newfound freedom. “This health transformation gives me a lot of confidence to be who I really am,” she shares. “Finally at 57, I’m excited to feel more joy in my life!”

Berberine weight loss story: Anna Esterline, 45

Before and after photos of Anna Esterline, berberine weight loss stories
Marie Pham Photography

Anna Esterline yawned, struggling against an afternoon slump. She tried to talk herself out of a sugary snack, but she knew her fifth-graders needed her to be on her toes. Taking a bite of a mini candy bar, she sighed. I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel and I can’t get off!

Burdened by unwanted weight and blood-sugar swings from being a prediabetic, Anna always found herself needing a nap and a triple espresso toward the middle of the day. Anna’s doctor had prescribed metformin for her high blood sugar and to help with symptoms of PCOS and endometriosis, but she didn’t feel better.

In fact, Anna felt like her health was unraveling. So when her sister, Sara Gottfried, MD, developed her low-carb “Younger” program, Anna agreed to be a guinea pig and try it. She liked that it included berberine, and Anna started taking a 500 mg. capsule 30 minutes before a meal.

After one week, Anna’s cravings were gone, and within two weeks, her pants felt looser after shedding 10 pounds! Delighted, Anna watched her fasting blood sugar fall from 105 to 70.

After nine months, Anna was 40 pounds lighter and hasn’t had any problems with her PCOS or endometriosis since. “Best of all, I’ve been able to maintain my energy and weight loss for years — even during the pandemic!” she smiles. “I look and feel better than I did in my 30s, and I feel comfortable knowing I’m using berberine rather than a pharmaceutical drug.” Ever a teacher, she says: “It’s easy to transform your life with just one change!”

To learn more, check out Dr. Taz Bhatia’s new book The Hormone Shift for personalized plans, based on age and needs. And follow her on Instagram @drtazmd

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

For more on Ozempic, check out these articles:

Ozempic for Women Over 50? 5 Doctors Weigh In on the New Weight-Loss Injectables.

Sharon Osbourne’s amazing weight loss transformation with Ozempic.

Rybelsus vs Ozempic: Could a New Pill Version of the Weight Loss Drug Beat Out the Injectable? Two Doctors Weigh In.

MD: You Can Get the Weight Loss Benefits of Ozempic *Without* the Side Effects.

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