Can Berberine Help With IBS-D Symptoms?

Can Berberine Help With IBS-D Symptoms?

Published on Wednesday, July 12, 2023 by Haley McGaha

I don’t know about you, but I have become increasingly interested in herbal products. 

Isn’t it fascinating how they were once used to treat all sorts of ailments, but now we tend to rely more on conventional medicine? It’s almost like a forgotten art! Don’t get me wrong, conventional medicine has its merits, but I’ve always wondered if there are gentler options out there with fewer side effects to tackle our symptoms before resorting to prescribed medication. 

Lately, my curiosity has been piqued by none other than Berberine

It is used in traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and other medicinal traditions to treat infections, digestive conditions, and inflammatory disorders. It has been commonly known to help support healthy blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. 

Not only has berberine been shown to help blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, but it is also likely to help with weight management. It has been mentioned a lot on the internet as a possible alternative to Ozempic®, the weight loss drug craze! 

A 2020 study out of Clinical Nutrition ESPEN demonstrated berberine could reduce body weight, so this is something worth keeping an eye on for future research! 

Let’s dive into the research and explore some studies on Berberine:

A 2015 Phytotherapy Research study included a berberine trial in patients with Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-D). They found that berberine may exhibit anti-diarrheal properties by absorbing sodium and water from the intestinal lumen. In their study, they discovered that berberine did help to improve diarrhea after eight weeks of taking it. There was also a reduction in bowel movement urgency. As far as abdominal pain goes, there was a 64.6% decrease in pain frequency at week eight. After taking it for twelve weeks, they stopped the supplement for four weeks and found that the diarrhea frequency increased compared to week eight.

Not only did they find positive effects on abdominal pain, diarrhea, and urgency, but they also found that quality of life was improved, as well as anxiety and depression. In conclusion, they found that berberine is a safe herbal medication that can relieve symptoms of IBS-D. 

In animal models, Berberine was found to reduce intestinal motility, visceral hypersensitivity, and inflammation of the intestinal mucosa in this 2019 study out of the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Furthermore, berberine was shown to have further therapeutic effects in rats with Diarrhea-Predominant IBS in this 2021 study out of Frontiers in Pharmacology.

All of this sounds great, but where do we start?

A 2016 article out of Filoterapia states that 400 mg of Berberine two times a day was found to reduce symptoms of IBS-D. Although it is not very orally bioavailable, the safety of berberine needs to be studied further when it comes to chronic use, as most of the studies have been done on short-term use. 

Berberine is generally well tolerated, but there have been some purported side effects to taking it, which include: 

  • Mild appetite loss, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, rash

You should not take Berberine if: 

  • You are taking Bosulif®/bosutinib (a medication used to treat a type of leukemia)
  • You are taking immunosuppressive drugs
  • You are taking sulfonylureas (a type of diabetic drug)
  • You are taking CYP2D6, 2C9, or 3A4 substrate drugs
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding 

If you aren’t sure if your medications fall into this category, be sure to ask your pharmacist. 

As always, please talk to your physician before starting any herbal medications to ensure they are appropriate for you. 

  1. Asbaghi, O., Ghanbari, N., Shekari, M., Reiner, Ž., Amirani, E., Hallajzadeh, J., Mirsafaei, L., & Asemi, Z. (2020). The effect of berberine supplementation on obesity parameters, inflammation and liver function enzymes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clinical nutrition ESPEN, 38, 43–49. 
  2. YX, C., SA, H., M, L., W, X., Y, Z., S, W., &; S, F. (2023, June 12). Berberine. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 
  3. Chen, C., Tao, C., Liu, Z., Lu, M., Pan, Q., Zheng, L., Li, Q., Song, Z., & Fichna, J. (2015). A Randomized Clinical Trial of Berberine Hydrochloride in Patients with Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 29(11), 1822–1827.   
  4. Yu, Z. C., Cen, Y. X., Wu, B. H., Wei, C., Xiong, F., Li, D. F., Liu, T. T., Luo, M. H., Guo, L. L., Li, Y. X., Wang, L. S., Wang, J. Y., & Yao, J. (2019). Berberine prevents stress-induced gut inflammation and visceral hypersensitivity and reduces intestinal motility in rats. World journal of gastroenterology, 25(29), 3956–3971. 
  5. Lu, Y., Huang, J., Zhang, Y., Huang, Z., Yan, W., Zhou, T., Wang, Z., Liao, L., Cao, H., & Tan, B. (2021). Therapeutic Effects of Berberine Hydrochloride on Stress-Induced Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome Rats by Inhibiting Neurotransmission in Colonic Smooth Muscle. Frontiers in pharmacology, 12, 596686. 
  6. Liu, C. S., Zheng, Y. R., Zhang, Y. F., & Long, X. Y. (2016). Research progress on berberine with a special focus on its oral bioavailability. Fitoterapia, 109, 274–282.   

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