is berberine safe for breastfeeding

Is Berberine Safe For Breastfeeding? Expert Nutrition Coach Debunks Common Berberine Myth

Berberine has been growing in popularity for some time now, and it’s seemingly gained more and more popularity with the launch of Milk Dust, since it’s a key ingredient in one of products called the Milk Dust Metabolism Booster. The Milk Dust Metabolism Booster is helping so many postpartum mothers lose the belly fat while breastfeeding, but it is also causing some concern on which ingredients are safe for breastfeeding, and which may not be. 

Recently, there's been a lot of stir about Berberine, and the amazing affects it has for your health in general. Unfortunately, there is one very dated study that seems to be the only study popping up concerning breastfeeding and Berberine. This study in particular is extremely dated, and doesn't even study Berberine passing through breast milk, it is unfortunately overshadowing some exciting, newer studies that illustrate possible positive affects of Berberin on infants. Is Berberine safe for breastfeeding? I’ll answer that question thoroughly in this guide, so make sure to keep reading till the end.  

But First, I'm a mama too:

To begin with, my name is Katie, and I’m the founder of operation Milk Dust. Being a mom of 4 boys, all of which have been breastfeed for more than 18 months, I’ve used my experience as a mom to identify routines, patterns and nutritional tricks that increase milk supply.

I’m also a certified Pre/Post Natal Fitness Specialist, and a Precision Nutrition Coach, all of which have helped me establish Milk Dust, and create a product so necessary for breastfeeding mamas. I’ve been working with new moms since 2016 to create supplements that support weight loss after birth, since there weren’t any at the time, while also catering to problems like low milk supply. I made Milk Dust to help new mama’s like you increase milk supply, nourish your body and get fit again after pregnancy. 

Some background on Berberine:

Berberine is a natural compound that has been used for centuries as traditional medicines in China. It is found in a number of plants, including barberry, goldenseal, and Oregon grape. 

Berberine has been the subject of a large number of scientific studies in recent years, and it has been found to have a number of positive health effects.

One of the primary benefits of berberine is that it can help to regulate blood sugar levels. This is because it can activate an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which helps to regulate glucose uptake in the body. Berberine has been shown to be as effective as some prescription medications in lowering blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Berberine has also been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce the risk of a number of chronic diseases. It has been shown to reduce the levels of inflammatory markers in the body, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), and it has been found to be effective in reducing inflammation in conditions such as arthritis.

Besides that, Berberine has also been proven to work well against hormonal diseases in women, especially how it can alleviate symptoms and polycystic ovarian syndrome, a problem that can cause enlargement of ovaries due to cysts. Additionally, it’s also extensively studied for testosterone increase in men, hormonal balance, significantly lower blood pressure, and various metabolic disorders. 

The Commonly Accepted Berberine Myth

Berberine while breastfeeding is a topic that has gained even more traction ever since the release of our Milk Dust Metabolism booster, and with the very limited publications discussing the full scope of research, many mothers are concerned Berberine could be unsafe while breastfeeding.

Being the founder of Milk Dust, I’m more than confident in each and every ingredient of our products, and I always dive deep into the research behind the ingredients we’re putting into these products. After all, caring for both new mothers and newborn infants is the basis of Milk Dust. 

And while I say that, it’s also important to know that there is almost little to no research when it comes to the aspects of breastfeeding, and the dietary supplements that might affect the milk production in new mothers.

 Yes, there’s a long list of articles that discuss what foods might or might not increase milk production, or what products are safe for new mothers, but very little research goes beyond this point.

Berberine has been long sought-out to be dangerous for women during pregnancy, with possible side effects being placenta and Kernicterus, a type of brain damage that develops in newly born infants through milk. 

But what grinds my gears as a professional in the industry is how, there are numerous food additives, packaged foods, and hidden chemicals that are not proven safe for breastfeeding, yet no one thinks twice about eating a bag of cheetos or a few oreos while breastfeeding. Berberine is a natural herb growing from the earth, while these foods are hyper-processed with additives and chemicals, yet a natural ingredient is said to be avoided while breastfeeding, based on one outdated study.  

Also, many prenatal vitamins on the market now are full of synthetic and unregulated vitamins going directly to the fetus during pregnancy, so the issue with an incredible herb like Berberine for mothers is what makes me, and a lot of hollistic professionals, irritated with the duality of the supplement market. Synthetically created supplements, like Folic Acid, are well promoted by the market, but natural and herbal medicine like Berberine is thought to be possibly unsafe. 

I’m not a medical professional, and though this article isn’t to be taken as medical advice, I am a fitness professional and nutrition coach and I really care about the health and well being of mothers. I am a firm believer in the power of nutrition for hormonal health and breastfeeding health, but I can not give you medical advise. I can, however, give you the current research available, so you can make a decision with the most up-to-date information. 

Most important of all, the only research showing possible negative effects of Berberine for infants is with rat infants, which happened way back in 1993. These weren’t even human studies or results, but animal studies that were studied very long ago.

In contrast to that, newer studies are coming to light, the likes of which present a much better argument and the effects that they can have on human health, and seeing as how it’s used in various traditional Chinese dishes, it’s a wonder how we’ve categorized Berberine as bad for health.

 There are more studies showing the positive effects of Berberine on baby rats, than they are negative. In fact, even though we don’t have a lot of clinical trials on its effect on adults, there are various trials that show its positive effects in children, something which I’ll go on over later.

Debunking The Negative Side Effects Of Berberine

This is the part where I debunk the most commonly believed study on the negative effects of Berberine when it comes to pregnant women, and how it lacks the basis and foundation for it to be believable. 

Let's go through this study completely, so you can understand exactly what was going on, and why I myself don't think there is harm from a medicinal plant to babies while breastfeeding. However, you’re free to make your own decisions, and whether or not you should take it is up to you. 

The study most referenced is this. Researchers, way back in 1998, took tiny, baby rats in vitro, and injected mothers with a dose of Berberine. The Berberine wasn't a plant-form like found in the supplements available, but a potent, concentrated injection of Berberine.

"The chronic intraperitoneal administration of berberine (10 and 20 μg/g) daily for 1 week to adult rats (mixed breed of Wistar and Sprague-Dawley) resulted in a significant decrease in mean bilirubin serum protein binding, due to an in vivo displacement effect and a persistent elevation in steady-state serum concentrations of unbound and total bilirubin, possibly due to inhibition of metabolism."

Starting off, the Berberine was administered in vitro by intraperitoneal administration. This is completely different from the mother ingesting Berberine through diet or supplement pills. There was no metabolism process for the rats to break down the Berberine.

"Intraperitoneal injection is widely used in rodents as a route of drug administration. Intraperitoneally applied drug forms are supposed to be located in the peritoneal cavity. The disappearance of drugs from the peritoneal cavity upon injection is because of diffusion into the surrounding tissues."

In addition, during the course of this study, the Berberin in question was injected directly into the uterus, and not by any other indirect means that could prove it to be medically relatable to the breastfeeding action of women.

This process is very different from allowing a human mother to digest and absorb Berberine for herself. Taking Milk Dust products for example, which contain a small amount of Berberine, will go into the mothers body first, and then once it’s absorbed, can be passed through the milk producing glands and into the body of the infant during nursing, which, to this date, is still unknown, and very little research is done in this aspect. 

So to sum it up, this is the study that was conducted in 1993, wasn’t published until 2009, was done only on rats, and the baby rats were basically directly injected with very high doses for their size while still developing in the uterus.

Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the story, and the clinically researched list of positive effects that Berberine can bring for infants, as well as new mothers. 

Possible positive effects of Berberine on infants:

Berberine reduces instances of life-threatening Necrotizing Enterocolitis in premature infants:

A more recent study, 2018, illustrates the positive effects of Berberine on premature infants with NEC (Necrotizing enterocolitis), a life-threatening disease that occurs in premature infants. Basically, this study took three groups of baby rats. A control group, an NEC group with no Berberine and an infant group who received Berberine as treatment for NEC.

They found that the infant group that received Berberine had a decreased incidence and severity of NEC. In contrast to the control group and the group of baby rats that were given In the control, NEC and NEC + berberine groups, the incidence of NEC was 0, 65 and 25%, respectively.

The researchers concluded that, to summarize for conciseness, that the results of this study demonstrated that enteral administration of berberine ameliorates the clinical symptoms and decreases the incidence of NEC in a neonatal rat model.

“ his may be achieved via berberine-induced TLR4 downregulation, which in turn inhibits the production of inflammatory mediators, and the upregulated expression of MUC2 and SIgA.”. Together, all of the mentioned expressions change and protect the immunity and barrier functions of the intestine, which is why Berberine can be considered as a strong contender for the treatment of NEC. 

Berberine had positive effects for the premature baby rats, and greatly reduced the incidents of life-threatening NEC. Of course, this is just on baby rats. Human anatomy, metabolism and everything is VERY different from rats. But, this study shows the side of modern studies that most people on the internet fail to recognize.

Berberine improved survival rate of Neonatal Sepsis (NS) in mice:

In this study, researchers took a look at the ability of Berberine to improve the rate of survival in neonatal sepsis, which is a severe syndrome in infants caused by infections. In fact, NS is one of the most severe factors causing neonatal morbidities. 

Worse still, due to the immaturity of the newborn's immune system, the mechanism underlying NS is far more complicated than those that occur in adults.The researchers found that Berberine improved the survival rate of infants with NS.

 "Collectively, the findings outlined in the current study indicated that berberine had solid protective effects on newborn mice against NS-induced symptoms, and the effects depended on the upregulation of miR-132-3p"

Not only did Berberine help improve survival rate, the researchers found that Berberine suppressed the systemic inflammatory response induced by NS in mice, and improved small intestinal structure.

Of course, this is another study done on mice, so we can't say what the effects would be on humans, but it does show yet another positive effect that Berberine can have on infant mice, and this just goes to what the future of Berberine can do in terms of health benefits.

Berberine protects infants from cardiac dysfunction in overweight mothers:

This clinical research was done just a couple years ago, in 2021, and it shows the positive effects of cardiovascular health for infants, when mothers are overweight. This study is also done in mice, and basically the researchers fed the mothers a high-fat diet to induce gestational diabetes, thus exposing the infant mice to many risk factors.

Maternal obesity or excessive weight gain before and throughout pregnancy is a major risk factor for development of gestational diabetes, and can put new mothers at risk of heart disease that can root from obesity. Diagnosis of GDM has increased dramatically over the past two decades due in part to the obesity epidemic, and it’s all the more important to stay ahead of it and know the relevant information you need to tackle it. 

Take this for an example. More than 60% of all women are classified as being overweight at the beginning of pregnancy and approximately 30% of all women are classified as being obese at the beginning of pregnancy. Maternal obesity and diabetes during pregnancy predispose offspring to the development of cardiometabolic diseases, including obesity and diabetes. 

Babies can develop cardiometabolic dysfunction, and Berberine being an isoquinoline alkaloid from plants, is known to improve cardiac mitochondrial function in gestational diabetes mellitus.

Basically, Berberine was proven to protect infants from cardiac dysfunction (in mice), which was already known, but not really understood. This research proves Berberine's effects, as well as helps researchers better understand how it helps offspring of overweight mothers. Though, keep in mind that this study was done on mice, and has not undergone human tria

Berberine improved glucose and insulin status in prenatal and lactating goats:

Moving on to studies that go beyond just mice, there’s another clinical study that was conducted on goats. This study, published in the BMC Veterinary Research, investigated the effects of berberine on glucose and insulin metabolism in pregnant and lactating goats. 

The study involved two groups of goats, one receiving berberine supplementation and the other serving as a control. The results showed that berberine supplementation significantly reduced blood glucose levels and increased insulin sensitivity in both pregnant and lactating goats. Furthermore, berberine supplementation improved the reproductive performance of the goats by increasing the number of healthy kids born and reducing the incidence of dystocia (difficult birth).

The mechanisms by which berberine improves glucose and insulin status in goats are not fully understood, but it is thought to work by activating the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling pathway. 

This pathway plays a key role in regulating glucose and lipid metabolism, as well as energy homeostasis. Berberine also increases insulin sensitivity by promoting the translocation of glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) to the cell membrane, which facilitates glucose uptake into cells.

In conclusion, berberine is a promising natural compound that can improve glucose and insulin status in prenatal and lactating goats. Its use may lead to improved reproductive performance and better health outcomes for goats.

However, further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms by which berberine exerts its effects and to determine optimal dosages and treatment protocols.

Positive of effects of Berberine in human children

Another study, published even more recently in 2020 shows the positive effects of Berberine on children, and was administered to children with infectious diarrhea.

In infectious diarrhea, the intestines become inflamed and irritated, leading to the symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. Berberine works against infectious diarrhea in several ways. Firstly, it has been shown to inhibit the growth and replication of a variety of pathogens, including bacteria like Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio cholerae, and parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. 

Berberine, as it turns out, works by interfering with the ability of these pathogens to attach to the intestinal lining and penetrate the cells, which ultimately reduces their ability to cause damage and inflammation.

Secondly, berberine also has anti-inflammatory properties. It can reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines that are responsible for the inflammation and damage to the intestinal lining. By reducing inflammation, berberine helps to restore the normal function of the intestinal barrier and promote the healing of the damaged tissues.

Lastly, berberine can also modulate the gut microbiota. It can selectively inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria while promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. This rebalancing of the gut microbiota can help to restore the normal gut flora and prevent further episodes of infectious diarrhea.

Several studies have investigated the efficacy of berberine in treating infectious diarrhea in children. As a cherry on top of this point that I’m making, another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition showed that berberine was effective in reducing the duration and severity of diarrhea in children with acute watery diarrhea caused by Vibrio cholerae. Another study published in the Chinese Journal of Pediatrics showed that berberine was as effective as the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim in treating children with acute bacterial diarrhea caused by Shigella.

Bottom Line:

Berberine has more positive studies on infants and mothers than negative. More and more positive research continues to be published. Many doctors are very excited about the power of Berberine to be used in so many ways. 

There are not studies illustrating any negative effects of Berberine on human infants, or studies to illustrate how a mother may metabolize and absorb Berberine before, if any, is passed through to the breast milk. Again, there are numerous positive studies on infant animals using Berberine, so it can be difficult to know which is true. 

Milk Dust Metabolism uses a very small dose of Berberine, just enough for a mother to metabolize and fully use for her own body, leaving little to be released into the breast milk. Very high doses of Berberine may leave excess in the breast milk, but that is still uknown. 

this article will be updated as more reasearch continues to be published on the power of Berberine for humans.