“Nature’s Ozempic” has a rather gross side effect

Berberine Natures Ozempic.jpg - Credit: PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY Matthew Cooley.  PHOTOGRAPHS USED IN ILLUSTRATION FROM Adobe Stock;  Getty

Berberine Natures Ozempic.jpg – Credit: PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY Matthew Cooley. PHOTOGRAPHS USED IN ILLUSTRATION FROM Adobe Stock; Getty

On social media, The supposed wonder drug that’s on everyone’s lips at the moment is Ozempic, the drug created to treat type 2 diabetes that’s now being used as a weight-loss treatment. But with access to Ozempic dwindling as demand soars and prices rise, social media users have begun looking for alternatives that they say have the same effect and don’t require a visit to the doctor.

Enter Berberine, an over-the-counter supplement that has gone viral in the last six months under a new name: nature Ozempic.

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What is Berberine?

The berberine compound is derived from natural ingredients, as found naturally in shrubby barberry, as well as turmeric, hydraste and other herbs, says Dr. Amanda Velazquez, director of obesity medicine at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.

In some studies, berberine has been shown to improve high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, all of which can potentially lead to weight loss. Velazquez says research on berberine’s effectiveness is scarce and smaller studies should be approached with caution.

But that hasn’t stopped TikTok from declaring berberine the next big weight-loss drug, likening it to a natural version of Ozempic, a semaglutide originally developed to treat diabetics by regulating blood sugar.

The hashtag #naturesozempic has more than 12.4 million views, with #berberine bringing in an additional 76.8 million views. Searching the app for mentions of Berberine or Natures Ozempic yields thousands of videos from influencers documenting their experiences with the supplement.

So you want to try Berberine? Here are some things you need to know from a functional, holistic nutritionist, says one wellness influencer account. POV: Have you started taking Berberine for PCOS weight loss and are you waiting to lose 20 lbs, jokes another, before you say how long will it take?!

Are there any side effects?

To the average person, there is nothing dangerous about berberine per se. You can buy it at a health food store or even on Amazon. But according to Dr. Priya Jaisinghani, an endocrinologist and obesity medicine specialist at NYU Langone, it can also have interactions with many medications, including chemotherapies and immunosuppressants, so people should do their due diligence before starting to take it.

It’s so important to talk to your doctor before starting any supplements, Jaisinghani says. Whether it’s natural or artificial, whatever you’re taking has an effect.

Let’s start with the gut, because guess what a bitch, the gut is gutting, says another influencer, who describes the intense amounts of diarrhea she experienced after first taking the supplement.

Perhaps even more concerning, besides appetite suppression and sugar regulation, one of the closest similarities Berberine shares with Ozempic is its potential side effects. Since the supplement directly targets the gastrointestinal tract, it can help you lose weight, but it can also make you poop in your pants. Gastrointestinal distress such as constipation or diarrhea, as well as nausea and migraines, are side effects of Ozempic that are commonly documented on social media and can also impact Berberine users.

As a weight loss method, even berberine isn’t as effective as Ozempic, says Velazquez. This is not a substitute or substitute for an anti-obesity drug, he tells Rolling Stone. It may be considered an add-on if your provider deems it appropriate for you. But it definitely isn’t as effective as some of these newer anti-obesity drugs.

However, Velazquez adds, many people who take Berberine may mistakenly believe that it is as effective a weight loss supplement as Ozempic, precisely because it can produce the same side effects.

There will be abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea. And I think it’s there [some are] get this misunderstanding that [berberine] it’s this replica of the Olympic, Velazquez says. Absolutely not. I think people are wrongly thinking that if they are experiencing these side effects, which are common with Ozempic, they must be doing the same thing.

Dr. Azza Halim, a Florida-based physician focused on wellness, notes that while berberine is fairly safe in moderation, some advice she’s seen online goes directly against medical opinion and could result in more intense side effects.

Social media has a huge impact and it’s a huge influence. When people find that, Oh, one tablet is good or one pill does the job, maybe I’ll take two, that’s when they start to see the side effects, says Halim. With Berberine, I wouldn’t want someone to start overdosing so they can start losing five pounds a week. This is not healthy. There is no miracle pill.

Why is berberine so popular?

Since Ozempic became a household name, there has been a severe shortage of the drug, both for users trying to lose weight and the type 2 diabetics for whom it was originally made. Drug shortages and the rising cost of drugs have led users to seek out cheaper options, from telehealth sites or compounding facilities.

Patients can inquire about the drugs at their doctor’s office, qualify for the drug, and then find out from their insurance that the plan doesn’t cover anti-obesity drugs, Jaisinghani says. The out-of-pocket costs for these drugs could be prohibitively expensive for people to gain access. And with drug shortages leaving patients unable to have a coherent treatment plan, it could prompt patients to start looking for alternative sources of medication.

Berberine is not a new discovery or even a major medical advance. But unfortunately, as long as Ozempic remains the buzzy new drug, berberine won’t be the last natural alternative to go viral. And while it’s not dangerous in small doses, doctors are still urging users to be careful, despite rave reviews on social media.

When something is touted as natural, it definitely has a marketing edge, where consumers can feel it’s more trusted, says Velazquez Rolling stone. But natural doesn’t automatically mean safer.

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