The small intestine contains multitudes of bacteria that are required for proper digestion. These colonies exist in a delicate state of balance and assist the breakdown of macronutrients for optimal absorption through the gut wall.
Sometimes, these bacterial populations grow to abnormal levels due to reasons such as post-surgical complications, abnormal anatomy, or disease and result in a condition called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). People with SIBO often experience GI-related symptoms, such as bloating, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
SIBO can lead to other complications including leaky gut syndrome (or increased intestinal permeability) where the inner gut lining becomes damaged. This damaged lining eventually cracks and allows bad bacteria and their toxins to enter into the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body, especially the skin. Consequently, inflammation results and skin conditions develop.
Currently, scientists believe that leaky gut may exacerbate acne symptoms, especially in acne-prone individuals. Berberine is a plant-based alkaloid that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Supplementing with berberine may reduce inflammation in skin conditions, prevent SIBO, and subsequently stop leaky gut development.
Berberine also improves blood sugar management in diabetic patients. Blood sugar and SIBO are interrelated as high blood sugar often causes leaky gut and encourages bacterial proliferation.
Gut Health And Acne
Numerous studies illustrate a relationship between gut health and acne development and alterations in gut flora are often associated with acne prevalence. Losing the normal biofilm that lines the gut leads to the formation of cracks which bacterial toxins can enter through. Oxidative stress and inflammation then increase and toxins in the blood lead to decreased insulin sensitivity which culminates in acne exacerbation.
Consequently, dermatologists acknowledge the importance of the skin-gut axis. Treatment for skin conditions often focuses on restoring healthy gut bacteria by encouraging patients to eat a healthy diet and cultivate good bacterial growth through the use of both prebiotics and probiotics. There’s also treatment available through the use of berberine which holistically targets the underlying causes of acne.
Berberine For SIBO
Normally, clinicians treat SIBO with antibiotics, notably rifaximin. As rifaximin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, not only are the bad bacterial colonies destroyed, but also the good bacterial colonies as well that are required for healthy digestion. Therefore, we need a solution for maintaining good gut health and berberine comes into use to prevent future abnormal colonisations of bacteria in the gut.
Berberine SIBO Dosage
SIBO is usually treated with rifaximin, but two studies suggest that herbal therapy containing berberine is just as effective. However, the herbal preparation used in both studies not only contained berberine but also several other plant-based treatments. So, for now, it is advised to use berberine as an adjuvant rather than as a substitute for rifaximin.
We also recommend taking berberine for 2-3 months following a course of antibiotics to help reduce the recurrence risk of SIBO.
Berberine For Leaky Gut-Induced Acne
There are few studies looking specifically at how berberine treats patients with a leaky gut and acne. Instead, we need to pick apart other studies exploring berberine to see if they reflect the same situation in patients with a leaky gut.
Controlling blood sugar levels is important in preventing acne. High blood sugar not only damages the gut lining, predisposing the patient to skin conditions such as acne but also encourages bacterial proliferation. Berberine controls bacterial colonization and reduces SIBO recurrence.
Further, bacterial toxins enter the blood if the patient has a leaky gut and compromises insulin sensitivity. One study found that berberine’s ability to control blood sugar demonstrated marked improvements in acne-related symptoms. The patients did have insulin resistance which may mirror leaky gut, but the patients were infertile and didn’t have normal hormonal levels as seen in leaky gut patientsーso you should take these results with a pinch of salt.
Another study explored berberine’s potential for treating acne in teenagers without diagnosed leaky gut. Researchers found that barberries, whose active ingredient is berberine, reduced acne by 45% over 4 weeks of 600mg of barberry. This may be due to berberine’s anti-inflammatory properties.
Berberine Acne Dosage
Studies typically use 1500mg/day of berberine for treating acne. However, at the high end of this spectrum, you may experience side effects such as bloating and diarrhea. Berberine has a short half-life of 5 hours so you should split your dose into 2-3 doses throughout the day to maintain effective levels systemically.
Berberine is often taken orally but can be applied topically too.
How Long Does It Take To Cure Acne From Leaky Gut?
It appears from studies that treatment normally lasts for 8 weeks. If you take berberine for longer than this period, it may harm your gut bacteria as it is a mild antibiotic.
Take Home Message
As both an antibiotic and antioxidant, berberine effectively prevents SIBO and the consequential development of SIBO-associated conditions including acne. To exploit its benefits, we recommend taking between 500-1500mg/day, divided into 2-3 doses over 8 weeks. However berberine’s antibacterial properties act as a double-edged sword, and if taken for longer than 8 weeks can damage the gut lining, once again resulting in leaky gut and acne.
Looking To Buy Berberine? Read Our Review Of The Best Berberine Supplements.
Studies And Research You Can Read About Berberine For SIBO And Berberine For Acne
- Targeting the gut-skin axis—Probiotics as new tools for skin disorder management? (Experimental dermatology, 2019)
- Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis – back to the future? (Gut pathogens, 2011)
- The gut microbiome alterations in allergic and inflammatory skin diseases – an update (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2019)
- Herbal Therapy Is Equivalent to Rifaximin for the Treatment of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 2014)
- The use of berberine for women with polycystic ovary syndrome undergoing IVF treatment (Clinical endocrinology, 2013)
- Aqueous extract of dried fruit of Berberis vulgaris L. in acne vulgaris, a clinical trial (Journal of dietary supplements, 2012)
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