PDP Helper Tips

The following are some tips to help us do an accurate search on your behalf for the next year’s Prescription Drug Plans (PDP). Our goal is to find the PDP that will be most suitable for you.

Step 1

Please enter your name, phone, email address, your zip code, and your county of residence. Some zip codes span multiple counties, and that’s why we request your county of residence. This means where your residence sits.

Next, please list your top pharmacy choices. We also ask you if you would be willing to use Walmart, Walgreens, or a mail order pharmacy if that will save you money.

Step 2

In this section, only enter your pills, capsules, or tablets. Liquids, gels, creams, insulin, eye drops, patches, etc. are in the next steps.

Enter the name of your prescription, the dose, and the quantity you buy. Important, is the quantity you buy per one month, per every two months, per every three months, or per every twelve months? If you take something as needed, estimate how many pills you buy and how often you buy it. Your estimate does need to be exact. Just get it as reasonably close as you can.

Example #1—Betty take two, 500mg metformin tablets every day. She buys 60 every month.

Name of Prescription: Metformin
Dosage: Enter 500mg
Quantity: Enter 60
Frequency: Enter month

Example #2—John take hydrocodone/apap, 325/10mg, as needed for back pain. Some days he takes none but other days he takes two or three. He estimates he takes around 45 per month

Name of Prescription: Hydrocodone/apap
Dosage: Enter 325/10mg
Quantity: Enter 45
Frequency: Enter month

Step 3

The section is for Insulin, Inhalers and Nebulizers

Example #3—Alice uses insulin. She checks “yes”. She enters her information as follows:

Name of insulin: Lantus Solostar pens
Size: 3 mL
Quantity: 5 pack or just 5
Frequency: per 2 months

Example #4—Shirley uses Advair. She checks “yes” for the category: “Do you use any inhalers or nebulizers?” She enters her information as follows:

Name of inhaler: Advair
Size: 250/50
Quantity: 1
Frequency: 1 month

Step 4

This final step is for Eye Drops. Gels, Creams, Lotions or Salves, and Other Prescriptions.

Example #5—Mary uses eye drops. She checks “yes” for this category and fills in her information. Please do NOT attempt to say “2 drops per eye each day.” We need to know the size of the bottle, usually 2.5 mL, 5 mL, or 10 mL and how often you fill your prescription.

Name of eye drops: Latanoprost SOL 0.005%
Size: 2.5 mL
Quantity: 1
Frequency: 1 month

When finished, please hit the submit button. Thank you in advance for using PDPhelper.com. End

This Tier 3 Copay Change Could Cost You Hundreds of Dollars

by Lance D Reedy

Every fall, your Part D prescription plan (PDP) or Medicare Advantage (MA) plan sends you what’s called the Annual Notice of Change or the ANOC for short. It’s important to carefully read it, as buried in the verbiage are sometimes substantial changes in your plan.

When this happens, every year without fail, we receive a call in January from a disgruntled member that’s unhappy about being hit with a large premium increase or more costly copays. Let’s be pro-active and see if we can deal with this issue BEFORE the October 15 to December 7 Annual Election Period (AEP) ends. There’s little we can do after December 7th!

Going into 2024 we have another potential train wreck loaming on the horizon. Because of compliance issues, we can’t use an actual company’s name. Therefore, we have at hand our fictitious and popular Acme Value Prescription (AVP) plan.

Here is their 2023 copay structure.

Tier 1 drugs: $1.00 copay

Tier 2 drugs: $5.00 copay

Tier 3 drugs: $47 copay*

Tier 4 drugs: $90 copay*

Tier 5 specialty drugs: 33%*

*Tiers 3-5 are subject to the $505 deductible

Now watch carefully…

Here is their 2024 copay structure.

Tier 1 drugs: $0.00 copay

Tier 2 drugs: $5.00 copay

Tier 3 drugs: 25% co-insurance*

Tier 4 drugs: 50% co-insurance *

Tier 5 specialty drugs: 33%*

*Tiers 3-5 drugs are subject to the $545 deductible.

It all looks very similar, right? Well, not exactly.

The Analysis

Tiers 1 and 2 are almost the same, and they are both excluded from the 2024 $545 deductible. So far, so good.

Hmm, tier 3 is now a 25% co-insurance.

Here’s the Good Part About this Change…

For 2023, Ramona Homestead has taken hydrocodone/acetaminophen 320-10mg 3 times per day. Even though this is a generic, AVP lists this drug as a tier 3 on their formulary. She has met her deductible, so she has a $47 copay for her med. However, the $47 copay is more than the $32 cost for hydrocodone at her pharmacy, so she receives no help from her plan.

In 2024 she pays just 25% for her med after she has met her deductible. Assuming that she has met her deductible with other prescriptions, she now pays 25% of $32 or just $8.00 for her hydrocodone. That is an improvement compared to the 2023 copay structure.

And Now the Bad and the Ugly…

Ramona also takes Eliquis, 5mg, 2x per day. To make our math easy, let’s says that the retail cost of Eliquis is $600 per month.

In 2023 she pays $47 after her deductible has been met.

In 2024 she pays $150 (25% of $600) after her deductible has been satisfied. Her cost sharing has gone from $47 to $150 or tripled!

If she doesn’t take any action, she might faint from sticker shock when she sees her pharmacist in February 2024. She’s expecting a $47 copay once her deductible has been met, but instead she’ll be hit with $150!

How Do I Know if this Change Helps or Hurts Me?

Any tier 3 drug that is less than $188 per month will benefit you. At exactly $188 it’s a wash as 25% of $188 is exactly $47. However, once you’re above $188, AVP’s plan change is going to cost you much, much more. There are plenty of tier 3 drugs with a monthly retail cost of $400 to $1,000.

The Solution

Most of you already know this one. Have us update your list of prescriptions and re-shop your PDP for 2024. Please see our companion articles, The House Always Wins and PDPHelper.com. End

The House Always Wins

by Lance D Reedy

The Part D Prescription (PDP) plans and Medicare Advantage plan were authorized by the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act passed by Congress in 2003 during the George Bush II administration.

2024 will mark the eighteenth year that I have been involved with the afore-mentioned plans. I have seen some reoccurring themes of what the PDP companies do to maintain their profitability, and that is the theme of this article.

The Original Structure of a PDP

Before discussing some of tricks of the trade that the PDP companies use to boost revenue, let’s look at the original plan design.

Phase 1: The member had to meet a $250 deductible.

Phase 2: The member paid 25% of the retail cost of the prescriptions up to the coverage gap limit.

Phase 3: The member was responsible for 100% of the costs when in the coverage gap (aka the donut hole).

Phase 4: This is the catastrophic phase where the member in general paid 5% for the cost of his/her meds. Note: In 2024 this is now zero percent.

Here are some takeaways:

The 25% co-insurance that I referenced in my companion article for the fictious Acme Value Prescription (AVP) plan is nothing new. However, most plans have gone to a flat copay system for several years. As several new expensive drugs have hit the market, the PDP companies are resurrecting the 25% coinsurance schedule.

Medicare has allowed the PDP companies to create alternative plans to the original design. This could consist of flat copays instead of the 25% coinsurance, no deductible plans, or reduced deductible plans. For several years we have seen plans where tiers 1 and 2 drugs were excluded from the deductible.

As many formerly expensive brand names have gone generic, we have seen some plans offering $0.00 or $1.00 copays for many of these low-cost generics. The following are a few examples of expensive brands that have gone generic. The brand name is followed by its generic equivalent.





Blood pressure:


Toprol– Metoprolol succinate





Actos– Pioglitazone




and dozens more.

Expensive New Brand Name Drugs

What has changed the dynamic regarding the PDPs are the new generation of brand name drugs. Before going generic, many of these older brands listed above used to have a retail cost ranging from $100 to $200 per month. We used to think that these were expensive drugs.

Now we’re seeing brands with a retail cost of $500 to over $1,000 per month. Some popular examples are Eliquis, Xarelto, Mounjaro, Trelegy, and Ozempic.

The writing is on the wall. Many of the low premium PDPs will be phasing out covering these drugs with a fixed $40 to $47 tier 3 copay. Another popular plan made this change a year ago. Where we’ll likely see a continuance of the tier 3 and 4 fixed copays is with the high dollar PDPs. These premiums typically start at $70 per month and go up from there.

The PDP Companies’ Tricks of the Trade

First, it’s important to understand how the PDP companies are financed.

The government subsidy: We could dig though online documents of over 200 pages to feret out every last detail as to how the PDPs are financed. Let’s do the simplified version. According to KFF.org, Medicare (the Federal government) finances 74% of the PDP costs. Your premium covers 15%, and the states kick in around 11%. These percentages may vary from plan to plan, but this will give you the gist of how the financing works.

Even if your plan premium is zero, the PDP companies derive most, or all of their funding from state and federal governments. I fielded a phone call from a concerned client who read in her Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) that her 2024 PDP premium was dropping to less than a dollar. She thought something must be amiss.

She was relieved when I explained where the bulk of the financing comes from. In addition, I discussed how her Acme Value Prescription (AVP) plan was changing its tier 3 copay structure.

Trick Number One

A prescription drug company comes out with a super low premium plan. Because of the low premium, the plan gains more market share. After three years, give or take, the members have a substantial rate increase. Many members will change, but the companies understand senior psychology which is that people don’t like making changes. In the end, the member that doesn’t shop ends up paying the higher freight.

Recently, we have seen a new trend, and that is decreasing premiums. That’s good but keep the big picture in mind.

Trick Number Two: Tier Juggling

A tier 1 generic is moved to a tier 2 generic. Generally, this means that a $0.00 to $3.00 copay goes to a $4.00 to $8.00 copay. Even worse is when a tier 2 drug is kicked up to tier 3. Even though tier 3 drugs are called “preferred brands,” there are often many generics included as a tier 3 drug. For example, the generic equivalents to the brands Diovan and Micardis are Valsartan and Telmisartan respectively. Some of the low-premium PDPs have moved these generics from tier 2 to tier 3.

Trick Number Three: Dropping an Expensive Drug from the Formulary of a Budget PDP

Let’s say that the AVP plan used to carry the popular blood thinner Eliquis on its formulary. Buried in the verbiage of its ANOC is the list of drugs no longer included in their formulary for the next year. Who reads every word of their ANOC? Worse, some members say, “It’s all Greek to me, and I don’t understand any of it, so it goes into file 13.” PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO CAREFULLY READ YOUR ANOC!

Trick number Four: Changing a Tier’s Copay Structure

Going from a flat copay to a percent (usually 25%) co-insurance: I have discussed this one in detail in my companion article, This Tier 3 Copay Change Could Cost You Hundreds of Dollars.

Trick Number Five: Disenrollment Confusion

A few years ago, our fictitious Acme Insurance Company carried these three plans:

Acme Pharmacy X Plan: $26 per month
Acme Regular Plan: $38 per month
Acme Premier Plan: $56 per month

They made changes to its Acme Pharmacy X Plan and renamed it to the Acme Value Prescription (AVP) plan. Because there were so many changes including formulary changes, Medicare required Acme to send out disenrollment notices to its Acme Pharmacy X Plan members.

Buried in the ANOC verbiage was the statement that those who remained in the Acme Pharmacy X plan would automatically be migrated to the Acme Premier Plan. Notice that this caused the premium to more than double.

Between emails and phone calls, we did our best to alert our clients to this issue. Unfortunately, there were those who we were unable to reach who were unaware of what was happening. Sadly, they were shocked when they were hit the big rate increase in January.

I don’t believe the companies are being malicious when this happens. As I understand it, when companies want to make major changes to their plans, Medicare requires them to migrate their members to the plan with a formulary that is at least as robust as the one in the outgoing plan. This inevitably winds up being the highest premium plan.

However, I think the companies could be more diligent with even a second or third communication alerting their members to an ensuing train wreck. The bottom line is this: PLEASE BE SURE TO READ EVERY COMMUNICATION FROM YOUR PRESCRIPTION OR MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PLAN. If you are not sure of what those notices mean, please contact us.


When it comes to casino gambling, most people understand that the House always wins. Slot machines have a payout ratio of around 83 to 95%. Sure, some gamblers hit the jackpot and win big, but it’s at the expense of the others that lose.

The Part D prescription companies lose on some members that are high prescription users. However, they are extremely profitable with those that are either non or minimal users. No matter how they structure their plans, they will be profitable. And that’s fine as long as it’s not too big of a profit. Just keep in mind as with the casinos, the House always wins. End

The Annual Election Period (AEP) for 2024 Plans

The Annual Election Period (AEP) for 2024 Plans

The fall Annual Election Period (a.k.a. Medicare open enrollment) is upon us. We have already started discussing 2024 plans as of October 1st. We can start taking applications October 15th for the 2024 plan year. December 7 is the closing date of the AEP. Please help us to avoid the last-minute rush.

Please Ignore the Medicare-related TV and Clicky Internet Advertising

Note:  This article was originally published in 2021. We have updated it to reflect current changes.

We received an email from a client with a copy of an internet click-bait ad that stated the following:

$2,041 SS payment—All seniors are due a large $2,041 Social Security benefit this week.”

This verbiage has scam written all over it. All seniors? Really? Why $2,041? Where does this money come from and who’s paying for it? This is classic click-bait that entices the greed and gullible person to click on it.

Let’s revisit the psychology of advertising. Most advertising is designed to create anxiety, apprehension, and discontent. It also presses your fear and greed buttons. The ads are purposely choreographed to upset your equilibrium and peace of mind. Please remember that this is all done very subtly, and that’s the cleverness and deceptiveness of advertising. This is why advertising copy writers get paid big bucks.

Another element of advertising is to create fear. Misguided Medicare advantage advertising creates fear that you might be missing out on something really important such as a big payment or some other Medicare benefit. The bottom line is that the advertising by design is manipulative.

A more sinister aspect of advertising, especially television advertising, is to bombard your senses to the point where your ability to differentiate between truth and fiction is broken down. Your senses are dulled. The trickery is to “push your feelings button rather than your intellect button. Be assured, there are no pots of gold sitting at the end of the rainbow!

For more understanding about the scamsters and click-baiters, please view our companion article, Medicare ‘boiler room’ Scams Prey on Senior Citizens Ahead of Open Enrollment

If you have questions, doubts, or concerns after viewing a Medicare-related TV or internet ad, please call or email us FIRST! Please keep in mind that we are swamped this time of year and will get back with you as fast as possible.


Part D Prescription Plans: Many people have us re-shop these plans for them every year. We need to change these plans to stay current with the best buys.

The Types of Changes You Can Make During the Fall AEP


  1. Medicare advantage plan = MA.
  2. Medicare advantage with prescription drugs = MAPD
  3. Prescription Drug plan = PDP

For those where a change is appropriate, the following list are changes that you can make.

  1. You can change from one PDP to another PDP.
  2. You can add a new PDP if you never had one but need one now. A late enrollment penalty may apply.
  3. You can change from one MA/MAPD to another MA/MAPD plan. Remember, the MA plan only does not have a prescription plan embedded in it.
  4. You can drop your Medicare supplement plan and switch to a MA/MAPD plan if one is available in your county of residence.
  5. You can drop your MA/MAPD plan, go back to original Medicare, and add a Medicare supplement plan. Medical underwriting applies in most situations. Medicare also allows you to sign up for a PDP so you do not lose prescription coverage.
  6. The Lasso MSA plan is discontinued for 2024 and is no longer is available.

Changing from one Medicare Supplement Plan to Another

First, it’s important to note that you can change your Medicare supplement plan ANY month of the year. This change is NOT restricted to the fall AEP, however, you must medically quality with the new company you are applying to. This change is usually done to get lower rates.

There is an exception. Washington has continuous open enrollment. Oregon and Idaho have the birthday rule which allows you an open enrollment period following your birthday. In these cases, there is NO medical underwriting.

Part D Prescription Plan (PDP) News

Please refer to our two companion articles:

This Tier 3 Copay Change Could Cost You Hundreds of Dollars

The House Always Wins



Many of you have successfully used our website, PDPHelper.com to submit a list of your prescriptions to us. Doing so helps us to shop for you the most competitive PDP or MAPD.

Ways to Contact Us

Phone: (208) 746-6283 or (888) 746-6285

Fax: (888) 819-0176

Email: lance@nwsimail.com or elizabeth@nwsimail.com

Website: nwseniorinsurance.com  Please click on the “Contact Us” tab.

PDPHelper.com: Submit a list of your prescriptions to us using this website.


As stated above, we strongly encourage you to use our PDPHelper.com website as a way of submitting of list of your current prescriptions. We thank you for your patronage and wish you the best for the upcoming 2024 season. End.

Medicare ‘boiler room’ Scams Prey on Senior Citizens Ahead of Open Enrollment

by Brett Arends

Hard-sell Tactics Target People with Lower Incomes in Particular

To read this article it its original online locations, please click here.

It’s probably just coincidence that the AEP (aka Medicare open enrollment) happens to coincide with traditional hunting season. But it sure doesn’t feel like it.

A new study shows how senior citizens are being effectively hunted by ruthless private insurance companies and brokers during the AEP, which runs from October 15 to December 7.

Aggressive marketing operations, comparable to infamous Wall Street “boiler rooms,” are subjecting people to a hard sell to try to get them to switch to a private Medicare advantage plan.

This includes torrents of cold calls, which are expressly forbidden under Medicare regulations, and offers of “time sensitive” deals and discounts that are actually illegal.

Three quarters of senior citizens say they received cold calls trying to get them to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan during last year’s AEP, according to a groundbreaking survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan think-tank.

Half of those surveyed, or 51%, told researchers that on these cold calls, the caller falsely claimed to be from Medicare.

“America’s seniors and people with disabilities … should be protected from bad actors who engage in misleading advertising and marketing tactics,” said Dave Allen, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade association and lobby group that represents private-sector insurers, in a statement. “Health insurance providers strongly agree: Americans should have clear, accurate, easy-to-understand information about Medicare advantage plans, so they know what they are buying.”

Allen added that the industry will be subject to tougher regulations this year. “AHIP will continue to engage with [the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] and other stakeholders to assess Medicare marketing requirements including addressing certain elements to ensure they do not hamper the ability of agents and brokers to assist Medicare enrollees in choosing the best coverage option for them,” he said.

Medicare Advantage, in which Medicare is outsourced to for-profit insurance companies, is big business. It has been growing rapidly for more than a decade and this year for the first time exceeded the size of traditional, government-run Medicare. Last year, taxpayers paid Medicare Advantage insurers just over $400 billion, in addition to money paid through the Medicare Part D prescription-drug program, according to the government’s Medical Payment Advisory Commission.

Hard-sell tactics are being focused especially on seniors with lower incomes, the Commonwealth Fund reports. Those with incomes of less than $25,000 a year were twice as likely as those with higher incomes to be asked for their Social Security or Medicare numbers before being given any plan details, the survey reports. That’s against Medicare rules, Jacobson noted. And 28% of those with lower incomes said they’d been exposed to marketing or advertising that claimed something about a private Medicare Advantage plan that they later found out wasn’t true — a much higher percentage than among other income groups.

Jacobson said people with low incomes are often especially profitable to Medicare Advantage providers, because they are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare.

Seniors are struggling with the bewildering complexity of the Medicare program as well as hard-sell tactics. MedPac reports that last year, Medicare Advantage included 5,261 plan options offered by 182 organizations. According to the survey, the choice is so overwhelming that many seniors choose to simply stay with their existing plan.

My Comments: Every year Medicare advantage agent/brokers must complete an annual recertification. Included in this training is Medicare’s myriad of marketing rules, and one of them is that COLD CALLING is prohibited! And it has been prohibited since the dawn of Medicare advantage plans.  The tele-marketers blatantly ignore these rules.

If you receive a cold call from a tele-marketer, you can do the following.

  • Some people screen all calls before picking up. They only pick up calls from family and friends.
  • Others have a recording that tells the tele-marketer to hang up and put them on their do not call list.

If you pick up and start hearing the obvious tele-marketing spiel, you can do the following:

  • Hang up immediately.
  • Tell the caller you have an agent, say good-bye, and disconnect the call.
  • Ask the tele-marketer for her/his name, phone number, and insurance license number of the state you’re in. Suggest that you will report him/her to your state insurance department for making illegal tele-marketing calls.
  • Take the info as above and tell the caller you’ll get back with him after checking him out.
  • Whatever you do, take control of the conversation by refusing to answer ANY questions about your current coverage. If a stranger calls you and asks how much money you make, how much you have in your checking account and other personal details, do you answer him? I hope not. Likewise, don’t give them any information such as what plan you have, your Social Security, Medicare, or bank account numbers. Be a brick wall and find out how fast the tele-marketer flies the coop.

There are two things to remember. Medicare or the Social Security Administration never calls you. They communicate via U.S. Postal mail. Lastly, these boiler room tele-marketers are 100% commission chasers. If they screw up your plans and cause you grief, they could care less.


Are Your Prescription Drugs as Safe as You May Think?

By Dr. Al Sears,

I want to share a shocking statistic with you. Around 80% of all the pharmaceuticals sold in America — both prescription and over-the-counter — are manufactured in China.

I’m talking about drugs for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, blood pressure and blood thinners, diuretics, aspirin, antibiotics, and a big chunk of the world’s insulin and diabetes drugs — just to name a few.1

We don’t even make penicillin anymore. The last penicillin plant in the U.S. closed its doors in 2004. Americans who rely on medicine are now almost entirely at the mercy of a country whose relations with the U.S. have become more tense than they were just a few years ago. Yet, there’s no need to panic. And in a moment, I’ll tell you why…

First, let me share why we need to be concerned. Pharmaceutical companies can’t just pack up their overseas operations and build drug-making plants in America or move them to some other country.

It could take years to develop the infrastructure to re-establish manufacturing capacities in the U.S. and get the FDA licenses to replace the loss of the Chinese supply.

But there’s an even bigger problem. Drugs imported from China have additional safety risk factors that go beyond the well-known side effects I’ve written to you about before.

The FDA insists that pharmaceutical ingredients from China are safe. But I don’t buy it. The FDA has a long history of failing to oversee drug sources in other countries. In 2008, contaminated supplies of the blood-thinning drug Heparin from China led to the deaths of 149 Americans and hundreds more allergic reactions.

Though that scandal prompted the FDA to start stationing inspectors in overseas plants, a recent scathing report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office highlighted the FDA’s long history of failing to conduct oversight on foreign drug factories.2

The reason the FDA had little chance to uncover the heparin contamination before Americans started dying: It hadn’t inspected the plant.

Even now, the FDA is plagued by a staffing shortage. In China and India, there are just 15 combined inspector positions – and five of those remain unfilled. That’s less than 10 inspectors to oversee 5,000 Chinese drug-making facilities.3

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I’ve been warning patients for years about the dangers of Big Pharma’s concoctions. At my clinic, I work to get my patients off prescription drugs. I prescribe pharmaceuticals only when absolutely necessary.

Blockbuster drugs like statins, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, bisphosphonates, and antidepressants — all made in China — can often create new and dangerous health issues and can make recovery impossible.

Mainstream medicine wants to scare you into thinking you need these drugs to keep you alive and healthy. In fact, in many cases, the opposite is true. But here’s the secret Big Pharma and its Chinese partners don’t want you to know:

For every disease — and every Big Pharma drug — nature has provided a natural, non-toxic non-pharmaceutical alternative that’s free from side effects. Develop your own medical supply chain

I recommend that you become the master of your own “medical” supply chain – so you’ll no longer be at the mercy of Big Pharma, China, and an unreliable FDA. The natural alternatives and therapies I’m going to tell you about are much safer, often more effective, and cost much less than any drug from Big Pharma or its Chinese manufacturers.

Here are some alternatives to some of Big Pharma’s biggest blockbuster drugs:

Blood thinners. Studies also show that warfarin increases your risk of stroke, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis. One study estimated that nursing home residents alone suffer 34,000 fatal, life-threatening, or serious events related to warfarin every year.4

Natural alternative – curcumin. You know this spice has potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-cancer properties. But recent studies show it’s also a powerful anticoagulant, working to inhibit clotting factors and prevent blood clots from forming.

Choose a supplement with at least 90% curcuminoids. And look for one that contains piperine, a black pepper extract that boosts absorption. Take between 500 mg to 1,000 mg each day.

Arthritis drugs. NSAIDs increase your risk of heart attack and stroke after just one week of consistent use. And the more you use them, the more your risk goes up.5

Natural alternative – frankincense: Also known as Boswellia serrata, this herb has a long history of treating arthritis without side effects. In a large study, researchers followed 440 arthritis patients for six months. They found that frankincense relieved pain as effectively as painkiller drugs. It also significantly improved arthritic knee function.6

Frankincense contains enzymes that block prostaglandin e2 (PGe2). This hormone-like chemical is produced by the body in response to an injury. It makes blood vessels dilate and expand. This causes the injured area to become swollen and arthritic. By directly attacking PGe2, frankincense stops inflammation before it starts.

Look for a Boswellia serrata supplement standardized to at least 65% boswellic acids. I recommend 400 mg three times a day.

Blood pressure pills. Diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers have serious side effects. I’m talking about things like edema, dizziness, nose bleeds, rash, and hearing loss. They can lead to cardiac failure, heart attack, depression, colitis, and arthritis pain.

Natural alternative – magnesium: This is your body’s own blood vessel relaxer. I’ve used it in my practice with great results. It helps balance potassium, sodium, and calcium, all of which affect blood pressure.

In a review of 34 studies covering more than 2,000 patients, researchers found that taking magnesium daily for one month lowered systolic pressure by 2 mmHg and diastolic pressure by 1.8 mmHg.7

I recommend between 600 mg and 1,000 mg a day. Take it with vitamin B6. It will increase the amount of magnesium that accumulates in your cells.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD, CNS


  1. Ewen M, et al. “A perspective on global access to insulin: a descriptive study of the market, trade flows and prices.” Diabet Med. 2019;36(6):726-733.
  2. Denigan-Macauley M. Drug Safety: Preliminary Findings Indicate Persistent Challenges with FDA Foreign Inspections. GOA report December 2019. Accessed March 17, 2023.
  3. “Comparing Global Pharmaceutical Markets, the US, UK, and China.” February 2023.

https://pharmanewsintel.com/features/comparing-global-pharmaceutical-markets-the-us-uk-and-china#:~:text=Currently%2C%20the%20Chinese%20pharmaceutical%20sector,according%20to%20a%20Forbes%20ranking. Accessed March 17, 2023.

  1. Gurwitz JH, et al. “The safety of warfarin therapy in the nursing home setting.” Am J Med. 2007;120:539-544.
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. FDA strengthens warning that NSAIDs increase heart attack and stroke risk.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fda-strengthenswarning- that-NSAIDs-increase-heart-attack-and-stroke-risk-201507138138. Updated August 22, 2017. Accessed March 17, 2023.

  1. Chopra A, et al. “Ayurvedic medicine offers a good alternative to glucosamine and celecoxib in the treatment of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: A randomized, double-blind, controlled equivalence drug trial.” Rheumatology (Oxford). 2013;52(8):1408-1417.
  2. Zhang X, et al. “Effects of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: A meta-analysis of randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials.” Hypertension. 2016;68(2):324-333.


The articles in Northwest Senior News are for your education and general health information only, and the opinions of various writers do not necessarily reflect those of Northwest Senior News. The ideas, opinions and suggestions contained in Northwest Senior News are NOT to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from your doctor for any health condition or related issues. Readers of Northwest Senior News should not rely on information provided in these articles for their own healthcare. Any questions regarding your own healthcare should be addressed to your own physician. Please do NOT start or stop any medications or any other medical protocol without consulting your doctor or other licensed healthcare practitioners.

Chapter 5: A Weapon of Mass Destruction—Part 4: Immune Function and Cancer

Book by Dr. Bruce Fife

A Brief Review of Part 3: Digestive and Oral Health

The health of trillions of tiny microorganisms in our digestive system has a direct effect on our health. These microorganisms are known as the gut microbiome and consist of tens of thousands of species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

A disruption of this carefully balanced population is implicated as a causal factor with several health problems including obesity, type 2 diabetes, reduced immune function, neurological disorders, some forms of cancer, and many other diseases.

Sugar and other additives in ultra-processed foods disrupts a healthy gut biome. Ninety percent of all known human illness can be traced back to an unhealthy gut.

Oral Health: Consuming sugar causes tooth decay. Unfortunately for sugar lovers, the sugar loving bacteria produce acids and toxins which eat away at tooth enamel. It gets worse. These harmful by-products (the bacteria’s waste, if you will) also cause irritation of the gums, which leads to inflammation and bleeding.

The bacteria that cause the greatest harm feed on sugar. The more sugar we eat, the more these bacteria multiply and grow, outnumbering less harmful species. It is the imbalance in the oral microbiome that is the primary cause of poor health.

Poor oral health has been linked to other health issues.

Immune Function and Cancer

Dr. Fife describes how we live in an environment that is surrounded by potentially harmful bacteria, parasites, and other microorganisms. These bad guys assault through the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.

He suggests that with this bombardment of nasty things, it’s amazing that we survive. We can attribute our survival to our immune system.

It’s primarily our white blood cells that are patrolling our bodies and spearheading our defense. Ah, but there’s a problem. The ability of our white blood cells to be effective against the invaders is strongly influenced by sugar consumption.

Sugar depresses the white blood cells ability to phagocytize [devour] these harmful substances. Studies have shown that after a single dose of sugar, phagocytosis [the process of eating up the bad guys] drops by nearly 50% and remains depressed for up to five hours.

If a person has something sugary at all three meals along with a donut, soda, or something sweet for a snack, his/her immune function will stay depressed all day long.

Because sugar depresses immune function, it increases the risks of infection, reduces the body’s ability to neutralize and dispose of environmental toxins, and increases the risk of cancer. You become more susceptible to infectious diseases, have a more difficult time overcoming infections, are more vulnerable or sensitive to toxins and chemicals, and more likely to develop cancer.

Everyone has renegade cancer cells, but not everyone develops cancer. The is because our immune system seeks out and destroys these renegade cells before they get too far out of hand.

Cancer cells only develop in those individuals whose immune systems are so stressed or weakened that they are incapable of mounting an effective defense. A healthy immune system, therefore, is a key element in the prevention of all forms of cancer.

Another major cause of stress is bacteria seeping into our bloodstream through our mouths. Oral infections make it worse. Sugar, of course, promotes chronic oral infections and depresses the immune system, making it easier for cancer to take a foothold.

Folks, it gets worse. Not only does sugar depress your immune system, but sugar is a fertilizer that feeds cancer cells. It’s a double whammy. Yes, cancer cells feed on sugar. The more sugar you consume, the more you are feeding cancer cells inside of your body.

The mitochondria in cancer cells are defective and unable to produce their own energy. Thus, the cancer cells rely on another source of energy production which is called glycolysis [the breakdown of glucose by enzymes, releasing energy and pyruvic acid].

Fatty acids, ketones, and most other energy sources are useless to cancer. This makes cancer heavily reliant on glucose for its energy needs. The more sugar you supply them, from a diet filled with sugary foods and refined starch, the more resistant they become to cancer treatments…Without sugar they would starve to death and be far more vulnerable to the immune system and to cancer treatments.

Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance and high blood pressure are considered to be independent risk factors for cancer. The association between diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, and cancer is well recognized. Studies show that people with diabetes are at substantially higher risk for cancer, especially of the pancreas, liver, lung, endometrium [the mucous membrane lining the uterus], breast, colon, rectum, and bladder.

My Comments: After my father-in-law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, his Mayo Clinic oncologist had him eating ice cream in order to gain weight. I have also heard of plenty of other stories about these doctors encouraging their patients to consume sugary foods. It makes you really wonder about their training.

Is Smoking the Main Driver of Lung Cancer?

SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy. (2) SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.

It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that inhaling smoke from whatever source is not good for your body. Here’s the interesting thing, has there been any Surgeon General’s warning about the deleterious effects of consuming sugar, HFCS, and refined carbs?


Dr. Fife states the following:

Smoking has never been a major problem in any population until sugar and refined flour have been added to the diet. Many primitive societies have used tobacco for generations without suffering any apparent harm.

The Inuits: Early Artic explorers noted that the Inuits were habitual users of tobacco. The children were exposed to heavy doses of second-hand smoke in smoke-filled rooms. However, the explorers noted that there was an absence of lung cancer of any type. The Inuits didn’t have a protective diet of fruits and vegetables.

A doctor Otto Schaefer attended to the medical needs of the Inuits from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s. He reported that cancer was not found among these people until after they began to add sugar and refined carbohydrates into their diets. Lung cancer was completely absent among them.

Dr. Fife points out the absence of lung cancer among the Inuits was not unique to just their society. Other primitive people were free from lung cancer even though they smoked.

To be clear, Dr. Fife is not letting smoking off the hook.

Smoking is not benign by any means; it is a risk factor for a multitude of diseases. However, it appears that smoking itself is not enough to cause lung cancer until it is combined with a diet high in sugar. It appears to be the tobacco-sugar one-two punch that is the real culprit in causing lung cancer. Sugar is likely the catalyst for other cancers as well.

Dr. Fife tells the story of George Burns, a cigar smoker who started smoking at age 14. He reportedly smoked 10-15 cigars per day for over 70 years. That’s over 300,000 cigars! Burns lived to the age of 100. He exercised regularly, wasn’t overweight, and didn’t have any blood sugar problems.

Concluding remarks:

Dr. Fife wraps up this chapter with the following statement:

Glucose is so important to the growth of cancer that it can’t survive without it. Removing sugar and other carbohydrates from the diet essentially starves cancer to death. Dietary therapies that restrict calories or carbohydrates has proven highly successful in the treatment of cancer both in combination with conventional therapies or on their own.

Being obese increases the risk of cancer, but it’s not the weight. It’s because obese people tend to have elevated glucose levels. High blood sugar is a risk factor for cancer even when a person’s weight or body mass index is normal.

Dr. Fife’s final admonition for anyone that is concerned about getting a cancer diagnosis is to prevent it by cutting out the sugar.

My Comments: I know of a man and a woman (both non-smokers) that died in their fifties from lung cancer. One was a distant cousin on my wife’s side of the family. I asked her, “Was he a smoker?” She said “No.” The story is virtually the same with one of my daughter’s mother-in-law.

I now realize that I asked the wrong question. I should have asked, “Was that person living with elevated blood-glucose levels? Was that person’s diet high in refined carbs?”

What’s also worthy of note is that William Dufty in his book, Sugar Blues, pointed out that lung cancer rates started to rise when tobacco was cured with sugar.

Maybe the Surgeon General should crack down on the sugar industry! End

More Reasons Why Splenda Isn’t so Splendid

By Dr. Joseph Mercola

Story at-a-glance

  • Splenda (sucralose) may dampen your immune system at high doses, according to a research team from the Francis Crick Institute in London.
  • Sucralose consumption lowered the activation of T cells, which play an important role in immune function, in response to either a bacterial infection or cancer in mice.
  • When the mice no longer consumed sucralose, their T cells began to work normally again.
  • The study also casts more doubt on claims that sucralose is inert, with researchers concluding, “our study adds to the evidence that sucralose is not an inert molecule and may affect human health.”
  • Past research has found sucralose disrupts your gut microbiome, harms heart health and contributes to metabolic dysfunction.

Consuming artificial sweeteners may seem like the perfect way to have your cake and eat it too — a sweet taste to satisfy your cravings without the health risks of sugar. But artificial sweeteners like sucralose, marketed as Splenda, aren’t a safe sugar alternative.

There have been many red flag safety signals in the past — from increased heart risks1 to interfering with your liver’s detoxification process.2 Now a research team from the Francis Crick Institute in London revealed another reason to stay away from Splenda — it may dampen your immune system at high doses.

Sucralose Suppresses Immune Response

In a study on mice, published in the journal Nature,3 the team found sucralose consumption had immunomodulatory effects.4 Mice with either a bacterial infection or a tumor were fed sucralose at “levels equivalent to the acceptable daily intake (ADI) recommended by the European and American food safety authorities.”5

This lowered the activation of T cells, which play an important role in immune function, in response to either the bacterial infection or cancer.6 The dampened T-cell function was related to the way sucralose affected the release of intracellular calcium.

Previous studies also suggested the artificial sweetener may influence cell membrane fluidity, possibly interfering with T-cell communication.7 When the mice no longer consumed sucralose, their T cells began to work normally again.8 According to the study:9

“[T]he intake of high doses of sucralose in mice results in immunomodulatory effects by limiting T cell proliferation and T cell differentiation. Mechanistically, sucralose affects the membrane order of T cells, accompanied by a reduced efficiency of T cell receptor signaling and intracellular calcium mobilization.”

While stating that humans would be unlikely to consume the levels of sucralose used in this study with “normal” or “moderately elevated” intake, the researchers attempted to spin the immune system suppression as a good thing.

They largely brushed off the concerning finding that mice eating sucralose were less able to fight off infection and cancer and noted, instead, that the artificial sweetener could perhaps be developed into a drug for autoimmune disease.

“If found to have similar effects in humans, one day it could be used therapeutically to help dampen T-cell responses. For example, in patients with autoimmune diseases who suffer from uncontrolled T cell activation,” the team wrote in a news release.10

Sucralose Is Not Inert; It Bioaccumulates in the Body

One of sucralose’s key marketing claims has long been that it neither metabolizes nor bioaccumulates in the human body, thus making it a basically inert substance. Yet, in 2018, an animal study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health11 found that sucralose is, in fact, metabolized.

The finding prompted consumer group U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) to ask the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether some of sucralose’s marketing claims are deceptive. In a letter to the FTC, USRTK wrote, “[S]ucralose is being advertised and marketed as not metabolized or bioaccumulated by humans. The claim may well be deceptive … given research suggesting that sucralose metabolizes and bioaccumulates in rats, and perhaps it does so in humans as well.”12

The featured Nature study again casts doubt on claims that sucralose is inert. In fact, the study noted, “In conclusion, our study adds to the evidence that sucralose is not an inert molecule and may affect human health.”13 Speaking with Nature, Susie Swithers, a behavioral neuroscientist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who was not involved with the study, added:14

“There has been this world view that these sweeteners would just wash through our bodies — our tongues would taste them and nothing else would happen. This study is yet another piece of evidence that that’s profoundly untrue.”

Not only is sucralose biologically active, but it appears it also accumulates in the human body. The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health study15 found that even though sucralose had disappeared from urine and feces two weeks after the administration stopped, it was still detected in fat tissue.

“Thus, depuration of sucralose which accumulated in fatty tissue requires an extended period of time after discontinuation of chemical ingestion,” the researchers explained, adding:16

“These new findings of metabolism of sucralose in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and its accumulation in adipose tissue were not part of the original regulatory decision process for this agent and indicate that it now may be time to revisit the safety and regulatory status of this organochlorine artificial sweetener.”

Sucralose Alters Your Gut Microbiome

Even though sucralose has zero calories, your body isn’t fooled. It knows you’ve consumed a chemical toxin and biochemical distortions result, including to your gut microbiome.

In 2022, a study published in Microorganisms revealed that consuming sucralose — in “amounts, far lower than the suggested ADI”17 — for just 10 weeks was enough to induce gut dysbiosis and altered glucose and insulin levels in healthy, young adults.18

The bacteria most affected by sucralose appeared to belong primarily to the phyla Firmicutes, which are centrally involved in glucose and insulin metabolism. However, it doesn’t end there. Animal studies suggest the sucralose-altered gut microbiome could be involved in inflammation of the gut and liver, as well as cancer. According to the Microorganisms study researchers:19

“A study in mice showed that sucralose ingestion for six weeks increases the relative abundance of bacteria belonging to the phylum Firmicutes, such as Clostridium symbiosum and Peptostreptococcus anaerobius.

Notably, sucralose-induced intestinal dysbiosis also appeared to aggravate azoxymethane (AOM)/dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis and colitis-associated colorectal cancer in these animals.

Likewise, sucralose ingestion resulted in gut dysbiosis and pronounced proteomic changes in the liver of mice, where most of the overexpressed proteins related to enhanced hepatic inflammation.”

Artificial Sweeteners Put Your Heart Health at Risk

A nine-year study involving 103,388 people linked the artificial sweeteners aspartame (Equal), acesulfame potassium and sucralose to cardiovascular disease and stroke.20 Total artificial sweetener intake was associated with increased risk of overall cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cerebrovascular disease, the study found.

Among the specific artificial sweeteners, aspartame was associated with an increased risk of stroke (defined in the study as cerebrovascular events), while acesulfame potassium and sucralose were associated with increased coronary heart disease risk.21

“Our results suggest no benefit from substituting artificial sweeteners for added sugar on CVD outcomes,” the study found.22 “The findings from this large scale prospective cohort study suggest a potential direct association between higher artificial sweetener consumption (especially aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose) and increased cardiovascular disease risk.”23

Expect Metabolic Dysfunction if You Consume Sucralose

Metabolic dysfunction appears to be a hallmark of artificial sweetener consumption, which is particularly disturbing since they’re often marketed to people already at risk, such as those with Type 2 diabetes and obesity. In 2014, researchers found artificial sweeteners altered microbial metabolic pathways in ways that increased susceptibility to metabolic disease.24

Nearly a decade later, they’re still being widely consumed and are found in more than 23,000 products worldwide.25 In a 2013 paper, Swithers also explained that people who consume artificial sweeteners frequently may have an increased risk of weight gain, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. She suggests:26

“[C]onsuming sweet-tasting but noncaloric or reduced-calorie food and beverages interferes with learned responses that normally contribute to glucose and energy homeostasis. Because of this interference, frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may have the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements.”

Concerns for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

Consuming sucralose while pregnant or breastfeeding may cause unknown risks to infants. What is known is that this chemical can be found in breast milk two hours after consumption.27 According to USRTK:28

“Since the study assessed breast milk after just a single diet soda ingestion, researchers note that concentrations reported ‘may underestimate true infant exposure via the breast milk.’

Future research should determine concentration after repeated exposures, and whether chronic ingestion of artificial sweeteners via breast milk has clinically relevant health consequences including ‘alteration of taste preferences, gut microbiota, metabolism and weight trajectory’ of infants.”

An animal study revealed in 2020, however, that consuming sucralose during pregnancy inhibits intestinal development and induces gut dysbiosis in offspring, while exacerbating fatty liver disease in adulthood.29 The research team concluded:30

“These data strongly support … that MS [maternal sucralose] intake may be a potential threat for NAFLD [nonalcoholic fatty liver disease] in adulthood. As sucralose is widely used around the world, our findings may remind the pregnant women that more caution should be given to excessive sucralose consumption.”

Heating foods that contain sucralose at high temperatures may be particularly problematic, not only for pregnant women but for anyone. When foods containing sucralose are cooked or baked, toxic chlorinated compounds, such as chloropropanols and dioxins, may be created,31 raising concerns about carcinogenicity.

“Consumption of these hazardous substances and toxins could lead to diseases such as cancer, the skin disorder chloracne, as well as liver and kidney damage,” USRTK explained.32 In 2019, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) warned:33

“Until a conclusive risk assessment is available, the BfR recommends not to heat foods containing Sucralose to temperatures that occur during baking, deep-frying and roasting, or to add Sucralose only after heating. This applies to consumers as well as to commercial food manufacturers.”

How to Give Up Artificial Sweeteners

I’ve been warning about the dangers of artificial sweeteners like sucralose since 2006, when my book, “Sweet Deception,” was released. While artificial sweeteners are found in many products, including beverages, dairy products, ketchup, salad dressing, baked goods and medications, the good news is that you can largely avoid them by focusing on a whole food diet and reading labels.

If you’re intentionally consuming artificial sweeteners to satisfy sweet cravings, I highly recommend using a psychological acupressure technique called the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to control your cravings, as demonstrated in the video above.

For a healthier sugar substitute while you work on your cravings, stevia and lo han kuo (also spelled luo han guo) and pure glucose, also known as dextrose, are safer options to consider.

Sources and References

1, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25 BMJ 2022;378:e071204

2 SciTechDaily April 10, 2022

3, 9 Nature volume 615, pages 705–711 (2023)

4, 5, 6, 10 The Francis Crick Institute March 15, 2023

7, 8, 14 Nature March 15, 2023

11, 15, 16 Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health August 21, 2018

12 U.S. Right to Know November 19, 2018

13 Nature volume 615, pages 705–711 (2023), Sucralose mitigates autoimmune T cell responses

17, 18, 19 Microorganisms 2022, 10(2)

24 Nature volume 514, pages 181–186 (2014)

26 Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Sep; 24(9): 431–441

27 J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2018 Mar; 66(3): 466–470, What Is Known

28, 32 U.S. Right to Know, Sucralose: Emerging science reveals health risks July 6, 2022

29 Gut Microbes. 2020; 11(4): 1043–1063., Conclusions

30 Gut Microbes. 2020; 11(4): 1043–1063., Discussion

31 Food Chem. 2020 Aug 15;321:126700. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.126700. Epub 2020 Mar 27

33 BfR April 9, 2019

The Truth About Sports Drinks

by Dr. David Eifrig

In the 1970s and 1980s, a new fitness fad took hold of America…

Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda appeared in living rooms across the country in brightly colored spandex, getting folks bouncing and exercising to upbeat, popular tunes. And amid this popular fitness craze were companies ready to pounce on the market, offering remedies and accessories for health-minded folks.

In the 1990s, it was hard to miss Gatorade. Anytime you’d turn on your TV, you’d see commercials featuring top athletes like Michael Jordan, Yao Ming, Peyton Manning, and Derek Jeter.

“Life is a sport – drink it up” was the motto. The Gatorade logo was everywhere – signs at sports arenas, athletic jerseys… even the giant water coolers that got dumped on the coach’s head at the end of a football game. You couldn’t even attend a child’s soccer game without seeing bottles of Gatorade everywhere.

But Gatorade Wasn’t the First

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In 1927, Glucozade (known today as Lucozade) hit the shelves. It was a citrus-flavored glucose and water drink marketed as an easily digestible form of energy for folks suffering from common illnesses like a cough or cold. Lucozade quickly became one of Great Britain’s most consumed beverages.

Then in 1965, Dr. Robert Cade developed Gatorade. Cade was a kidney specialist and assistant professor at the Florida University who wanted to figure out how to help football players recover in the hot summer heat. The original recipe consisted of water, sugar (though less than its competitor Lucozade), salt, and lemon juice.

It was the beginning of what would become a major selling point of sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, and Propel.

You’ve probably heard of electrolytes before, especially if you’ve ever seen the ads for electrolyte drinks during an American sporting event. The companies selling these sports drinks make a lot of claims about how healthy these drinks are… saying they’ll make you run faster, jump higher, and lift heavier weights. But how much of this is a marketing ploy, and how much is true?

What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are tiny minerals found in your blood that carry an electric charge. Electrolytes play a role in many vital bodily functions, such as balancing the acidity (“pH”) of your blood, moving water throughout your body, and maintaining muscle function. Examples of electrolytes include sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and chloride.

Where do I get electrolytes?

The best natural way to make sure you’re getting plenty of electrolytes is through fruits. Fruits that are particularly high in electrolytes include strawberries, cherries, bananas, mangoes, and watermelons.

Eating your electrolytes is a great way to get them because, unlike Gatorade and other fancy sports drinks, there’s no added sugar when you’re eating a delicious mango (and you don’t need that added sugar, either).

How do I know if I have an electrolyte imbalance?

Infants, young children, and older adults are more likely to experience an electrolyte imbalance. Symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Numbness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cramps

You’re more prone to lose extra electrolytes if you have:

  • Burns
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Dehydration or overhydration
  • An eating disorder
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • A substance abuse disorder
  • When taking certain medications – like antibiotics, diuretics and laxatives, chemotherapy drugs, or corticosteroids

As we age, we lose more electrolytes through our urine, because our kidneys are working less efficiently. So it’s even more important for older folks to consume extra electrolytes.

Folks who sweat a lot should also make sure they’re getting plenty of electrolytes. When you sweat, your body loses electrolytes. Electrolytes help your body maintain its hydration. Your body loses them after working out (and not properly hydrating), which increases your risk of dehydration.

Can I have too many electrolytes?

It’s possible to have too many electrolytes, just as it is possible to have too few. Severe electrolyte imbalances can lead to very serious health complications like a cardiac arrest, seizure, or even a coma. For example, too many electrolytes can mean your body has too much sodium, called hypernatremia. Too few electrolytes (and, as a result, not enough sodium) can lead to hyponatremia.

When should I worry about needing electrolytes?

The best times to replenish your body’s electrolyte supply are one hour before exercising and immediately after working out. This will allow your body to function well during your exercise and to recover well afterward.

Do what I do and eat lots of fresh fruits (and vegetables). If I’m reaching for a sports drink, it’s probably because I haven’t eaten enough fruit and I’m already sweating a lot.

But if you choose to hydrate with a sports drink, that’s fine. Just make sure to choose one with little or no added sugar. Or you can make your own by adding a few squeezes of lemon to your water.

Electrolyte drinks come in many different forms – powder, tablets, drops, and already mixed pre-made drinks. Eight ounces of an electrolyte drink has about 14 grams of sugar. You’ll want to look for options with the least amount of sugar possible.

Discover magazine named the electrolyte drink mix made by Elm & Rye the best sports drink of 2023. Other top choices they named include the 365 by Whole Foods Market variety and the Bodyarmor Lyte sports drink.

My Comment: Skip anything with sugar in it. One can buy electrolyte (salt) tablets. Gatorade and other such abominations are just another avenue of how the food and beverage industry uses sugar and high fructose corn syrup to addict unwary consumers to their disease-causing products. Electrolyte tablets are also hugely less expensive compared “sports” drinks.

Fat Heals—Sugar Kills: Chapter 5: A Weapon of Mass Destruction—Part 3

by Dr. Bruce Fife

Chapter 5: A Weapon of Mass Destruction—Part 3


As I read, and read again this next part of Chapter 5, I become even more astounded at how damaging is the consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Oh yes, you won’t die tomorrow if you eat a candy bar just like smoking a few cigarettes won’t put you in the grave.

After several decades, however, the cumulative effect of consuming sugar and other refined carbohydrates, begins to take a toll on your health. A high schooler (or younger) doesn’t die because he smoked a few cigarettes. However, by 65 many of those lifelong smokers are suffering from COPD, emphysema, heart disease, lung cancer, or have already expired.

The same thing happens to most of the life-long heavy consumers of refined carbohydrates, meaning sugar, high fructose corn syrup, white flour, and white rice. By 65, many of these people are already dealing with chronic degenerative diseases. These include obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, and others.

Sugar is toxic, and that’s why Dr. Fife use the term—Sugar Kills—in the title of his book.

Digestive Health

The health of trillions of tiny microorganisms in our digestive system has a direct effect on our health. These organisms have a role in the following:

  • Keeping us healthy and disease free.
  • They help maintain the proper PH balance in the digestive tract.
  • They synthesize important vitamins such as B-12 and K.
  • They help support immune function.
  • They aid in the breakdown and digestion of our food.
  • They neutralize toxins.
  • They regulate glucose absorption and metabolism.
  • They protect against inflammatory diseases and the colonization of pathogenic organisms.

These microorganisms are known as the gut microbiome and consist or tens of thousands of species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

A disruption of this carefully balanced population is implicated as a causal factor with the following health problems:

  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes
  • Reduced immune function
  • Digestive disorders (chronic constipation, inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease)
  • Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, ADHD, and depression
  • Food allergies and sensitiveness
  • Eczema and recurrent yeast problems
  • Some forms of cancer

Ninety percent of all known human illness can be traced back to an unhealthy gut. By “gut” Dr. Fife means from the mouth to the rectum.

Our diet has a profound effect on the diet of the microorganism in our gut, and the foods we eat are the foods that our microbiota eat. For example, the population of the sugar lovers bloom when we eat a lot of sugary food and/or refined carbohydrates. By contrast, the fiber lovers are the happiest when our diet is rich with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

Fiber is often thought as being indigestible and nearly useless as a food component. However, it’s extremely important for good digestive function and overall health. Fiber does the following:

  • It softens the stool.
  • It shortens the transit time through the intestines.
  • It slows down the absorption of glucose.
  • It helps to balance the PH in the digestive tract.
  • Certain toxins are removed preventing them from entering the bloodstream.
  • Most importantly, fiber provides food for our resident gut microbiota.
  • Fiber-loving bacteria process and transform the fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

My Comment: This is getting somewhat technical at this point, but it’s also extraordinarily fascinating at the same time. Dr. Fife is helping us to understand how important good gut health is for our overall health and how deleterious (bad) sugar is for our well-being.

Continuing: Without the proper amount of SCFAs, the epithelial cells lining the digestive tract begin to degenerate. A worsening condition can lead to chronic tissue inflammation and tissue breakdown. That can lead to the following:

  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Lesion or ulcers
  • Diverticulitis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders

Dr. Fife makes a most important statement: Evidence suggests that many people suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases are really suffering from a malnourished digestive tract. The modern processed food diet is woefully deficient in dietary fiber.

There’s much more to learn about SCFAs. Recent research shows that they play a key role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as insulin resistance and diabetes, bowel disorders, osteoporosis, kidney disease, hypertension, and colon cancer.

The SCFAs lower the colonic PH (raises the acidity level of the colon), which provides a suitable environment for helpful microbiota, protects the lining from forming colonic polyps, and increases the absorption of minerals.

Dr. Fife discusses several other details of how a healthy colonic microbiota helps one to have a healthy intestinal tract. Having a healthy gut translates into having a healthy body.

Oral Health: Bacteria Feed on Sugar

Consuming sugar causes tooth decay. Unfortunately for sugar lovers, the sugar loving bacteria produce acids and toxins which eat away at tooth enamel. It gets worse. These harmful by-products (the bacteria’s waste, if you will) also cause irritation of the gums, which leads to inflammation and bleeding.

An overgrowth of these bacteria leads to tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, and eventually tooth loss. Bad breath is another symptom of this malady.

The bacteria that cause the greatest harm feed on sugar. The more sugar we eat, the more these bacteria multiply and grow, outnumbering less harmful species. It is the imbalance in the oral microbiome that is the primary cause of poor health.

Dr. Fife pokes fun at the notion that if we just floss and brush, everything will be okay. He offers statistics as to how many people 65 and better have lost teeth due to poor oral health. One in three people 65 or older have lost all of their natural teeth due to tooth decay and gum disease.

Even moderate periodontal disease is now found in 40% of children 12 and older. Does the problem worsen as they get older? Of course!

The Most Prevalent Disease

Dr. Fife quotes the British Medical Journal, the Lancet, which states that periodontal disease affects up to 90% of the world’s population. Of the few hunter-gather populations left in the world, they have the lowest incidence of periodontal disease. By contrast, the people that eat more refined foods have much more periodontal disease and tooth decay.

There are a few hunter-gatherer populations in Africa and elsewhere who eat their traditional sugar-free diets. They have remarkably good oral health, free of gum disease and dental decay. None of them brush or floss their teeth…However, once they start to add sugar or white flour into their diets, their oral health sharply declines.

Dr. Fife points out that there are two types of dental plaque. Healthy bacteria form a sticky film on our teeth and gums. These plaques help prevent acidic foods or drinks from dissolving tooth enamel. He points out that plaque can be harmful if it’s created by the wrong type of bacteria…bacteria that feed on sugar.

If the diet consists of a large amount of sugar or starch, the plaque that coats the teeth is heavily populated by these acid forming bacteria. The acid they produce on the tooth surface dissolves the enamel, making the teeth soft and easily accessible to invasion by bacteria and other microorganisms. This leads to tooth decay.

Brushing, flossing, and dental care are necessary to remove this harmful plaque. Dr. Fife points out that primitive peoples never brushed their teeth. They didn’t need to because they didn’t have refined carbs (sugar) in their diet. The plaque that formed on their teeth was beneficial, and not harmful.

Dr. Fife reminds us that pets do not need to have their teeth brushed; not do they get tooth decay. However, if pets are fed grain-based pet food, they can develop dental problems.

He concludes this section by saying that anyone could say, “Hey, I get my teeth fixed, so what’s the big deal? And if I get a cavity, I just didn’t do good enough home care or visit my dentist often enough.” Dental problems are rarely blamed on one’s diet.

To be continued…

In our next issue I’ll continue Dr. Fife’s discussion on the connection between poor oral health and heart disease. Even more sobering, there is the sugar connection to the dreaded “C” word.

My Comments: Society’s sugar addiction is very, very costly, and it affects virtually everyone, either directly or indirectly.  Let’s start with dental health.

My mom was a registered dietician, but whatever she learned in college seems to have been a total waste. Because of the usual sugary things that were in our family’s diet, I developed a liking to sugary things at an early age. I’d find a spare nickel here and there and buy five-cent candy bars at nearby mom and pop stores.

At times I would roust up a spare dime to throw into the coke machine at the corner gas station. Sometimes another neighborhood kid and I were devious and told the gas station operator that the Coke machine didn’t give us our Coke. The guy believed us to the extent that he opened the machine and gave us our Coke.

Mom always made Christmas candies for the holiday season. She put them in tins and hid them in the lower pots and pans cupboard until it was time for holiday festivities. I’d sneak two or three of the sweet morsels and rearrange them so it would look like none were taken.

In sixth grade I had collection money in my pocket from my paper route. You can guess what I did with some of it. Yeah, there were several small markets in my delivery area. Worse, some of my customers gave me a box of See’s Candy for a Christmas gift.

My ninth-grade school photo showed the weight I had put on. I caught flak from some not-so-nice peers because of it. At social gatherings it was difficult to have just one or two cookies. The highlight of the coin club that I used to attend were the “refreshments” after the meeting. No, I didn’t drink black coffee; instead, I had a doughnut or two. I was like an alcoholic that was looking for ways to get a drink.

My parents just paid the dental bills.  Yes, it was drill, fill, and then bills…. courtesy of Mom and Dad. Unfortunately, I had my first crown in my late twenties. There were other crowns that followed. Nobody ever made any connection made between my diet and dental work. It was a total disconnect.

Between fillings that I paid for, crowns, a failed root canal, a gum graft, two apicoectomies, and a bridge, I’m sure I’ve shelled out over $20,000 for dental and gum work during the earlier decades of my adult years. Two of those back molars that I spent thousands on, are gone.

Yeah, It’s Expensive

I’m had many, many clients contact me about dental plans. I asked one caller, “What kind of dental work are you looking at.” “Oh, maybe some implants running between five and ten thousand.,” the person responds. Then there are those that have lost their teeth and have to resort to dentures. There’s another continuing expense. With a proper diet, meaning real foods, virtually all of these expenses, mine included, could have been avoided.

Paleontology records show ancient people with fully intact teeth. Dr. Fife discussed some current-day hunter-gatherer groups that have perfect teeth, and they don’t even brush and floss. Have they just lucked out? No, no, no. Their oral health hasn’t been ruined by sugar.

Sugar and refined carbohydrate addictions are expensive, and we’re just getting started with the cost of dental care. When it comes to the cost of medical damage to our health, you can guess that it gets much, much worse. We’ll explore this more in our next issue. End