January 24, 2017

Metformin and Diabetes: Trouble in Paradise

Popular Drug Damages Your Cells But Fasting Delivers Energy

by Dr. Scott Saunders, M.D.

Jessica came to see me because she had been diagnosed with a condition that is becoming more and more common – PCOS. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a problem of the adrenal glands that causes:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Obesity
  • Easy fatiguing
  • And even diabetes

Jessica was prescribed a diabetes medication called metformin (tradename Glucophage) that seems to help metabolic problems. It also allows people to burn fat so they stop gaining weight.

This drug is a first-line therapy for Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) and has been used for many years. It has the effect of making the body more sensitive to insulin and blocking the liver from putting out more sugar. The net effect of this is to lower blood sugar levels.

However, metformin’s specific action reaches deeper into your cells. It blocks the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cells of your body, from using sugar efficiently. When cells are unable to use sugar, they must switch to fat-burning mode. With the ability to burn fat, the body has lower sugar levels and can actually lose weight!

The effect of metformin has been trumpeted for many years. Metformin:

  • Decreases blood glucose
  • Increases fat use
  • Prevents kidney problems
  • Improves PCOS in women
  • Prevents diabetes
  • Lowers cancer rates [1]

Because of these effects metformin is now being considered and used for many conditions including:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Cancers of all types
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic Syndrome X

Indeed, as one of my professors stated, it seems that metformin should be “included in the drinking water.”  Everyone would supposedly benefit.  Many without diabetes, PCOS, or even pre-diabetes are taking it to prevent diabetes and cancer.

Beware of Treating Disease with Metformin

All of the symptoms and diseases treated by metformin have one thing in common: they are all diseases of metabolism, or energy production.  These conditions actually result when energy is not properly made in the body.  Adding metformin to those cells that need sugar makes them less efficient. They can’t make energy!

This is why people with diabetes develop Alzheimer’s disease, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage.  In spite of having lots of sugar, they are unable to metabolize it.

The problem with taking metformin is that it blocks the proper use of sugar.  Some tissues need sugar to function. So when your body is already impaired, withholding cell energy can cause further damage to the liver, kidneys, brain, vision, and muscles.

The list of “side-effects,” or better said, toxic effects, of metformin include:[2]

  • the problem with taking metformin Stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, or constipation
  • Headaches
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Taste problems
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fingernail and/or toenail disease
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Heart throbbing or pounding
  • Muscle pain
  • Redness of face and neck
  • Increased blood acidity due to high levels of lactic acid
  • Low blood sugar
  • Megaloblastic anemia

These are just the symptoms of the toxic effects of metformin; the underlying cause is the lack of energy production. Basically, cells treated with metformin become energetically inefficient. As a result, your mitochondria, which manage your cell’s energy, become poisoned. Lead, mercury, arsenic, and cyanide, are known to have similar disturbing side effects on your cells.

Not all who take metformin have this unique set of horrible toxic side effects. But it is important to know that there is a risk to taking it. Much of the time, patients with diabetes or other conditions are given the medication without being told about its toxicity.

Metformin and Type 2 Diabetes

The hallmark of T2D is an overload of sugar, which makes it toxic.  Anything we get too much of can poison the systems of our body. Yes, we can get too much of a good thing.  When we eat more than we need for the day, we store the extra as fat and glycogen. Eventually the energy production of the body gets sluggish. The systems designed to regulate and manage your body become inefficient. We feel weak, fatigued, tired and listless. Even though every cell stores millions of calories and many pounds of fat are reserved under the skin, metabolic energy is inaccessible due to overload of sugar.

Many blame their thyroid because low thyroid can cause similar symptoms.  However, these symptoms almost always point to an overload of a sluggish energy system.  This happens because the sugar system is inefficient, and extra insulin blocks the fat system.  We call this “insulin resistance.”

When given metformin, it blocks the cells’ ability to use sugar and stimulates the use of fat.  This allows more sugar into the already bloated cells.  It also prevents the muscles from getting energy from their stored glycogen, which can cause them to die of starvation.  It might seem to make sense to treat the overload of energy by starving the cells. It may work temporarily, but ultimately these cells die of starvation while swimming in energy.  It would be like a person dying of thirst in a swimming pool because he was afraid of drowning.

Metformin and Type 1 Diabetes

A deficiency of insulin does not allow sugar into the cells and they starve of energy.  Before the discovery of insulin, people died of starvation from T1D (type 1 diabetes).  They couldn’t use the sugar so they would switch to fat-burning.  When they ran out of fat, they started burning protein, and when there was no more protein, they died.

Long ago, people with “honey urine” (type 1 diabetes) ate high fat diets to keep them alive. Now we can give them insulin and they can live an almost normal life.  However, some are saying type 1 diabetics should take metformin to block the liver from making sugar and help keep their sugar down.  While this sounds good, it would be a disaster on the cellular level!  With the imminent threat of starving cells, it is unwise to use a chemical that can further disturb energy production.

Studies indicate that metformin side-effects, especially hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), are more likely in T1D, with hardly any blood sugar benefit.[3]

Metformin and PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome is primarily a hormone abnormality that is commonly inherited.  The adrenal and other glands have abnormal responses to stimuli that cause either too much or too little of certain hormones.  Cortisol tends to be excessive, as is testosterone. High cortisol and testosterone hormones prohibit other hormones from being produced or used. The net effect on the metabolism is insulin resistance (because of excess cortisol) and even diabetes.

Metformin has been a first-line medication for this problem because it effectively blocks excess cortisol.  However, it is important to note that it works only on the symptoms of cortisol excess, while allowing the disease to progress.

In women with PCOS, high insulin levels can cause the ovaries to make more androgen hormones such as testosterone. Metformin affects the way insulin controls blood glucose and lowers testosterone production. As a result, ovulation can return.

On a side note, the goal to reverse PCOS is to use nutrients to:

  • Decrease sugar cravings
  • Improve insulin sensitivity
  • Improve carbohydrate metabolism
  • Balance blood sugar levels
  • And balance hormones

Meditation, mindfulness, gratefulness, journaling, and any other mind-body techniques can be used to lower cortisol levels.

Metformin Worsens Alzheimer’s Disease

While laboratory studies indicate that making the brain more sensitive to insulin should help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, clinical studies show the cognitive problems actually get worse.[4] It turns out that the ability to use fat actually helps the brain to function better and to repair. However, the toxic effects of metformin on the body’s ability to use sugar lessen this benefit. The brain needs a constant supply of energy from sugar even when the body is burning fat.

The Optimal Alternative to Metformin

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Detox: Quieting the Cluttered Life

Silent Fast

As I write this article, the youth and young adults in our church are doing a media fast. Some of their leaders noticed how distracted teenagers are today and so they felt led to call a seven-day fast from all forms of electronic and social media. Having teenagers myself I have overheard comments that fasting from food would be easier than fasting from Facebook.

If you are still wondering, a media fast is a period of voluntary abstinence from media for the purpose of hearing God’s voice more clearly by silencing all the others. Media includes television, radio, cell phones (except emergency calls or calls from parents), texting, movies, video and computer games (Angry Birds, too!!), internet and all music except worship music.

When I was in seminary we would spend time exercising the “Spiritual Discipline of Silence.” This was back in the days of typewriters, long before texting. But even back then, at first, silence can be deafening. We are so used to so much commotion that when it is silenced, it is a bit disconcerting. However, getting quiet is a pre-requisite to getting to God know more personally and intimately.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

It takes a few days in quietness for my mind and heart to settle down. Few realize just how much goes on in our mind and spirit and, as a result, what that commotion and noise does to us physically and emotionally. Unprecedented numbers of people are popping pills to quell the panic and anxiety. Many more crank down the caffeine to better cope and keep up.

Ironically, all of the above merely add when what is needed is subtraction.

Quiet is the key to recharging the batteries that run and power things like our creativity and ingenuity.

Toxic Fast

One of the hats I wear, besides being a pastor, is that I’m a state legislator. Many have written me to decry the distracted driving so prevalent today as youth and young adults text while driving. When you get behind the wheel of a car your focus should be on one thing: the road before you. What is true with regard to driving is true for any who seek to navigate life successfully. The less distraction the better.

This issue of Home Cures That Work is focused on detox has other contributors addressing natural ways and the health benefits to detoxifying our bodies. Somewhere in all this, is my hope that you will come away with the understanding that so much is toxic to our bodies. Even more, so much is toxic to us physically and emotionally. Toxic means poisonous. Graphically, it is symbolized by the skull and crossbones.


“Pornography is inherently violent, inherently unloving. It is a perversion of sexuality, not a true form of it, and one that teaches violence and degradation at the expense of mutual pleasure and intimacy. It is about conquests, about conquering. It is the very opposite of God’s intention for sex. It tears love from sex, leaving sex as the immediate gratification of one’s most base desires. It lives beyond rules and ethics and morality. It exists far beyond love.” ~ Tim Challies

Seeing the skull and crossbones on things like rat poison and drain cleaner is common and necessary. What if we put the skull and crossbones on things like pornography or internet chat rooms? No study is needed to know that far more lives have been devastated by pornography than by people eating rat poison.

Natural health experts have made great strides in recent years bringing forth data showing how the build up of a variety of toxins in food preparation and pharmaceuticals results in a slow poisoning. Those of us who deal daily with people’s emotional and spiritual lives can make a case that there is a slow poisoning of sorts that happens when people are living lives inundated by internet and media, advertisements, endless activities and entertainment addictions. We weren’t made for any of that, we were made to interact with God.

If entertainment is a diversion of the mind, then what are you being diverted from? Or rather, what are you being diverted toward? The problem with being entertained by too many things of earthly origin is

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Natural Acid Reflux Permanent Cure


Joe Barton = JB

Scott Saunders = SS

JB: All right. Well, hello everyone. This is Joe Barton with Barton Publishing, and my guest today is Dr. Scott Saunders. Scott, how are you today?

SS: I’m fine, thanks, Joe.

JB: All right. Well, we’ve finally got our recording software working here, thanks to FreeConferenceCall.com. And so today we are going to talk about acid reflux medications and the pros and cons and everything in between. So, Dr. Saunders, I’m going to just kind of let you take this over and maybe give a little introduction to acid reflux medications, and then I’ll have some questions for you.

Acid Reflux Medications Are Popular, But Not A Long-Term Fix

SS: Okay. Well, that should be easy. Acid reflux is a very common problem. Just to sort of let people know how common this problem is, the medications, when they first came out for acid reflex, including Zantac, Tagamet, and those, many years, 25 or 30 years ago, very quickly became the most sold medications in the world. In fact, before Prilosec came out, which is the first proton pump inhibitor, Zantac was the biggest selling medication in the whole world. So these are big. This is a really common problem and people deal with it all the time, so the medications are used frequently. And now we have several of the proton pump inhibitors that are over the counter, and these are much stronger than the older medications, which were histamine blockers that slowed down the acid. The new ones block the stomach acid completely. They stop what’s called the proton pump, which is what makes the acid in the stomach. It just stops it. So it works very well to lower the acid and raise the pH of the stomach. And there are a lot of consequences to this that people don’t think about. There have been well-known problems with what’s called achlorhydria, and that’s when people don’t make stomach acid. And this is a disease that’s been known for many years, and it causes certain kinds of problems such as vitamin deficiencies – Vitamin B12, the B vitamins especially, but also minerals. Many minerals require acid in order to be produced. So this is – the medications are great short-term medications. People have an ulcer; they need to heal the ulcer. They’re used appropriately in that kind of a situation – they’re great. But the problem comes when they’re used long-term, when people say, “Oh, I’m getting acid reflux. Here, I’ll take another one, take another one.” Because with the proton pump inhibitors, you have to take them every day in order for them to be useful. It’s not something you can just take when you feel the acid coming on, because they take a day to start working.

JB: So, maybe some more details on what you mean by “short-term” versus “long-term.”

SS: Oh, yeah. Short-term would be a week, maybe even a couple of weeks. If someone actually had an ulcer, they may be on a proton pump inhibitor for three weeks or even as long as a month, and that would be an appropriate use of the medication. And it works great. The stomach heals well. It’s pretty well documented. And it does stop the acid and allow the stomach to heal, so that’s good. Long-term would be more in terms of people’s continued use, ongoing, everyday for years. I’ve had patients on these proton pump inhibitors for many years. They say they can’t go off them because they – every time they go off them, they get the acid reflux back again.

JB: Right. That seems pretty common. A lot of people take these medications for a lot longer than what they’re actually prescribed for or intended for. You said that it can cause deficiencies in minerals and vitamins and things, so what are some examples of deficiencies that you’ve seen?

SS: Most of the ones I’ve seen are

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God, I Love Pizza!

But, God, I Love You More!

Nearly every religion in the world encourages fasting. This is because it works. Fasting is nothing more than consuming less so there is more room for God and more room for the supernatural in your life. When we fast, we create within ourselves a physical void that God fills spiritually. Most people cram their lives so full of everything else there is no room for God and spiritual lethargy is the result. However, spiritual lethargy is not a problem where people lack food.

There is nothing that increases spiritual vitality like hunger. Hunger pangs are the body’s way of crying out. When we fast, we channel our hunger to that which is truly satisfying. In this way, fasting becomes a powerful statement to God. It says, “God, I want you more than I want French fries. God I want you to show up in my life far more than I want pizza. God, I love pizza! God, I love French fries. But God, I love you more!”

People who pray this way discover an abundant life that no amount of consumption can match. Tommy Tenney, the author of God Chasers, frequently says when he speaks that “God fills where he first finds emptiness.” Fasting puts our emptiness on display before God. Fasting reminds us who ultimately sustains us.

Jesus assumed that fasting would be an integral part of the spiritual fitness program for his followers. In Matthew 5:16, he says, “And when you fast…” He did not say,

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