Diet scams: 5 ways to keep money in your pocket and get blubber off your booty.


No. Just no. Just as night follows day, the season of dietary repentance follows the season of holiday feasting. Spiritually, all that supports the world right now are leftover well-wishes and good intentions generated by a week or two of waking up in the morning feeling like a mushroom past its prime.

And this, all good health industry marketers know, is the best time to pounce on you, prying loose those few remaining dollars in your pocket, using the time-tested tools of empty promises and before-and-after photoshoots.

So here I am, the postprandial anti-Santa, to tell you the five best ways to lose all that holiday fat (and, let's face it, you also need to lose the fat leftover from last summer and fall), and keep a few dollars in your thinning fist so you can pay the credit card bill.

1. If it's a multi-level marketing plan, don't do it. Just don't.

You've seen them. Being a doctor specializing in nutrition, I get hit up a couple of times a month. A friend starts telling you about this terrific shake/powder/meal replacement that they've started doing, and they're losing a ton of weight (and it's true, too. They're living not quite so large these days) and THEY'RE MAKING MONEY AT THE SAME TIME! IT'S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!!

Yes. Yes it is. Do you remember when merchandisers would sell items at low prices, saying "we've cut out the middleman, and passed the savings on to you!"

Well, multi-level marketing (MLM) is the exact opposite. By the time the consumer gets their hands on an MLM product, it's passed through so many middlemen that you could fill a small school bus with them. And every single one of them takes a cut.

Of course, it is explained to you how you can get your product virtually free if you "join the team" of the "most successful product launch in history" and begin selling product yourself.

Unfortunately, that requires a large circle of rather gullible friends, most of whom will probably come to hate you when they realize the only reason you reach out to them is because you want to sell some product -- and make them a team member too.

"Oh, your father died suddenly? I'm so sorry! But I have just the thing, my company's Anti-Blues Chocolate bar! It's filled with antioxidants that combat depression and you'll lose weight every time you eat one!"

You don't want to be one of Those People.

Also, the products are just plain not that good. One of the most popular MLM parades in my area for the past couple of years has been Isagenix. They push their weight-loss plans hard. Of course, it comes with about $600 worth of supplements, bars, meal replacements, and other items you don't really need.

I looked at the label of one of their weight loss products the other day, and -- I kid you not -- the third ingredient on the label was sugar. Of course, they hid the sugar in a fancy molecule and dressed it up in a beach-body bikini so you wouldn't notice, but it was sugar nonetheless.

You don't have to be board-certified in nutritional medicine to know that lots of sugar in a weight-loss product is probably Not A Good Thing.

There are a lot of problems with MLMs in general and Isagenix in particular, but the key ones to remember are the three Os: Overpriced, Overhyped, and Overpromised.

2. Look at the photos.

Every weight loss plan worth its hype will have tons of before/after photos to support their claims, in which frumpy housewives and flabby dadbods turn into seaside eye candy. I hate to tell you, but most of those pictures are a crock. Here's how they do it.

Photoshop. There is almost nothing that a good Photoshop hand can't do. They can remove pounds, smooth cellulite and lift boobs and cheekbones with a quick wave of the mouse. It's hard to tell with the naked eye, but there are a few sites which will tell you how massively 'shopped a picture is.

Ok. There are some pictures that Photoshop can't fix.

There are some easier ways to tell as well. Look at the lighting and the makeup. The "before" picture is almost sure to be potato-quality, with the poor schlub standing in front of a dingy mirror reflecting a sink top full of forlorn, unused, cosmetics. The "after" picture, on the other hand, will have full lighting, a pose straight from Bodybuilder 101 class, and the unused makeup from the previous shot is getting full-on pro application. Yeah, she looks great. Unfortunately, you probably won't, unless you keep your money in a belt, which will be considerably looser after you are done paying for The Product.

Also, look at the camera angle. Every Millenial-aged single male is familiar with what's known as "the Myspace angle," which is used on every dating-social media app in the universe. The camera is placed high up and close in, which makes the subject look much thinner than they are. This photography technique has led to more disappointing first dates than pretenses of a fondness for James Joyce and Emily Bronte.

The most famous -- and easiest -- before/after sleight of hand is to just simply switch the photos around in time. A supplement company popular with the body building set once pulled this stunt. Unfortunately, the company used well-known bodybuilders as their frontmen, and some fans with dated pictures of their idols, caught them in the act.

There were apologies all around, and continued claims of massive gains with dramatic weight loss. Plus, new "real" pictures.

3. The gym has pizza night.

Yes, there are gyms that offer tremendously low cost memberships; but they are also the gyms which market directly toward people who won't use their services. Thus, they can oversell memberships without worrying about taxing their rooms and equipment beyond tolerable limits.

You can tell these gyms by the fact that they use non-fitness oriented marketing techniques, such as pizza nights.

A telltale sign that this is not the gym you want to join.

They also promote "judgement free" workouts and have restrictive dress policies that prohibit members from demonstrating that their fitness regimen is actually working.

Yeah, I'm looking at you, Planet Fitness.

The biggest advantage of joining a gym, in addition to the equipment, is the ability to work out with, and be inspired by your peers. When you hang out with active people training to acheive their best in weight and fitness, it rubs off on you. Your energy is shared, and the camaraderie of a gym is a great support when you are working toward your goals.

The trouble is, Planet Fitness and its imitators, are not looking for those people. They don't want people who will actually come and use the facilities. They make more money by selling a service that people want but don't use.

As a result, the people at such gyms are generally not the ones who will inspire, teach and lead you. Those folks are all at the other gym where it's ok to grunt when you deadlift and wear shirts that show your biceps.

4. The weight loss plan and products use [insert aboriginal tribe] secrets.

Weight loss products that are attributed to herbs, foods, or techniques developed by ancient societies or indigenous cultures are invariably utter and complete rubbish. You know why? Because the problem of obesity is a byproduct of industrial culture. Historically, insufficient calories were more of a problem than excess calories and dysfunctional nutrition. Excess weight was therefore seen to be a sign of wealth and something to be aspired to, just as Victorians aped the pale complexions of the rich of their time, and modern Westerners imitate the tanned (and toned) bodies of what in the Sixties were called the "jet-setters."

Which brings me to another point. The incredibly toned bodies that some people aspire to are controlled works of mutable art requiring multiple hours of daily upkeep. Which is fine; dedicating yourself to that level of fitness is commendable. But the vast majority of people have not the time, money, or desire to achieve that. Also, for a large number of fitness models and bodybuilders, pharmaceuticals, legal or not, are part of what makes it work, and the fitness is for show only.

5. So what can you do to lose weight?

Losing weight can be amazingly simple. If you are starting with an overweight but generally healthy body, simply eat less and exercise more. You don't need any special supplements, aside from a multivitamin/multimineral supplement, and your nutritional knowledge is more important than your nutritional supplements. Although, honestly, if you just calculate your base metabolic rate, and keep your intake lower than your caloric usage, you will shed pounds.

It gets more complex if you have certain health issues, such as hormone imbalances or gastrointestinal dysfunction such as leaky gut or bacterial overgrowth, depression, insomnia or other conditions. Fixing those in a healthy manner is where I come in. But still the essence remains the same: Eat less and do more.

I have not put anyone except for morbidly obese patients on a weight loss diet for the better part of a decade. I use specialized diets and supplementation to help heal sick people, and weight loss is often a side effect of the nutritional therapy. As you heal, your body will find a healthy weight range on its own. After regaining your health, if you want to further decrease your weight, the answer is simple: Eat less and do more.

Rather than having to pay for it, losing weight is essentially free. Eating less de facto costs less, although the savings will be eaten up (heh) by the increased cost of better food. And anyone can exercise without a gym membership or special equipment. There are hundreds of bodyweight exercise routines on the web; you can also just step out the front door and go for a run.

So anyone trying to sell you a product-loaded weight loss plan or pills or drugs is selling you something that you already have and don't need. To lose weight, all you need are three things: A goal, some discipline, and a willingness to embrace change.

Each of those are free. Keep your money in your pocket, follow my advice, and prepare to buy new clothes.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician and board certified in Clinical Nutrition and Medical Acupuncture. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.


(Special thanks to Chris Herrington, DC for his inspiration for this post.)

Are You Ready for a REAL Detox?




With 20 years of providing nutritional therapy for patients, I am confident that my 28-day cleanse program is the best system out there in terms of improving your health. While most "detox diets" confuse simple weight loss and "feeling good" with measurable health improvements, I use individualized, objective, quantifiable yardsticks to determine how much we are improving your health, and how to best manage your health concerns over the long-term.

This cleanse is very often the first thing I do with my patients suffering from chronic disorders from allergies to depression.

Beginning Jan 2 through Jan. 9, I will be offering special package pricing for people wanting to begin the road back to health. This will include weekly individual nutritional counseling sessions as well as an educational seminar which you can enjoy at home on your schedule.

Please join me in beginning the new year with the best health you can imagine. Call now to reserve your place in my unique program.






Avery L. Jenkins, DC, DCBCN, FIAMA Board-certified Clinical Nutrition Board-certified Medical Acupuncture

5 Reasons You Can't Trust Nutrition Research, Part I


All too often, the research cannot be trusted. If I had a nickel for every time a patient had told me that they  cannot have certain foods, because of an article they saw or their MD told them, I would be a rich man.

A case in point is salt. For years, I have been telling my patients with high blood pressure that salt is the least of their concerns, particularly when they have been scared off of it from their MD. I’ve had patients eating foods that were terrible for their hearts, because their cardiologist had put them on a salt-free diet, and as a result, worsening their condition instead of improving it.

Just last week, “new” research has been reported on which now shows that salt is not an important risk factor for high blood pressure.

The fact of the matter is that physicians such as myself who specialize in nutrition have known for years that only a very small part of the population with high blood pressure is sensitive to dietary salt. That research was done a long time ago.

But the news really never caught on with the popular press, and it clearly didn’t reach the ears of most medical doctors, who have been pressing the no-salt diet for years.

As I read the news online last week, I noted in the comments that several other readers were saying that the research on nutrition is so flighty that they no longer trust any of it, and will just eat whatever they want to.

I have noted before that much of the mainstream medical research cannot be trusted. The majority of it has been tainted by big money from the pharmaceutical industry which has the money to hire its own research organizations and produce “scientific research” that, unsurprisingly, perfectly supports drug marketing plans.

Nutritional research becomes similarly warped, although on a smaller scale and for slightly different reasons.

One of the key problems with nutritional research is funding. Unlike drugs, which have a phenomenal return on investment, herbs and nutrients cannot be patented. So nobody is likely to get rich from, say, a paper which demonstrates that Vitamin C effectively combats the common cold. The return on investment on non-patentable health solutions is pretty low, so research investors are few and far between.

Nonetheless, the research is influenced by greed in a different way. While it is hard to find the money to prove a nutritional intervention is positively therapeutic, there is a tremendous amount of money available for research which will demonstrate that certain nutritional interventions are useless and/or dangerous.

And there is also a tremendous amount of political pressure which can be brought to bear on nutritional therapies, if they are thought to be a threat to pharmaceuticals.

Not but not least in the financial parade are the people which can make money directly by distorting the research. This is the group I am the most familiar with, so they get to be number one in our list:

1. The media: Not getting it right on a daily basis.

It is a poorly-kept secret that, prior to becoming a physician, I was a journalist. In fact, I was a science and technical journalist. My background in the sciences gave me the ability to explain complex technical topics in easily-accessible ways to non-geeks. So I’m familiar with the ways in which reporters, editors and publishers will, both consciously and unconsciously, bend their coverage to suit their needs.

The major problem with the reporting of nutritional research is that the findings of any study are sensationalized to increase the page hits. A relatively minor study of salt and hypertension, for example, becomes the health section’s page 1 news -- and then, for the next 25 years, both diet and medical recommendations are misdirected.

Another problem with nutritional research reporting stems from the reporter’s inability to understand the science itself, or unfamiliarity with the field. It can be difficult to explain scientific-y stuff to a general audience, and to do so well, you must thoroughly understand the science yourself. Too few reporters have more than a basic grasp of the life sciences, much less a basic understanding of nutritional physiology, and fundamentally important data in a study gets flattened, misreported or simply ignored because of the reporter’s ignorance.

Finally, there are a few reporters who have been reported to consciously misconstrue the results of studies on alternative medicine in general.

New York Times health and medicine reporter Gina Kolata is a case in point. The author of hundreds of articles for the Times, Kolata has been uncovered by The Nation and others as using her articles to press her own agenda -- a profitable one, at that. On one occasion, Kolata published an article which strongly hyped a couple of cancer drugs (an article which turned out to be erroneous, to boot) and within hours was floating a book proposal based on buzz generated by her own hype. While this is an ingenious feedback loop for a reporter hungry for a book contract, it is hardly impartial reporting.

Imagine how nutritional research is reported by a writer with the reputation of Kolata, with one hand on the keyboard and the other reaching for the pocket of the pharmacuetical company. It won’t be the unbiased story that many would imagine it to be.

2. Oops, we used the wrong vitamin.

For some reason I've never been able to fathom, the world of mainstream medicine has always been very faddish about vitamins and minerals. One vitamin or another is always "hot" with MDs. When I started practice a couple of decades ago, Vitamin C was the one being recommended by every MD and his brother. I suspect this was based largely on the later work of Linus Pauling, who already had accredited status with the mainstream medical community for his groundbreaking work in molecular biology.

Vitamin C has since cooled considerably since its days as the go-to vitamin for almost everything. Today, that role is fulfilled by Vitamin D. which is currently being touted by the medical community as a second-class cure-all for everything from fatigue to fibromyalgia to heart disease to depression to joint pain (it remains a second-class cure because in mainstream medicine, nothing is better than a pharmaceutical, natch).

Interestingly enough, 10 years ago, before D got big, it was being maligned on many fronts as being a near-useless nutrient which was only being touted by quacks as a remedy for fatigue and fibromyalgia and get the idea.

Many of these studies suffered from one very significant, very undisclosed flaw: The researchers were using the wrong form of Vitamin D.

The legal definition of Vitamin D includes 2 forms: Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3. Both are equally useful in preventing rickets in children, which is what all Vitamin D was once thought to be good for. However, when it comes to its effects on the cardiovascular, immune and other systems, the D3 form is much more potent than D2, which often has little to no effect at all in these systems.

However, researchers investigating Vitamin D often neglected to note the difference. Thus, studies would report that Vitamin D was ineffective at treating a certain disorder -- when actually, it was the ineffectual form of Vitamin D that was being used.

A variation on the "wrong vitamin" error is the "lousy vitamin" error. As most people know, there is a great deal of variability among vitamin products. Much of that variability results from how the vitamin is packaged in the tablet -- particularly how well that tablet survives the gastrointestinal tract to dissolve at the right time. Many vitamins just are not digested well, and I have seen on x-rays, vitamin tablets residing unmolested in the large intestine, waiting to be moved out of the body without having given up the slightest amount of the nutrient they were supposed to disseminate. "Pharmaceutical-grade" nutrients tend to be no better in this regard than what you may pick up over the counter at a chain pharmacy store.

So if you are testing the efficacy of a certain nutrient, and not monitoring whether that nutrient is actually getting into the patient's bloodstream, your results are going to reflect more the failure of the nutrient packaging than of the nutrient itself. It has happened more often than you would like to believe.

Coming up in Part II: Dodgy Dosages and Dietary Dilutions.

A Meditation on Spirituality and Health

Self-appointed "skeptics" frequently point to practices such as mine, claiming that I'm engaging in nothing but voodoo witchcraft, preying on those so ill and so without hope that they will grasp at any straw proffered them, ante up any outrageous fee desired, and dearly pay for the false hope which I and my colleagues allegedly peddle.

My patients, of course, know the reality is far different. They know me as a hard-headed pragmatist, whose foremost rule is "Find it, fix it, and get out of the way." They know me as a doctor who will rather unflinchingly -- though I hope not unkindly -- point out how they have contributed to their own ill health, while also finding ways they can repair the damage. And they know that my fees are modest; I am unlikely to bathe in gold coin anytime soon from the revenues of my practice.

What they don't know, unless they ask, is that each discipline that I practice, whether it is chiropractic, acupuncture, or herbal/nutritional therapy, is supported by a wealth of scientific research that supports every modality that I use.

When I have used acupuncture to treat children with Tourette's syndrome -- usually successfully, I might add -- I can point to not just one, but several studies that support and guide my intervention.

When I blend a custom herbal formula for a patient suffering from a cold or urinary tract infection, I am relying on studies which show me that the herbs in question are more effective than anything in the MD's formidable arsenal. Though of course, the FDA would have the fantods were I to be so foolish as to make the claim that herbs can actually kill the bacteria causing the infection, even though studies exist demonstrating that very fact. So I won't make the claim that herbs can help cure the common cold, even though substantial research exists supporting that statement.

And when I explain to an acupuncture patient that Qi is a life-force running through their body, and that the flow of this Qi can be altered by placing needles at certain points along that flow, I know that I am using a time-tested analogy for a phenomena that we are only beginning to touch upon in Western science. It is likely that this Qi is actually a form of intercellular communication, and that acupuncture alters the nature of that communication. When you begin to change the body's command and control systems, your results are going to be powerful and intersystemic, which is why both acupuncture and chiropractic have such profound effects on people. Chiropractic adjusting, through its influence on neural communication, and acupuncture, through its alteration of intercellular ionic flow, are both acting on a meta level, thus their widespread effects.

With all of that said; with all of my adherence to the logical discrimination of disease and therapeutics, and my hard-headed emphasis on results, I cannot ignore the power of my patient's spirits, nor their immeasurable will to survive, improve, and in some cases achieve a level of health they never thought possible. Where does this will come from, and how does it manifest its results? Most importantly from my perspective, how can I help my patient harness that power?

Multiple studies have shown that intercessory prayer have little effect on disease outcome. Nonetheless, it is often through their religion or spiritual beliefs that people harness that powerful exercise of volition which dramatically alters the course of their disease.

Despite increasingly frequent forays into this domain, the realm of the spirit remains largely opaque to the otherwise piercing lenses of science. There is some evidence that  our brains are hardwired, as it were, to engage in spiritual practice; to "believe" in unquantifiable, unmeasurable forces which help to direct our lives. And those familiar with the work of Carl Jung and subsequently Joseph Campbell will recognize the hero myth as the unifying essence of almost all religions. Neurological research has shown how the regular practice of meditation, independent of the specific religious tradition of the meditator, can create long-term alterations in our brains. Nonetheless, these scattered breadcrumbs only beg the question of how these beliefs unlock such potent personal power that the course of a disease can be radically altered.

This is a question worthy of consideration, particularly today, when much of Christianity celebrates the birth of its central figure. And as I drove home from a family gathering last night, I could not ignore the beauty and tranquility exuded by the churches I passed, all decked out for their celebrations and lit with candles for their midnight services. There is a compelling power there, not just in Christianity, but in any religion as it expresses the majesty of its office in our affairs. From the miraculous birth of Jesus to the transcendental satori of Gautama Shakyamuni to the revelations of the cave-dwelling Muhammad, there is a common thread from which has emerged some of the most beautiful expressions of art, literature and music of which humans are capable.

To that I would add religion's ability to give us the power to manifest our ideal selves in the physical realm as well as the sphere of ideas. While I cannot explain it, I would be a fool to ignore it, though it is clearly not in my scope to harness it. That is more truly the realm of the priest, the roshi, the imam. As a doctor, I must remain ecumenical to best serve my patients.

To me, this day marks both a beginning and an end. It is the end of the work year for me, and over the next week of "vacation," I lay the foundations for beginning the new year. I am looking forward to the changes I hope to bring about, both personally and in my practice. And I know that this question, the role of spirituality in health, will be one which will invite me back to ponder its challenges throughout this year. I am looking forward to the conversation about to ensue.

And I am also, as always, incredibly thankful to my patients who continue to be my most influential teachers. Thank all of you for your trust in me, and thank you for permitting me to join you down the short segment of your path that we are traveling together. I hope my guidance has not led you astray, but assisted you to become more of who you want to be.

And to all of the readers of my blog, thank you for your attention and your feedback. You encourage me to continue these public musings and consider new topics and new approaches.

Happy Holidays to all! I look forward to seeing you in 2012.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.

Time For Your Flu Vaccine? No.

I'm going to talk to you about the flu vaccine. Now, before you dismiss me with a hand-wave and think to yourself, "Oh my god, another anti-vaxxer idiot," let me make a few things clear.

I'm not anti-vaccine. I'm pro-science. I believe that public health policy should be firmly based on the best available research. And what the best available research says, according to the top researchers in the world, is that the flu shot is useless.

But I'm pretty sure that nobody involved in mainstream medicine wants anyone to actually think about whether you need the flu vaccine.

They just want you to line up and get the shot. You see, everybody in medicine makes money from the vaccine, from the Semi-Registered Nurse's Assistant's Aid's Best Friend (i.e., part-time CVS employee who just washed her hands) who actually injects you, to the stockholders and executives at Novartis and Glaxosmithkline, who make the vaccine, to the CDC, which gets lots of money indirectly by pimping the flu vaccination each fall.

The trouble is, it's bad medicine. And bad science.

Don't believe me? Then believe the Cochrane Collaboration. This is an independent organization which performs analyses of medical research, and one of the sources that evidence-based doctors, such as myself, use to guide their recommendations to their patients (of course, I'm absolutely *not* making any recommendations to any of my patients, and if any of my patients are still reading this, I want you to stop immediately).

According to the Cochrane review, the advantages of vaccinating healthy adults are virtually nonexistent. This recent study found that the flu vaccine:

  • Did not reduce the number of days lost from work;
  • Did not reduce the number of people hospitalized;
  • Did not reduce the number of complications due to secondary infection (pneumonia, etc);
  • Was effective in only 1 out of 100 people;
  • Paralyzed 1 out of every 1,000,000 people who were vaccinated.

Furthermore, the study's authors hedged their conclusions even more. The authors said "Fifteen of the 36 trials were funded by vaccine companies and four had no funding declaration. Our results may be an optimistic estimate because company-sponsored influenza vaccines trials tend to produce results favorable to their products and some of the evidence comes from trials carried out in ideal viral circulation and matching conditions" (Emphasis mine).

For those of you who are not familiar with reading scientific studies, this is a researcher's polite way of saying they think the data is trash.

This conclusion was reached by Cochrane researcher Tom Jefferson, in a 2006 analysis published in the British Medical Journal. Dr. Jefferson concluded that there is an "absence of evidence" that vaccinations have any effectiveness at all.  "In children under 2 years inactivated vaccines had the same field efficacy as placebo," Dr. Jefferson said, "and in healthy people under 65 vaccination did not affect hospital stay, time off work, or death from influenza and its complications."

But what about our aging American population? The elderly is a group heavily targeted by influenza vaccine marketing, but that is primarily the result of easy and profitable Medicare reimbursement more than any evidence that flu vaccines actually help this population.

In fact, the evidence is so bad that Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy has suggested that those who recommend the flu vaccine for older people are at best ignorant and at worst disingenuous.

"These 36,000 deaths that we keep talking about with the flu, that we want to get people vaccinated for so they don't happen, really is not going to occur. And we have to be honest about that," Osterholm told NPR last year. "I know that some people are going to find it very challenging to basically understand that much of what we've probably done has had little impact on deaths," he said.

Nor is the Cochrane Collaborative silent on this issue. This study, first published in 2006 and reviewed again in 2009, concluded that "the available evidence is of poor quality and provides no guidance regarding the safety, efficacy or effectiveness of influenza vaccines for people aged 65 years or older." The study went on to note the "low quality" of the research, as well as "likely presence of biases, which make interpretation of these data difficult and any firm conclusions potentially misleading."

Some of the research backing Osterholm's claim includes research by Dr. Lisa Jackson and published in Lancet. Dr. Jackson's study -- which spanned 3 years and included over 3,500 people -- concluded that vaccines don't really help, particularly in the area of secondary infection prevention. Specifically, " influenza vaccination was not associated with a reduced risk of community-acquired pneumonia," her paper concluded.

What other studies seems to show is that, far from aiding those with weak immune systems, flu vaccines either fail to help or overtly damage people with already-compromised immune systems.

The Cochrane Collaborative's persistent claim that the data regarding flu vaccine research is compromised has been bolstered recently. A paper authored by researchers at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control found that data from several Canadian hospitals reported peak vaccine effectiveness before the flu season had even started. They concluded that this created a "bias tending to over-estimate vaccine protection," which as other research has shown, is marginal at best.

However, there are research-proven ways of significantly reducing your risk of contracting the flu this winter, and the best ways of avoiding the flu involve no vaccines, no doctors, and don't cost you any money.

Those are probably the two most important ways to prevent the flu. And the research is unequivocal at this point that nutritional status has a profound effect on immune function, which determines how likely you are to get the flu. But then again, how many doctors actually test your nutritional status to make individual-specific recommendations for improving your immune function during the flu season?

Actually, I do know of one.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.

An Aging Martial Artist Returns to the Fray

After a multi-year time-out from training in the martial art of aikido, I returned to the  dojo a few weeks ago. I will confess to some anxiety about resuming training, as I am no longer the young, seemingly indestructible force of nature that I was when I began training in earnestness 20-odd years ago. As one of one of my older dojo mates told me several years ago, at 50 years you have reached the age when if you wake up in the morning and nothing hurts, something is seriously wrong.

Between my last visit to the dojo and this one, I crossed that cryptic half-century borderline, and in addition to the miraculous and immediate attainment of great wisdom, I also acquired the aforementioned aches and pains. I think, in general, these are the dues paid by anyone who has led a fairly active life -- and, of course, the gains in terms of health, longevity and mental outlook far and away offset the intermittently achy knee or shoulder which will never be exactly pain-free.

But my prior years of training had left their mark. While aikido is generally considered one of the "softer" martial arts, anyone who has watched or participated in an aikido class can understand how injuries might arise. At any given point in time, you can be thrown in the air,  have joints torqued in entirely unnatural directions or get whacked upside the head by failing to correctly implement a technique. While largely safe, aikido remains an effective martial art, and a certain level of injury must be tolerated, just as with any other martial art, or many sports, for that matter.

Which is not to deny that my tenure on the training mat has been a little more injury-prone than most. I count among the dents I accumulated over the years a broken rib, a separated shoulder, two concussions, a broken toe and a nose so thoroughly smashed that for a time I resembled a cubist painting. All of which led me, some time after I had been awarded my shodan (first level black belt) degree, to take a break (so to speak) from training. I was just too dinged up to continue, and a few off-the-mat injuries thoroughly doused whatever remaining fire I had for training.

But the call of the dojo never fully left me, and has gradually been growing stronger. So I decided it was time to put feet to mat, but before I went, I wanted to know what -- if any -- research had been done on injured athletes returning to their sports. There is, in fact, not much.

One article in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine had this to say:

"Sport psychology research, however, reveals that athletes may be physically healed and rehabilitated but not necessarily psychologically prepared to return to competition. Discussing his return from injury, Earvin Magic Johnson commented, 'But I had lost a lot of confidence during the long layoff. And for a long time after I returned, I still held back. All I could think about was protecting my knee from another injury.' As Johnson's comment suggests, making the transition from rehabilitation to training and competition may not be an easy one for injured athletes. Until recently, the psychologic aspects of returning to sport from injury have unfortunately been largely neglected."

What little research does exist, shows that there are typically four major concerns of returning athletes: Competency, autonomy, relatedness and re-injury.

Competency is your ability to perform, and for any athletic person -- even when you are in a non-competitive environment, such as an aikido dojo -- one's abilities are going to be paramount. I know that I questioned whether I would have the cardiovascular stamina to participate in a hard class and the flexibility needed to perform the techniques fluidly and with less risk of injury. While my time away from the dojo had included a lot of miles on the bicycle, I knew that aikido would tax my systems in a different way.

Autonomy was not so much an issue for me, as I had no coaches or sponsors pushing me into returning. Nonetheless, this is a very real issue that many athletes do face, and not just in the pro leagues, either. For youth athletes, one's parents can be considered as your sponsors, and the pressure from parents and family to return to play can be forceful and unrelenting.

Relatedness is an important factor, for even those involved in solo pursuits. Athletes sidelined by injury may acutely feel their disengagement from their team or the rest of their sporting fraternity. Loss of membership in that group, and alienation from it, can serve as both a spur and a hurdle to returning. One may seek to become part of that elite group again -- yet fear that you will no longer be accepted because of your absence, or your impaired competency.

A final concern is the fear of re-injury. Particularly when a severe injury takes one out of participation, the fear of being injured again can cripple an athlete's ability to perform, regardless of their physical state.

So how can these handicaps be overcome?

First, if you have a coach, good communications about what you both see in store for the future is necessary. In my case, I had a discussion with my sensei of the past dozen years. We talked about why I left, and what some of my concerns were in returning. I was reassured by this conversation that a return would be possible -- though it was equally clear that the nature of my practice would have to change.

A second task is to find a role model. Search out other athletes who have done the same thing you are attempting, and learn from their experiences. Love him or hate him, cyclists have a phenomenal role model in the form of Lance Armstrong. In the martial arts, one cannot ignore the story of George Foreman, who returned to boxing after retirement, and captured the world heavyweight title for the second time nearly 20 years after he first won the belt.

Another important step to take is to get very, very clear on your motivations for returning. If it is to regain a championship or title, or match an older personal best, an honest personal inventory may save you from re-injury. It is best to be clear in your understanding, as I was, that you will be bringing a different game than you had before.

For my part, such introspection proved invaluable, as it gave me a good understanding of how my practice would change, and what I could expect from myself.

So far, this approach has worked well. I was -- shall we say -- a bit tender after my first class, but I quickly got used to the aches and pains of regular training. There have been a couple of interesting surprises, though.

First was the recognition that I hadn't lost as much as I thought I had, mentally, at least. The throws and other techniques still flow nearly naturally, to the extent that they ever did. Interestingly, a few times, my brain kicked into a weird overdrive where, instead of doing the throw that I intended, or was instructed to do, I went into an entirely different technique without consciously intending to. Perhaps I was responding to some subtle variation in the attack which made the alternative technique more attractive; or, perhaps, my mind just slipped a cog. The jury is still out on that one.

More expected was the sensation of trying to do things that my mind knew how to do, but that my body had simply lost the physical capacity to perform. This is most notable when being thrown, as I knew how I wanted the roll to go -- I just couldn't get my body to do it. I know I'll get there eventually; I just need more time on the mat.

Other factors have been playing a role as well, particularly nutrition. Getting my nutrition back to spec to aid my return has also been a priority. Again, the nutritional approach that served me well before The Great Divide is not the same nutrition which is working now.

I would encourage anyone who is considering returning to their field of dreams to give me a a call. Together, we can help smooth the transition from reformed couch potato to athlete.

And if you get the sudden urge to train in Aikido -- there is no better place to go the Litchfield Hills Aikikai. It is blessed with an excellent sensei, and a helpful and welcoming group of students.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.

The Thing About Water

It was many years ago when the first warnings came out. In fact, a 1999  study found that 22 percent of bottled water brands had at least one sample containing chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. It wasn't long after that when a study from Goethe University at Frankfurt found that a high percentage of the bottled water contained in plastic containers was polluted with estrogenic chemicals.

Since then, the research has just kept piling on the fact that water stored in plastic containers simply isn't safe. Over the past few years, research uncovered the fact that the plastics commonly used for water bottle storage release a chemical called bisphenol-A into the water. Bisphenol-A (aka BPA) is what is known as a "xenoestrogen." Xenoestrogens are chemicals that act like estrogen in our bodies, fooling us into thinking we have more estrogen inside us than we do. This creates numerous problems, for males and females alike. Estrogen dominance is a frequent cause of perimenopausal health problems, and the presence of too much estrogen-like chemicals in men can cause infertility and unwanted physical changes.

Bottle-makers began switching over to "BPA-free" plastics, and all seemed well and good for a few years, until more recent news came in: A full 33% of all plastics leach toxins into food and water, regardless of whether they were BPA-free or not. In addition to xenoestrogens, other toxins were released into the water in as little as 2-3 days, according to a Swedish study.

This would not have a major effect on products such as reusable water bottles, such as those used by cyclists and runners, as those are emptied within hours, long before toxins or xenoestrogens would be able to leach into the water. Which is why I'm comfortable using BPA-free reusable water bottles as one of the rewards for the members of my DocAltMed Fitness Team.

However, it never sat so well with me that the water coming from the bubbler in the reception room of my office was stored in plastic bottles. Even though I had been assured by my suppliers that the plastic was BPA-free, the most recent studies made it clear that there was little doubt that the water I was supplying to my patients was tainted.

One of the key tenets for me as a doctor is that I must walk the talk. The only way, in my mind, that I could possibly have the authority to tell people to fundamentally alter their lifestyles is to live a healthy lifestyle myself. (Thus the bike (or trike) sitting by the door, where I park it after riding it to work.) And it seemed to me that giving people water which has likely been sullied by toxins was probably not in keeping with my core principles, particularly when you consider the amount of my professional life I spend cajoling people to imbibe the stuff.

But it wasn't easy to change. I searched high and low for bottled water companies that would deliver in old-style glass carboys. And, in fact, there is one -- in Baltimore. The Center, apparently, is outside of their delivery area.

Then again, who needs bottled water, I thought? All I really need is a cooler/bubbler, a glass carboy, and a water source. So I had the well water at the Center tested, and it was clean of all of the contaminants that I could test for. In addition, it is moderately hard, giving the well water a pleasing taste.

So a couple of weeks ago, I fired my bottled water company and we went online with our clean, fresh, local water. After getting everything all set up, Teresa and I noticed an enjoyable side benefit. As you draw water from the tap, and the bubbles pop to the surface of the carboy, they make a pleasant and happy "Ping!", very unlike the "blurp" of the old plastic bottles, which sounded a bit like an old man's response to a fatty meal.

So if you would like to sample our very tasty well water, and experience it's delicious Ping!, stop by the Center for a glassful. You don't need to be a patient. Just thirsty.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.

A Custom Blend

One of the most gratifying aspects of my practice is the use of herbs to treat patients with a variety of ailments, from colds and flus, to high blood pressure, to gastrointestinal bacterial infections. The use of herbs in health care requires a skillful blending of knowledge and experience, incorporating traditional knowledge and scientific understanding. An accurately targeted herbal therapy is a wonder to behold, resulting in the elimination of symptoms combined with a restoration of well-being that is impossible to achieve with pharmaceuticals.

People typically come to me for herbal and nutritional solutions for one of two reasons: Either they can no longer handle the side effects of the medications they have been prescribed, or the pharmaceutical approach has simply failed to address their illness. However, more often than not, people will come to me with a problem and say, "fix this." They don't really care how the job gets done, whether I use chiropractic, or acupuncture, or herbal therapy; they're just tired of being sick and want to get better.

Of course, I cannot actually come out and say that a certain herb will reduce a patient's blood pressure, or eliminate the bad bacteria in their gut, because the FDA would come down on me like a ton of bricks -- despite the fact that the FDA regularly clears death-dealing drugs based on shoddy research performed by unnamed sources and given legitimacy by hiring big names to sign off as the study's "authors." And also ignoring the fact that legitimate research has demonstrated that the herb I recommend does lower blood pressure, or the herbal antibiotic I employ is effective in both in vivo and in vitro studies.

No, the FDA would have a coniption fit if I actually said that an herb is effective against a disease. So, of course, I don't say that. Nonetheless, I have used herbs for years to {cough} support the body's cardiovascular functions, or {ahem} support immune system health.

But as my knowledge and experience with herbal therapies has matured, so has my frustration with standard herbal blends. Not that the quality is suspect -- my herbal suppliers are among the most reputable manufacturers around. Nor are the herbal formulas themselves insufficient. But, in alternative medicine, one size rarely fits all. And while Bi Yan Pian might take care of support the immune system health for 70% of the people with colds and flus in my office, I also want a treatment means of supporting the immune system function for that other 30%.

That sort of goal may be impossible to reach, but it doesn't mean that I can't get closer to it. So, beginning about 6 weeks ago, I altered my inventory significantly, and added the ability to create custom-blended herbal formulae in the Center's dispensary. Virtually all of the chinese herbal remedies that I provide my patients are now developed specifically for that individual patient.

I'm finding that the custom-blended herbs are not only helping me to reach that difficult 30%, but the blends seem to be more efficacious for the other 70% whom I have begun migrating to the new herbs as their previous supplement bottles empty. At least, that's what the patients tell me.

From my point of view, I like the freedom of finally being able to create precisely the formula that I think the patient needs, rather than trying to shoehorn each patient into a predetermined category.

Economy plays a role as well. Alcohol-based herbal extracts have a high potency; thus, I can do more with less, and that means less cost to the patient.

After almost two months, the transition to custom Chinese herbs is nearly complete. The next step will be to convert my Western herbal dispensary to a primarily custom-blend format. That will be a little trickier, as dosage amounts and potencies can vary so much. But I'm hoping to acheive the same results, and rather than push 4 bottles of pills at an already-bewildered patient at their first visit, I will be able to hand them a bottle and say, "Here. Take this."

Apropos of that joke, it does seem that the more advanced my practice of alternative medicine becomes, the more I return to its historical roots. There was much wisdom of those many generations of doctors who preceded me, who examined those leaves and roots and analyzed their effects and consequences. Today, much of that wisdom has been denigrated under the boot-heel of the pharmaceutical imperative.

There was a reason that the doctors of old compounded their own remedies, ensuring that each patient got exactly what he or she needed. It was a way of making their form of medicine -- and now, mine -- as effective as possible.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.

Estrogen: It's Not Just For Breakfast Any More

Industries from pharmaceuticals to plastics to agriculture are all dependent on the bureaucratically-induced hallucination that our estrogen-soaked food supply is safe. Unfortunately, this view is contradicted by the research, all of which points to growing endocrine dysfunction in many species, including our own.

If you follow health-related news at all, you are probably aware of the recent study that was released, showing that many plastics -- not just those containing BPA -- have been found to leak estrogen-like substances into our foods. While estrogen is a useful and necessary hormone, the additional estrogens we are absorbing through our food and our environment may not be so good for us.

Certainly, the hormone replacement therapy studies which came out during the last decade proved the folly of mainstream medicine's belief in the protective effects of estrogen. Though it had been believed that estrogen reduced the risk of heart disease and cancer in women, long-term studies showed that the exact opposite was true. Long-term estrogen replacement actually increased the risk of chronic and lethal diseases.

Though the warnings about the health risks of environmental estrogens are couched in enough verbal hedges to make a diplomat happy, the fact of the matter is that nothing good can come from the chronic absorption of estrogen-like chemicals. These chemicals have been linked to increased male infertility, increased rates of breast cancer, and ovarian cysts, among other problems.

The fact of the matter is, however, that there are some 3,000 food additives which have been approved by the FDA, and not a single one of them have been tested for estrogenic activity. Interestingly, while synthetic estrogens are allowed into the food supply without testing, and alleged to be safe, natural phytoestrogens such as those found in licorice, wild yam and dong quai, have been subjected to extensive review and carefully worded warnings about their unguided use (the implication being that you are far safer with the synthetic estrogens and whatever crazed mutant hormones are leaching from your plastic-wrapped meats).

The mainstream medical community's waffling on the dangers of synthetic estrogens is clearly the result of the FDA's desire to avoid biting the plastic hand that feeds it. Industries from pharmaceuticals to plastics to agriculture are all dependent on the bureaucratically-induced hallucination that our estrogen-soaked food supply is safe. Unfortunately, this view is contradicted by the research, all of which points to growing endocrine dysfunction in many species, including our own.

Which leads me to today's quiz: What was the first time that a significant number of humans were exposed to estrogen-like chemicals, and what was the result?

The first person to email me with the correct answer will receive a 10% discount on their next purchase from our Dispensary. Your order can be of any size.

Good luck!

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.

Moving To The Beet

When I last posted, I left a bit of a cliff-hanger; having extolled the virtues of a food that has been used in hospitals as a cancer treatment, is a strong aphrodisiac, is good for sore throats and coughs, I then meandered off to prepare and deliver a lecture on heart health.

The 5 Deadly Myths of Heart Disease, I am happy to report, went swimmingly. It was a full house and I had almost everyone's rapt attention. The questions following the lecture were interesting and challenging. I am already looking forward to my next lecture.

Nonetheless, the emphasis on the seminar and its aftermath resulted in this blog lying fallow for a few days more than intended. Fortunately, I can now reveal the answer to the question, and the fact that there was a winner to this quiz.

But this particular winner has a twist. My answer -- the one I intended for selection -- was the lowly, unassuming beet.

According to medical anthropologist John Heinerman, beets and Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris and Beta vulg. cicla), beets have proven cancer-fighting effects. Not only as a preventative measure, but to reduce and eliminate existing tumors.

According to Heinerman, in the late 1950s, Alexander Ferenczi, MD, studied the use of beets to fight cancer at the district hospital at Csoma, Hungary. But it wasn't until the 1980s when this research was widely dispersed, having been translated and printed in the International Clinical Nutrition Review. Using beets alone, Dr. Ferenczi was able to successfully eliminate tumors in lung and prostate cancers.

Swiss chard, on the other hand, has classically been used to treate coughing, glandular swelling and sore throat. A poultice is prepared from the Swiss chard, and applied to the affected areas. (If anyone wants information on how to prepare such a poultice, please email me).

Finally, beetroot juice has been used for centuries as an aphrodisiac. Reasons for this vary; some sources state that it is because beetroot juice is rich in boron, which is used in the production of sex hormones, but I suspect there are other reasons for this reputation.

For more on the marvelous beet, go here.

Which leads us to the winner of this quiz, who, as it turns out, did not answer correctly. Or, at least, she did not give me the answer that I was thinking of.

This quiz winner instead, suggested asparagus as the food in question. And, as I researched it, it turns out that asparagus does in fact meet the criteria I suggested in that post.

Asparagus does has a strong history of use as a cancer-fighting agent, though its use in hospitals remains somewhat unclear. Asparagus officinalis is also used as a homeopathic remedy for sore throat, and used in Asian medicine for coughs. Traditional chinese medicine employs asparagus (tian men dong) to "clear lung heat" and "nourish kidney yin."

Finally, asparagus has a long and honored history as an aphrodisiac, most likely due to its shape rather than for any particular nutrient components.

So even though asparagus was not the desired answer, it turns out that asparagus is also a correct answer. So my hat is off to you, dear winner, for instructing the instructor, teaching the teacher, and getting 10% off of your next purchase from our dispensary!

This week, we will be returning to our regular schedule of Friday quiz and Wednesday answers, so keep your browsers at the ready.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.

Food with a Pedigree

"Cauliflower," Mark Twain once wrote, "is nothing more than cabbage with a college education."

Despite this somewhat disparaging remark, the great American humorist was known to enjoy nibbling on this "intellectual vegetable" while writing his novels.

And while we may only see cauliflower as a minor addition to a tasty salad, as part of a  hors d'oeuvres plate, or hidden under a cheese sauce, this unassuming vegetable has medicinal properties. It has historically been used to treat headaches, which is one of the uses Twain found for it after the stress of losing his publishing company started giving him severe headaches.

As a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is known to have anti-cancer properties, and it is also rich in folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. It also has an historical antecedent in treating heart disease. (If you are concerned about heart disease, please attend my lecture next week. We still have a few seats available.)  The indole-3-carbinol in cauliflower aids DNA repair in cells and acts as a mild anti-estrogen, thus reducing the growth of estrogen-sensitive tumors; intrestingly, cauliflower has been shown to slow the growth of aggressive prostate cancer.

But enough about cauliflower. Today's quiz is actually about another food with a surprisingly versatile medical pedigree. Commonly found in a couple of different subspecies, this food has been demonstrated to not only prevent cancer, but has been used in hospitals to treat cancer. In fact, patients have had this food therapy break down their cancers so rapidly that their livers were unable to keep up with processing the resulting toxins.

Not satisfied with just being useful to treat cancer, this food is also used to relieve coughing, glandular swelling and sore throat. Not a bad little trifecta there; but to make it even sweeter during this month of Cupid, this food has been used as an aphrodisiac since at at least Roman times.

Of course, your question this week is: What is this food?

The first person to email me with the correct answer will receive a 10% discount on their next purchase from our Dispensary. Your order can be of any size.

Good luck!

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.

A Dentist with Majestic Ideas

Our Friday quiz revolved around a mystery man who was a pioneer in the field of clinical nutrition -- so far ahead of his time that, in fact, we are still catching up with him. But apparently, he was not quite the riddle that I thought he was, as I received many correct answers to the quiz.

That answer being, of course, Dr. Royal Lee, founder of Standard Process. Dr. Lee, who died in 1967, was the inventor of the endocardiograph, a tool which continues to be used to this day for heart health evaluation. In 1942, Dr. Lee was appointed a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He founded Standard Process in the depths of the Great Depression, with his first development, a whole foods extract he called Catalyn, which is still available today, and is one of the many Standard Process products in my Dispensary.

Standard Process products differ from most of the supplements available today in that they are completely whole-food extracts. While most supplements utilize vitamins and minerals produced synthetically, the whole foods used to create Standard Process supplements means that all of the nutrients are accompanied by the cofactors they are typically found with in food. For example, the carrot root used in Catalyn contains over 200 phytonutrients -- not something you can get from synthetic vitamins. In addition, Standard Process uses products from its own organic farm or other organic farms as their source.

This is one of the reasons that I frequently have my patients taking Standard Process supplements. While our increasingly modified and processed food sources become more denuded of basic nutrients, Standard Process ensures that my patients have their nutritional bases covered.

Dr. Lee also discovered the concept of protomorphogens. Protomorphogens are cell-specific templates that assist the cell in the production of nucleoproteins for repair, and thus are important to include in any supplement with which you are trying to aid cell metabolism and repair.

Although unknown by most, Dr. Lee has had a profound influence on the practice of clinical nutrition; I know that his products have assisted a great many of my patients.

Congratulations to H.S., the winner of this week's quiz. For her efforts, she will receive 10% off her next purchase from our Dispensary. I had many correct entries to this quiz, but Ms. H was the quickest to hit the send button. I will post the next quiz on Friday. Get your Google-fu ready.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.

What To Do When The Drugs Don't Work

I'm kicking off this year's fall/winter lecture series with what I think may be one of my best -- and most important -- lectures ever. It will be held at 7 p.m. at the Litchfield Community Center, on September 22. The title of the lecture is What To Do When The Drugs Don't Work, and will discuss the ways that alternative medicine can assist people suffering from chronic illness.

From diabetes to heart disease to osteoporosis, 45% of Americans suffer from one or more chronic diseases. Chronic diseases cause 7 out of every 10 deaths; they significantly impair your quality of life; and they account for 81% of all hospital admissions.

The bad news is that these diseases are poorly managed with drugs, and even when they are, the side effects can make the 'cure' almost as bad as the disease.

But the good news is that many chronic diseases can be prevented or controlled without drugs.

It will be a 90-minute lecture, and at the end, you will learn how to take control of your health and prevent or manage your chronic illness without becoming dependent on medicines. Using research and science-based strategies, Dr. Jenkins will demonstrate why non-drug therapies are more effective, less expensive, and better for your health.

All seminar attendees will receive a workbook which will help them develop a custom health plan that matches their needs. Attendance is free of charge, but registration for the seminar is required. Call 860-567-5727 and ask Teresa to reserve your seat.

25 Things You Didn't Know A Chiropractor Could Do, #3: Mental Health

chiropractic physicans do have ways to treat mental disordersBelieve it or not, the treatment of mental health problems constitutes a fair amount of my practice. People who are stuck in the chiropractor = back pain paradigm get all squinty-eyed when you bring this topic up. But the fact of the matter is that every chiropractic physician has had training in the evaluation and treatment of depression, anxiety, and other behavioral issues. It is part of our standard education. It has also been a substantive part of my postgraduate education as well. While the squinty-eyed among us may find this hard to accept, the use of drugs to manage moderate mental health issues is (thankfully) on its way out.

The first death knell in the pharmaceutical paradigm was sounded several years ago, when the American Psychological Association published a groundbreaking article, Listening to Prozac, which found that the effect of the most common type of antidepressant medications such as Prozac were largely due to the placebo effect -- that is, Prozac works only because people believed that the pills would work, because their medical doctor told them so. According to this and subsequent studies, SSRIs -- the class of drug to which Prozac belongs -- are almost next to useless.

With the pharmaceutical option on the ropes, people suffering from anxiety and depression are increasingly looking to their chiropractic physicians for relief.

And, fortunately, we have some answers.

First of all, since chiropractic doctors don't live in the pill-for-every-ill world, we're more comfortable with approaches like talk therapy. I, for one, have a ready list of therapists with a variety of skills and specialties whom I frequently turn to for co-management of these disorders.

And as you might imagine, mental health problems are no mystery to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Interestingly, TCM diagnosis and analysis of these problems is very sophisticated. Though, in the peculiar idiom and allegory of TCM, the diagnoses have some inadvertantly humorous names, such as Plum Pit Qi, Oppressive Ghost Dreams, and my all-time favorite, Running Piglets:

I'm very sorry Mrs. Jones, but you've got a bad case of running piglets!

Humor aside, through the intelligent use of acupuncture and herbs, I have been able to help many people with depression and anxiety disorders.

Another drug-free approach to mental disorders is through nutrition. Nutritional treatment for depression has made great strides since the mid-nineties, when the approach was generally to just throw St. John's Wort at the patient and call it a day.

Today, I am most likely to order a couple of laboratory tests which can tell me a great deal about the physiological origins of the patient's mental complaints. Much can be understood about the neurotransmitters and hormones that affect mood with relatively inexpensive urine and blood tests.

That information takes much of the guesswork out of treatment, and allows me to objectively measure the patient's progress.

Finally, there is the lifestyle counseling that chiropractic physicians revel in. Changing diets, changing exercise, changing habits -- all of these can greatly contribute to mental health.

So, can chiropractors help people with anxiety or depression? Indeed we can, and in this office we do so nearly every day. It is not quackery; it is solid science and clinical decision-making. And, unlike the alternative drugs, the research shows that chiropractic care for mental disorders works.

My Core Principles

Every organization needs principles. Even the bad organizations, the ones that rob you blind, pick your pocket and leave you bleeding in the alley (think "insurance companies") have a set of guiding principles, however warped and twisted they may be. I've always liked to think of my practice, the Center for Alternative Medicine, as one of the good companies. And for most of its existence, it has only had one stated principle. In organizational management language, its mission statement would go something like this:

The mission of the Center for Alternative Medicine is to provide therapeutic interventions in a health-affirming environment to eliminate disease and dysfunction and enhance the well-being of the residents of Litchfield County and surrounding areas, without regard to race, age, sexual orientation, gender or financial status.

I've always preferred the short version: My job is to make people better using whatever means I have at hand. I'll take on all comers.

But the fact of the matter is, even the plain-language version embodies a number of underlying principles. And it wasn't until I was preparing a speech for the annual meeting of the Connecticut Society of Medical Assistants that, for the first time in 15 years, I sat down and actually elucidated them.

What came out of it was interesting. My 7 Core Principles, I've come to call them. And they truly are the principles that make this doctor, and his practice, tick.

  • Primum non nocere.

This is latin, meaning "First, do no harm." It is my job as a doctor to, more than anything else, avoid injuring my patients. This principle is why I became the type of physician that I am. Although the mainstream medical community pays lip service to this principle, you could hardly call it a guiding element of medicine's philosophy. If it were, you would see a lot less blather about rising malpractice rates, and a lot more effort directed toward reducing malpractice. (Did you know that the number one cause of non-traumatic death in the U.S. is medicine? And that's according to published research.)

In contradistinction, my interventions for the same conditions are far safer and at least as effective, if not more so (fertility treatments, for example. Recent research has found a higher success rate for acupuncture than for the far more risky IVF.)

  • Systems Integration

This simply means that I place my focus not on a single system, such as the cardiovascular system, or the pulmonary system, or the digestive system. Instead, I evaluate patients in terms of these systems' interdependence. Or, as the brilliant Buckminster Fuller in his dense eloquence has stated: "Synergy is the only word in our language that means behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the separately observed behaviors of any of the system's separate parts or any subassembly of the system's parts. There is nothing in the chemistry of a toenail that predicts the existence of a human being."

Understanding the whole by examining the interconnectivity of its parts -- the data network, if you will, that allows the brain, heart and stomach to coordinate their activities -- has led me to solutions for patients who have suffered for years and whose well-known specialists proved ineffective. In fact, it was precisely because they were specialists that they could not see the solution.

  • Multi-disciplinary Therapeutics

Another way of saying this is that when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Any repairman worth his salt will equip himself with an array of tools, of the finest quality possible. A chiropractor who only adjusts has only a hammer; the medical doctor who only dispenses drugs posesses only a wrench.

I've got wrenches, hammers, pliers and a full set of torx drivers, by gum. And I'm not afraid to use 'em.

  • Diagnostic Rigor

An accurate and finely-grained diagnosis is the key to success when you are doing alternative medicine. To properly treat my patients, I need to know more than that they simply have a case of sinusitis. I need to know why. I need to know what put that patient in a state that made them susceptible to this bug, and why they responded as they did. With that knowledge in hand, I can then go about fixing the underlying problem. To my mind, this is better than patching it over.

  • Relational Equivalency

Ok, I did use some fancy words here, but I could find no others that could capsulate my intended meaning. I have found over the years that the greatest success comes when I work together with my patients to solve a problem. I work often as a mentor, a coach, a teacher. But I advise and recommmend -- never do I dictate. I work as a partner with my patient, and we each shoulder part of the burden.

This type of care cannot happen if a doctor is standing on a pedestal issuing commandments. The feedback and course modifications necessary to any successful outcome is missing in such a relationship.

  • Long-term Focus

Many of my patients come to me with problems they have dealt with for two, three, or five years. Rarely am I going to get a resolution in a week or a couple of visits -- though sometimes I have seen it happen. And for all my patients, I am looking not only how their health is now, but how it will be 20 years down the road. Because right now is the time to create the environment for future health.

  • Therapeutic Minimalism

Call me lazy if you want, but I prefer to figure out how I can provide the most benefit to my patients with the least intervention. This reduces the patient's costs, and it also refers directly back to principle #1. By minimizing my interventions, I also minimize any risk to the patient.

To me, therapeutic minimalism has a certain aesthetic appeal to it. Occam's Razor proclaims that the simplest answer in science is most often the correct one. And, the most minimal of equations, e=mc2, explains nearly an entire universe in four simple symbols.

So that's it. My Core Principles, if you will, the entirety of my practice philosophy. I found that developing and elucidating these core principles to be a valuable process, one that has given me insight into my professional past and a glimpse into its future. I recommend this process for anyone, especially to examine your personal life. You might discover some things about yourself that you thought you didn't know.

Kids, Don't Try This At Home

As many of my readers and patients know, I am trying to qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1,200-kilometer endurance ride held every 4 years. Although not a race, it is a timed event, and you have to reach all of the checkpoints by a specified time to avoid being disqualified. Qualifications start this year, as I have to do a full series of endurance rides (called "brevets"): 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k. If I complete all of them successfully, I get to repeat the process next year; and if I complete all of those successfully, I will be able to ride in Paris-Brest-Paris.

So I'm thinking to myself that in a few weeks, I start the brevet series with a nice 200k, and maybe, just maybe, I ought to see if I can do a major chunk of that, like 100 miles. I have been training, though not as diligently as I should.

On Sunday, with no other obligations pending, I took off for a 101-mile loop leaving from Granby CT, going north to Northampton, then looping around through Amherst and Granby MA and eventually back to Granby, CT.

And a beautiful day it was. I passed more cows than you can count, went through beautiful, quaint, New Englandy towns, enjoyed the features of one of my all-time favorite college towns, Amherst, and in general just took pleasure in a fine ride on a beautiful day. The temperature was 72F by 11 a.m. and the few cirrus clouds called it quits by lunchtime.

One of the key tricks to any endurance exercise, whether it is a marathon, a triathlon, or brevet, is managing your fuel and water. You have to constantly plan ahead, because if you wait to drink until you are thirsty, or wait to eat until you are hungry, it is already too late. In addition, the gastrointestinal tract tends to shut down under the stress of endurance exercise, and you may never get hungry. The only way you'll know that you are out of fuel is when your legs turn to lead and your mood plummets.

There are a lot of complex rules governing your body's management of glucose, the basic energy molecule, and there are a lot of nuances to controlling blood sugar levels during exercise. But the general rule of thumb is to have some water every 15 minutes and something to eat every 45.

That's a rule that I generally follow. On Sunday's trip, I also took a longer stop at mile 63 where I had a "deli delight" lunch -- a submarine sandwich, a bag of chips, and some Oreo cookies.

After that, I hopped back on the bike for the final leg of the trip. This was a fun part, because I had finally hit a few hills -- more than rollers, but not what I call a hill around my house. I was gratified to see that, although the legs were paining me a bit, I still had the juice to attack the hills, albeit somewhat anemically.

I was taking the perimeter road around Bradley Airport when I realized, at mile 93, that I had the barest shot of breaking 7 hours for a century. For many cyclists, there's nothing special about a 7-hour century. It's a good pace, that's all. But I'm a slow guy, always have been a slow guy and always will be a slow guy. And among the Berkshires and their foothills, I've never come close to breaking 7 hours.

So...I take a deep breath and put the hammer down. For the next 7 miles, I sprint absolutely as fast as I can. At parts, I know I'm running at my maximum heart rate, because I was getting the tunnel vision and the eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of your head symptoms that have always happened when I'm doing a maximum heart rate measurement.

As I hit the last half mile, I come to a bend. And I look at the clock, and think to myself, "If this is downhill, I've got it made. Uphill, I'm toast."

I round the bend, and there it is: Uphill. So I let out a yell that would tell God Himself to get out of the way, and put absolutely everything I've ever owned into that last half mile. I mean, I ride like Cerebrus' meaner brother was chasing me.

And through my ever-narrowing vision and feeling like I'm about to pass out, I see the clock tick over to 7 hours at the exact same time the odometer clicks to 100.00

It's over. I didn't break 7 hours, but if I realized my opportunity only one hundredth of a mile beforehand, I would have. Still, hitting 7 on the nose is good enough for me. It's still a personal best, and I'm looking at setting a lot of records for myself this summer.

I slow from a gallop to a walk for the remaining 4 miles to the parking lot, and as I make the final turn the wrong way, I realize something might be wrong. I get back to the truck, park the bike, and take stock. My hands are shaking; I feel very dizzy; and I'm slurring my words like Sean O'Malley on St. Patrick's Day.

The problem? My blood sugar had plummeted. I react as fast as I am able, by downing a sugary soda and a concentrated sugar paste. It took a good 15 minutes before I was in control of my faculties again.

In any endurance sport, after the first 60-90 minutes, you have used up all of the energy reserves stored as glycogen in your body. From that point on, as I mentioned earlier, you must constantly add fuel, otherwise you will get into trouble -- as what nearly happened to me.

While I was balancing energy outflow with intake, my nutrition plan did not take into account that impromptu sprint for the last 7 miles. The massive increase in energy use forced my blood sugar levels to dangerously low levels. And, since the body's most energy-consumptive organ is the brain, the symptoms are often neurological -- thus the befuddled direction-finding, the shaking hands, the slurred speech, even while I was able to maintain muscle activity on the bike.

More and more, I am finding that I can help endurance athletes prepare their bodies for the onslaught of their competitive events by working with their diets beforehand so they can achieve their personal best. Just as any athlete needs a coach for their physical training, a nutrition coach is also a necessity.

Combating Child Obesity…One Step At A Time.

30% of morning traffic consists of people taking their children to school.

Childhood obesity is skyrocketing.

Coincidence? Not hardly.

I remember the walks to and from school as often being the highlights of my day. When I was younger, it was the source for many an adventure, and as I reached adolescence, an opportunity for romance.

My children have the option of taking a bus, but frequently have chosen to walk. As a result, they have gotten to know shopkeepers in town, in one case leading to an after-school job offer.

It is these simple things that can begin to reverse our nation's downward spiral into disease and drug dependency.

To help your kids begin walking to school, start here.