Depression is a Communicable Disease


man-sneezeI'm very pleased to announce my first lecture of the fall/winter season, and one that couldn't be more timely. With all of the concern circulating about new infectious diseases, there is one communicable disease that is rarely seen for what it is: Depression.

Please join me on Wednesday, Nov. 5, as I present new information which shows that depression is much more than a simple neurotransmitter imbalance in the brain.

Research is now showing how depression can be transmitted among members of a community, or even between people separated by great geographical distance.

The problem is not all in your head. Depression can result from engaging in certain activities, eating certain foods, and even by the microbes in your gut.

Find out how you can avoid depression infection, and what to do if you've already caught it, at my  free lecture. Bring a friend.

Depression is a Communicable Disease


Litchfield Community Center

7 p.m., Wednesday Nov. 5

 Seating is limited, so please call 860-567-5727 to reserve your place today!

When the clown stops laughing.


clown1The death of Robin Williams has created a worldwide outpouring of sadness and grief that I have not often witnessed. Though we all know how closely linked depression and comedic skill can be, it is still difficult for many of us to fathom how a man that could have given us such great joy could have been so bereft as to kill himself. In Williams' case, it is made even more difficult because his humor was delivered impromptu, directly from his heart and soul. How does the playful, energetic, insightful man that we saw onstage become locked in such despair? To understand, we need to look beyond the trope of the clown with tear-stained makeup and into the blackness that, to a certain degree, we all carry within. Just as there is no yin without yang, there is no joy without despair. But what is often overlooked is that the manifestation of depression is highly variable, and no two depressions are alike. Thus, we cannot approach their management in all the same way.

Some depressions are what I call "contextual depression." That is, they stem primarily from the your attempts to cope with a difficult, albeit temporary, environment. The loss of a loved one through death or divorce, an abusive work environment, severe financial stress -- all of these are situations in which depression begins as an appropriate adaptive strategy, but due to duration, or repetition, it becomes self-destructive and the behavior can continue long after the trigger that caused it has gone.

On the other hand, some depressions may have no obvious precipitating factor at all. This form of insidious depression works its way through you in the form of negative self-talk or the erosion of an impossible perfectionism slowly stripping you of, first, self-esteem, and eventually, hope. Not only is this depression subtle in its appearance to others, you may very well hide it from yourself until it has reached what may appear to be unmanageable proportions.

A third form of depression is a "physiological depression." This is a longstanding, moderate depression which does not have its origins in behavioral or neurological influences at all, but is instead caused by a chronic, debilitating and undiagnosed disease or infection, which in turn creates behavioral changes. Researchers who have watched the behavior of sick animals have noted that the symptoms of chronic, low-level illness are virtually identical to depression: Energy depletion, appetite changes, sleeping changes and behavioral changes which favor energy conservation and protection of vulnerabilities.

While the link between depression and health problems such as MS and back pain are well-known, often overlooked are diseases such as chronic gastrointestinal disease or gland hypofunction whose only visible symptoms are those of depression. Astute investigation on the part of the clinician is necessary to uncover these hidden causes of depression.

All of these forms of depression may be accompanied by substance abuse, creating a feedback loop that increases the severity and complicates the management of depression.

Too often, though, these various causes of depression are overlooked in favor of the cookie-cutter solution of pharmaceuticals. It is true that antidepressants can lift the veil of despair for some people, so the pharmaceutical solution cannot be discounted. But, as several meta-analyses of SSRI drugs have found, the effect of SSRI drugs is much smaller than we are led to believe. This is not news. The first such study was published over a decade ago. "Listening to Prozac but hearing placebo," examined 19 clinical trials incorporating over 2,300 patients, and concluded that SSRIs are primarily placebos.

"Virtually all of the variation in drug effect size was due to the placebo characteristics of the studies," the researchers concluded. "The effect size for active medications that are not regarded to be antidepressants was as large as that for those classified as antidepressants, and in both cases, the inactive placebos produced improvement that was 75% of the effect of the active drug. These data raise the possibility that the apparent drug effect (25% of the drug response) is actually an active placebo effect."

Several follow-up analyses have confirmed this initial study's findings. It is also worth noting that the monoamine theory of depression, which supposedly explains the mechanisms by which SSRI's work, has never been supported by the research.

So these drugs, while they can be invaluable for some people who suffer from depression, are more likely to be expensive placebos for the majority of people. What can you do if you are one of this majority?

The first thing is, see a mental health professional -- and by this, I don't mean a psychiatrist, whose primary skill is in pharmaceuticals, but a therapist, social worker, or psychologist, who can approach depression with a much bigger toolbox than that of the psychiatrist. They can help you develop the insight and skills to help you manage your depression.

Some of these skills include the ability to break down the monolithic wall of despair into more manageable chunks. Recognize and remind yourself that depression is a temporary condition, and you have the ability to influence how long it lasts. You can also reduce the size of your depression by converting generalizations about yourself and your life into specific, limited observations. The thought that "I'm a failure" creates an insurmountable hurdle to overcome -- after all, how could you, you're a failure! On the other hand, recognizing that generalization of failure stems from the fact that you lost your job creates a much smaller roadblock. You may have lost one job, or even several -- but that doesn't mean you cannot find another one.

One of the best ways to shorten the duration of a depressive episode is through physical activity. Though it may seem extremely hard, such simple things as going for a walk or a bicycle ride can change the course of the disease. Physical activity actually changes the neurological functioning of the brain in ways that inhibit depression.

And if you can't help yourself, what about helping others? Perhaps you can't find your way to feed yourself, but maybe you can help out at a food kitchen just a couple hours a week. Research has shown that when we nurture others, we also nurture ourselves. And if you are depressed, such sustenance is the best you can find. Helping others is true soul food.

There are many, many other ways to find your way through depression. And if you are thinking of suicide, reach out for help. It's there. Even if you can't find anything else, call 911.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a primary care chiropractic physician specializing in helping people with chronic disease. He can be reached at

25 things you didn't know a chiropractor could do: Chiropractic management of depression.


Drugs are not the right answer for depression. (photo courtesy of flickr/diannelabora) Many people think of chiropractic care as nothing more than a spinal adjustment. While that is the core of our therapeutic interventions, there are a number of other ways we restore patients to health.

I employ lifestyle and nutrition interventions with almost every patient I see; and when you include the ability to utilize blend custom herbal formulae as well as acupuncture and other modalities, the scope of a chiropractic physician's interventions are wide-ranging indeed. The multidisciplinary skillset of the modern chiropractor makes us unique and uniquely valuable to patients suffering from chronic diseases.

People suffering from depression are frequent visitors to my doorstep because, like most chronic disorders, depression is poorly managed by mainstream medicine. Pharmaceuticals -- medicine's primary response to depression -- really don't work that well, especially over the long term. Prozac and the other SSRI's are based on a scientifically-unsound model of depression; and while more recent innovations, such as ketamine, can in certain cases be more effective than an SSRI, medical management of depression largely remains a crapshoot.

Which is why I have made it a point to study the myriad causes of depression and the most effective drug-free therapeutics for people suffering with this disorder. And what the research shows -- and what any evidence-based doctor should realize -- is that there are many ways to successfully address the problem of depression, ways that are far more effective than taking a drug. In this vein, I also make frequent use of the clinical social workers and psychologists who are truly skilled at diagnosing and managing depression without drugs.

I was recently asked to give a presentation on this topic to the annual convention of the Connecticut Society of Medical Assistants. As always, I immensely enjoyed talking before this group. They are interested, animated, participatory and questioning, which are the best qualities for any audience to have.

At the request of several of my patients and others, I am posting the slides I used for this lecture. While I try to pack as much information as I can on my slides, much of the content of the lecture is necessarily lost. Please contact me if you would like more information on any of the topics I cover.


There is a better way to manage your depression and anxiety. Find out how.

There are better ways to manage depression and anxiety.

Paralysis. Suicide. Fatigue. Heart Attack. Birth Defects. Liver Disease. Weight Gain.

Is This Any Way To Treat Depression and Anxiety?

These are just some of the side effects of antidepressants. At the same time, research has shown that these drugs are not much better than placebo at treating depression and anxiety.

Please join me on Nov. 9 for an exploration of the dangers of medical treatment for depression and anxiety, and a look at alternative management strategies.

At this seminar, you will learn:

  • What are the long-term effects of using drugs for mood disorders?
  • What really causes depression and anxiety?
  • Can acupuncture help people with depression?
  • Which herbs are most effective for people with depression? Can herbs really reduce anxiety?
  • What is the research behind alternative management strategies?

If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety or depression, call today to reserve your seat.

Wednesday,  Nov. 9, 2011 Litchfield Community Center 7 p.m.

Call 860-567-5727 and ask for Teresa, or email to

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.

It’s Not The Winter Blues, It’s Your Winter Diet!

That's the name of this year's first podcast, and it is up and available now. The feed for all my podcasts is here. And, as promised, here are the show notes:

Br J Community Nurs. 2009 Oct;14(10):422, 424-6. Dietary factors and depression in older people.

Williamson C. British Nutrition Foundation, London.

Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions and can affect people of all ages, but it is becoming more common among the older population with increasing life expectancy. Observational studies have found poor micronutrient status (particularly folate and vitamin B12) to be associated with an increased risk of depression in older people. Supplementation with folic acid has been shown to enhance anti-depressant drug treatment and there is preliminary evidence that supplementation with certain micronutrients may help improve depressive symptoms in older patients. There has also been a lot of interest in the role of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in depression.

Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age.

Akbaraly TN, Brunner EJ, Ferrie JE, Marmot MG, Kivimaki M, Singh-Manoux A. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK.

 BACKGROUND: Studies of diet and depression have focused primarily on individual nutrients. AIMS: To examine the association between dietary patterns and depression using an overall diet approach. METHOD: Analyses were carried on data from 3486 participants (26.2% women, mean age 55.6 years) from the Whitehall II prospective cohort, in which two dietary patterns were identified: 'whole food' (heavily loaded by vegetables, fruits and fish) and 'processed food' (heavily loaded by sweetened desserts, fried food, processed meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products). CONCLUSIONS: In middle-aged participants, a processed food dietary pattern is a risk factor for CES-D depression 5 years later, whereas a whole food pattern is protective. 

If you are interested in more information about diet and depression, contact me by clicking here.

Thanks for listening, and as always, your feedback and comments are very much appreciated!