The New Frontier of Healthcare and the Endocannabinoid System


I recently attended a webinar with Laura Lagano MS, RD, and CDN. Laura holds a Master of Science degree from Columbia University where she is currently a doctoral candidate in the field of Nutrition and Health Education. Laura’s area of expertise is the endocannabinoid system and her research explores how cannabis and cannabinol (CBD) can be integrated with other holistic modalities to optimize health and wellness.

The Endocannabinoid System is a system of receptors throughout the body called CB1 and CB2. This is a 600 million year old system that is now regarded as the most important physiological process for establishing and maintaining human health. The system is named after the cannabis plant that led to its discovery.CB1 is expressed in the central nervous system, connective tissue, heart, lung, GI system, muscles, joints and skin. CB2 is expressed in the immune system, bones and spleen. These two key receptors regulate gut health, pain, women’s health, mood, memory, insomnia and immune function.

Cannabis has been used as a medicinal herb for over 10,000 years. It is especially effective with epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, pain management, Multiple Sclerosis, PTSD, depression, ADHD and gut issues to name a few. CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory and fortunately our medical paradigm is shifting away from the use of opiates to a more holistic model that includes CBD and medical marijuana. CBD has been hailed as a miracle, in fact; the US government currently has a patent on cannabis as an anti-inflammatory.

The discovery of the Endocannabinoid System has little to do with the psychoactive component of marijuana and THC and more to do with compounds that our bodies make, as well as, factors in food and medicinal plants. This system is a master conductor, sending chemical messages and triggering biological actions throughout the body that are critical to health and wellbeing.

Nutritionally you can support the Endocannabinoid System by following the Mediterranean Diet which includes lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood, legumes, Omega 6 fatty acids, such as olive oil, avocados, salmon, walnuts, as well as a high quality Omega 3 fish oil. In addition, minimize your consumption of animal protein, processed foods, dairy, pasta and bread. Reducing stress levels and participating in a regular exercise program will also help to regulate the Endocannabinoid System.

As many of you know, we carry“CBD Clinic” oils in our Spa. These products have been flying off the shelf and with good reason, they work! CBD is a powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory. All of the products are organically grown and are of the highest quality. CBD works topically, via the peripheral nervous system and therefore the ingredients do not enter the bloodstream.

If you have any questions or concerns, please free to email me with your questions. If you are currently suffering from chronic pain and inflammation, I encourage you to try our new product line.

Written by:
Marlene Dickinson
Director of Wellness at MAC
Holistic Wellness Coach


Customized Pain Management at MAC!

acu woman on table

Written by: Marlene Dickinson

Many of us live with chronic pain, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, lower back pain and knee problems to name a few . I recently completed a continuing education class called” Exploring Pain” A Mind Body Approach with Matt Erb PT. According to Matt, the fear of pain is often worse than the pain itself. I have also found this to be true with many of my clients here at MAC who experience chronic pain. It is the unpredictable patterns of pain that are most challenging, one never knows from one day to the next when the pain will surface. Matt and his group of researchers have also found that “pain is less painful when we are confident that we are safe.” We are delighted to introduce our newest offering here at MAC: our Customized Pain Management Program, a “safe” mind body approach to pain management.

Pain researchers are proposing an expanded definition of pain. Pain is an unpleasant, aversive, distressing experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage with sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social components. The experience of pain is an integrative experience of the mind, body, spirit. An imbalance between the sympathic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system is considered to play a role in chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, RA, headaches, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

The mind body approach to pain includes meditation and mindfulness, body awareness, biofeedback, movement, Yoga, Qigong, nutrition, breath work, posture and body language. When we acquire these self-awareness tools, this leads to self-regulation, self-expression, and ultimately self-care!

Our Mac Customized Pain Program offers a combination of the mind body approach to pain, and includes many of the modalities listed. Mindful movement with the guidance of a personal trainer, acupuncture for ongoing pain management, meditation techniques that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, and massage as a form of healing touch. This program will teach you how to regulate your pain cycles and reduce stress levels.

Therapeutic massage achieves structural changes within the body and offers health benefits such as increased circulation, pain relief, increased immunity, reduced joint pain, decreased muscle fatigue, reduced stress and anxiety, and better posture. Our CDB Clinic Analgesic ointments and creams provide our pain specialists with a new class of products for safe and rapid relief from acute and chronic musculoskeletal  and joint pain. These analgesic compounds penetrate to pain receptors in the body via the Endocannabinoid system to interrupt pain signaling. You will receive a 15% discount on any CBD product when you sign up for this program!

Acupuncture is one of the most ancient forms of healing. Our acupuncturist, Kate Zeigler, is licensed in both Chinese and Japanese styles of acupuncture. Japanese acupuncture is a gentler, but highly effective form, using smaller needles. This style is effective for first time patients and children. Acupuncture treats a variety of conditions but is especially effective in pain management. Acupuncture treats digestive issues, musculosketal pain, anxiety, depression, stress, women’s health, allergies, headaches, and autoimmune disorders.

The human body holds infinite wisdom. Come join us as we explore ways to tap into that wisdom and harness it as a tool against pain!

Marlene Dickinson

Director of Wellness
Holistic Wellness Coach
BA Psychology/Sports Nutrition
978 526-8900 x 362

Meet Kristen Harte

KRISTEN HARTEDid you know that we have a new nurse practitioner on our wellness team? Kristen Harte specializes in Women’s Health; she is also a Reiki Master, a certified Acutonics practitioner and is certified in Body Feedback with essential oils and Raindrop Therapy.

I want to introduce you to two modalities that Kristen offers at our Spa,  Acutonics and Raindrop Therapy. Acutonics is an ancient oriental healing method that uses calibrated tuning forks to create a balance in mind, body and spirit. Acuntonics works with vibrational energy created through sound. It is extremely helpful with muscle pain, tension, anxiety, depression and sports injuries. I personally found this treatment to be extremely effective for  pain management, I was new to acutonics and did not know what to expect; I found the treatment both relaxing and left the session pain free!

Raindrop Therapy was developed by Dr. Gary Young, an expert in aroma therapy. This technique involves dropping essential oils, first along the soles of the feet and then onto the spine; which stimulates energy impulses and disperses the oils along the nervous system and throughout the body. This method helps to reduce spinal inflammation and kills viruses that hibernate along the spinal column.  It is also effective in reducing physical symptoms of spinal curvatures and aides the body in restoring balance by clearing and realigning the chakras. Even though the massage only last an hour, the oils can work for up to a week or more in the body.

It would be difficult for me to know where to begin to describe this wonderful modality. The touch is very gentle and nurturing, the results were profound. I felt a complete sense of calm and wellbeing after my session and  when I stepped outside, I felt a level of joy that I had not experienced in a long time.

Take some time out of your busy life to book an appointment with Kristen, you will be glad that you did!

Kristen Harte (978) 526-8900 x 259

Best Wishes,
Marlene Dickinson
Director of Wellness
Holistic Wellness Coach

The Benefits of Cupping and Lymphatic Massage

JCP_10_18_17__MG_2376Did you know that all of our massage therapists are certified in cupping massage? This ancient form of alternative medicine treats a variety of conditions with minimal discomfort. The technique involves placing several cups on various parts of the body to create suction. It draws inflammation out of the tissues which allows for increased blood supply to the muscles, while at the same time; it allows toxins to be released via the lymphatic system!

Cupping treats a variety of conditions such as plantar fasciitis, chronic pain, restrictions in the fascia, and it is deeply effective post surgery to break up scar tissue. Cupping also impacts the nervous system, creating a deep state of relaxation. This modality has beneficial effects for people with high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, chronic fatigue, headaches, fibromyalgia and neuralgia.

Deidre Keady, who recently joined our staff; offers lymphatic massage. There are very few practitioners who offer this type of massage and we are delighted to have Deidre on our team. Lymphatic massage can benefit just about anyone, it is a gentle form of massage and is well tolerated for clients with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and post-surgery involving lymph node removal and breast cancer surgery.

So how does it work? After a sports injury or surgery, lymph vessels can become overwhelmed causing the tissues to swell. When tissues are swollen, lymphatic massage is the treatment of choice because it helps the body remove proteins and waste products from the affected area and reduce swelling.

70% of the lymph vessels are found just below the skin, these fragile vessels work to pick up fluids between the cell spaces. The therapist uses very light pressure in a rhythmic, circular pattern which helps the lymph system work more efficiently and move lymph fluids back to the heart.

We are very fortunate to have such a talented team of massage therapists on our team at the Mac, book your appointment today and discover what it is like to be pain free!

Check out all of our spa options on our website!

Marlene Dickinson
Director of Wellness
Holistic Wellness Coach/Consultant

Varied Training Approaches for Running Events

Written by Jenn Brooks, NASM CPT, CES; USATF running coach

Multiple Training Approaches to Run Performance
One hears a lot about specificity in training, and it is certainly true that some very reliable ways to run faster are to run more, run faster, or both. Do you want faster race times?  Run faster intervals in training. Are you racing a challenging distance? Practice longer segments of runs at goal pace. These approaches generally work.  However, there are some good reasons why this is not always feasible or even necessarily best.  Can you train for a running event solely by running?  Of course, but I don’t recommend it.  Unless you have been blessed with biomechanical perfection and a variety of available running surfaces, it’s a great setup for injury.  Can you train for a running event without running at all?  Yes, but I wouldn’t recommend that either.  There are aspects of running, such as cadence, force transfer, and repetitive fatigue that are very hard to equate in other training modes. So, what are some factors to consider when putting together a training plan and deciding to when to run and when to cross train?

What are the limiters?  
Evaluate the distance and course of your goal event, and try to find limiting factors that can be addressed without running.  Are there a number of long downhills? Quadricep fatigue may be a stronger limiter than aerobic fatigue.  Steep climbs are likely to send hip flexors on strike, particularly if you have underactive glutes.  Multiple or very long sustained climbs can be pretty evil to achilles tendons and calf muscles (Mt. Washington Road Race runners, I’m talking to you), and a long, flat course can be punishing to stabilizing muscles such as the posterior tibialis. Often, particularly in longer races, it is a failure to maintain form due to muscle overload, or simply straight up muscle failure, that becomes a major limiting factor.  These factors can be addressed without running, and it may even be preferable to do so.  Targeted strength training against your identified limiting factors allows you to focus on activating the right muscles, with the right form, without risking further breakdown through running.   Running is an activity that happens at high speed; odds are good when running you will use the muscles your brain is in the habit of using.  Overactive quads will remain overactive, and an anteriorly tilted pelvis will be very comfortable maintaining an anterior tilt. Strength training gives you the time and control to retrain your neuromuscular system to hold new alignments and to move in a more balanced effort.  Strength training also allows you to mimic the specific demands of the course without incurring the damage of running.

What are the goals of the workout, and can the benefits be achieved in another way?
Long runs provide some unique stresses; they train the mind to be comfortable running farther, train the digestive system to accept hydration and fuel simultaneous to significant cardiovascular demand, train connective tissue in the ankles and knees to endure sustained stress without injury.  Tempo runs and interval workouts also provide unique benefits that are difficult to match with a different activity; they create a familiarity with faster cadences, teach the body to run with greater power, teach the stomach not to revolt at high intensity jostling.  While the cardiovascular and overall fitness gains that come from speedwork can certainly be matched on a bike or in the pool, it is difficult to come by these subsidiary benefits that are unique to running.  Easy days, however, are another story.  The goal of moderate and easy runnings days is typically to increase blood flow, train cardiovascular systems, and set the body up for the next hard effort.  None of these benefits is unique to running.  They can easily be achieved through other workouts, and an argument could be made that this approach facilitates greater recovery by stressing different systems.

Cost Benefit Analysis
This is the part that runners are generally pretty bad at.  What are the risks to running a training session, and are the benefits worth it?  (Hint: most of us prefer to run, and we are remarkably good at convincing ourselves the answer is yes even when all evidence points to the contrary). If you are heading into the weekend after a strong week of training with little to no pain or movement compensations, the benefits of running long will likely well outweigh the risks.  In this case the long run is almost certain to net positive, with the significant stress of the workout leading to fitness gains.  Now let’s say you’ve had a frustrating training week.  Knee pain you first noticed on Monday has been gradually building, you’ve caught yourself favoring that leg, and by Friday you can only describe your running experience as miserable. Will a long run this weekend lead to increased fitness, or breakdown?  If you start the long run you will either cut it short or power through.  If the former, you’ve just lost the benefits of the workout, and if the latter, odds are good you’ve just lost another week (or more!) of quality training because you were stubborn and now you can’t walk without limping.  In this case the far better scenario is to crosstrain, approximating the physiological stresses of the long run as closely as possible while taking a biomechanical break from running impacts so that the overstressed tissues can recover quickly.

If you are someone who rarely gets injured and who really just wants to run, then you are probably fine running most workouts with just a couple of strength training workouts per week to prevent muscle imbalances and maintain mobility.  However, that is not most people.  If you are prone to injury, or dealing with time and availability factors that making getting runs in a challenge, it may be  worth delegating your moderate efforts to cross training and focusing on making the days you run high quality days.  And in all cases, if a run is likely to push a nagging pain into a true injury, cross training is the better bet.

— Jenn Brooks, NASM CPT, CES; USATF running coach

Runners: I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to move sideways

Written by: Jenn Brooks, Master Trainer

The average injury rate for the recreational runner is between 37% and 56% per year, with 50-70% of those injuries caused by overuse. This is incredibly high. When injuries do occur, the 5 standard medical advice is typically a variation of “stop running until it feels better.” While this generally works quite well at healing the current injury, it is ineffective at preventing future injuries. To break out of the injury cycle, it’s necessary to explore what underlying factors lead to injury and are likely to do so again. In many cases, the primary factor in an overuse injury traces back to an inability to maintain alignment while managing the multiplanar forces that occur while running.

To better understand how to avoid this, it’s necessary to break down the impacts of running. When you run, every step lands with the force of 250% of your body weight; of that impact, forces equal to 25% of your body weight are directed sideways. In additional to lateral and sagittal forces, you also have rotational impacts; though often subtle, these rotational movements play a major role in both energy efficiency and injury. For instance, there is a strong correlation between excessive internal hip rotation and patellafemoral pain.

Put together, this is a tremendous amount of multidirectional force to control on one leg at rapid speed (the average ground contact time for an experienced recreational runner is 200-300ms). Illustrating the importance of force transfer in the gait cycle, analysis has shown that joint torques and EMG activity are both greater as the body prepares to land than at the point of takeoff in each stride. Taking off (stance phase) is relatively straightforward; transitioning a large amount of energy through swing to stance is the true work of running. An inability to make this transfer in a way that is efficient and safe is behind many running injuries.

So, where does this leave you? Running efficiency requires the delicate balance of having enough mobility to avoid compensations down the chain and enough stability to prevent a loss of alignment and momentum. Strength and mobility training play a vital role in preventing injury by enabling the runner to avoid these damaging compensations. There are many tests that can be used to identify faults likely to
cause injury, but one of the easiest places to start is the single leg squat assessment. If you cannot do a single leg bodyweight squat without losing alignment, you almost certainly cannot maintain good alignment while absorbing a sideways force of 25% your body weight. You have some work to do.

Peruse almost any running forum question about strength training, and you will inevitably read a lot of answers that talk about squats, deadlifts, and pullups. These exercises are absolutely good ideas, but they are not the complete picture. Running is a sport that happens one leg at a time. It makes sense that if the goal is to run without injury, it is imperative to train your legs to stabilize and recoil singularly and to
train your body to control and harness forces in all planes of motion. You are going to have to balance, and you are going to have to move sideways. Single leg exercises, lateral movements, counter-rotational exercises, and mobility work all play a vital role in an effective injury prevention routine.

1. Dicharry, J. Anatomy for Runners . Skyhorse Publishing: New York,NY; 2012.
2. Novacheck, T. The Biomechanics of Running . Motion Analysis Laboratory. Gillette Childrens Specialty Healthcare, University of Minnesota. 22 September 1997.
3. Running Science. Accessed February 10 2018.
4. Souza, R.B. and Powers, C.M. Predictors of Hip Internal Rotation During Running. Am J Sports Med 2009 37:579. doi:10.1177/0363546508326711.
5. Van Mechelin, W. Running injuries. A review of the epidemiological literature. Sports Med . 1992 Nov;14(5):320-35. Accessed February 8, 2018.

How to Rebuild Your Microbiome


According to Dr. Mark Pettus, the Associate Dean at U Mass Medical School, our health model is changing and the goal of the functional medical community is to explore how we have lost our microbiome diversity. The human Microbiome Project, American Gut Project and U Biome are research organizations that have discovered that 99% of our genome comes from our microbiome.

When there are problems in the gut, we experience weight gain, asthma, autoimmune diseases, RA, Hashi-Moto, arthritis, metabolic bone disease, eczema, mood disorders, depression, anxiety, cancer and Alzheimer’s. All of these diseases are linked to a lack of diversity of the microbiome.  This explains why there has been a profound increase in chronic disease and inflammation.

The behavioral health world has also discovered that most of our neurotransmitters are located in our gut, thus, the gut is an active neurological organ. Depressions, anxiety, autism, PTSD are all linked to the gut health of an individual.

As you can see, the microbiome plays a fundamental role in human health; our environment changes the way that our genes express themselves. So what can do to change our microbiome? The” Good Gut” book by Justin and Erica Sonnenberg looks at the modern human microbiome and suggests ways to improve it. If we look at tribes in Africa, their microbiome is much more diverse because these cultures follow a primarily plant based diet, where they ingest anywhere from 80-100 grams per day of fermentable fiber. The typical American diet ingests only 5-10 grams per day.

We can change our microbiome by avoiding carbohydrate dense food, antibiotics, refined and processed foods and glyphosates. Glyphosate residue disrupts microbial activity and interferes with the production of serotonin and dopamine. Fiber serves as a fuel for the microbiome, especially fermentable fiber. We want to decrease consumption of grains that are high in gluten, eat only non-GMO, hormone free, antibiotic free food. At the same time, increase your consumption of pre- biotic rich foods such as apples, asparagus, bananas, garlic, kiwi, onions and chicory.

For a closer look into your own gut health, you can work with a functional medicine doctor who will do microbiome testing.


Here’s to your gut health!

Marlene Dickinson
BA Psychology/Sports Nutrition
Food as Medicine