If you’re at least 30 and female, chances are cellulite is already a reality for you. The appearance of dimpled skin – sometimes described as looking like orange peel or cottage
cheese – is a nearly universal complaint for women over a certain age, plaguing at least 80 to 90 per cent of women.
Cellulite can appear anywhere on your lower body… on your legs, hips or backside… regardless of your weight or physical fitness levels. And while cellulite isn’t an illness, it is the result of the breakdown of healthy fat and connective tissue, much like we see with the breakdown of healthy joint tissues in arthritis.
Although cellulite has been studied quite a bit, it’s still poorly understood. It can’t simply be exercised away and it doesn’t completely disappear with diet. And most doctors will simply shrug their shoulders if a woman bothers asking about how to treat it.
That’s why you might be surprised to learn that there ARE some things you can do to reduce the appearance and progression of cellulite. I’ll tell you more about them in just a moment, but first let’s take a closer look at exactly what cellulite is.
Connective tissue break down
Cellulite, also known as gynoid lipodystrophy or GLD for short, happens when the normal structure of the connective tissue breaks down, and the surrounding fat cells become water-logged and swollen.
The connective tissues in your body are made up of collagen, elastic fibres, hyaluronic acid containing ‘goo’, proteoglycans and glycoproteins (substances that hold everything together on a cellular level). Together these materials are responsible for the movement of nutrients, fluid, oxygen and waste products in and out of your cells.
But when they become inflamed and swollen the damaged tissues become less effective at their job. They start to suffer from a lack of nourishment, connections start to fail and eventually the tissues break down. While some of the fibrous connections remain, the cells around them are bloated and swollen producing that classic cellulite appearance.
Exposing the cellulite ‘curse’
There are several reasons why cellulite first appears, starting with genetics. If your mother had a significant amount of cellulite, chances are you will too.
Oestrogen also plays a key role in the development of this unwelcome condition. Since women have more oestrogen in their bodies than men, cellulite tends to be more of a woman’s problem. Some guys do get it, but it’s much rarer.
The last factor is one that you do have some control over, and that’s lifestyle. If you happen to be overweight – a common problem as people age – you have a greater number of fat cells. Since fat cells produce oestrogen, the more fat you’re carrying around the more oestrogen you’re producing. And the more prone you will be to cellulite.
Losing weight can help reduce your oestrogen levels improving the appearance of existing cellulite and discouraging new cellulite from forming.
Turn the cellulite tide
Besides weight loss, there are a number of other tricks you can try to turn the tide against cellulite.
Move every day to keep cellulite at bay: As I mentioned earlier, physical fitness isn’t a guarantee that you won’t experience cellulite. But, on the other hand, exercise is associated with less inflammation of the connective tissues.
In the real world that means that getting up and moving more can help your healthy connective tissues STAY healthy so they don’t break down, leading to more cellulite. I typically recommend yoga or Pilate’s to my own patients to keep the blood circulating, and to build the underlying muscle.
Ditch your pro-cellulite diet: Anti-inflammatory foods can help keep your connective tissues in tip-top shape. But that’s not the only way diet can help.
Eating too much salt, sugar, carbohydrates or unhealthy trans-fats can encourage cellulite to develop; cutting back on all of them can help keep your skin smooth and tight. A great way to do just that is by making the switch to the delicious Paleo diet, which focuses on the natural meats, fruits, vegetables and nuts our ancestors would have eaten. Going Paleo will not only help you get the proper amount of healthy fats and proteins, it can help lower your insulin levels as well. This is key because when your insulin levels drop you will naturally shed some of that excess oestrogen-hoarding fat you’ve been carrying around.
Take toxins out of the mix: Toxins of any sort including food preservatives, heavy metals such as lead and mercury, mould and environmental chemicals can act as irritants on the connective tissues. This can cause those tissues to begin to break down, forming the dimpled skin we all love to hate.
But you can help avoid new cellulite from appearing by reducing the toxins you’re exposing yourself to by eating organic foods, dropping refined foods from your diet, switching from farmed fish to wild caught and sustainable seafood instead, stopping smoking, ridding your home of mould and choosing cleaning and body care products that are free of harsh chemicals and metals.
Delve into the drug connection: Certain drugs can cause cellulite to get worse. Chemical – non bio-identical – oestrogen replacement drugs are the most obvious culprits. But antihistamines, beta-blockers (commonly used for high blood pressure, cardiac problems, and migraines) and thyroid medications can all contribute to tissue breakdown, and cellulite, as well.
If you’re on any of these drugs and are concerned about the appearance of cellulite, talk with your doctor about potential alternatives. Reducing your antihistamine use and switching to bio-identical hormones may help.
Consider a nutrient cocktail: Mesotherapy, an injection technique used to direct substances into the mesodermic or connective tissue layer of the body, can be a very effective way to fight cellulite. I was first trained in the technique in 2004 in Southern France and in my clinic we use an injection gun to assure that we’re getting exactly the right amount of nutrients into each injection.
In the case of cellulite, we inject a cocktail of nutrients including phosphatidylcholine (the critically important phospholipid that lines our nervous system and much of our connective tissue), caffeine, vitamins A and C, various amino acids, and a herb called butcher’s broom.
After several mesotherapy sessions women typically find that the dimpled skin on their legs, thighs and buttocks is noticeably smoothed out. But keep in mind that mesotherapy isn’t a quick-fix technique, it can take some time and it can also be pricey.
Try a topical instead: If you’re having trouble finding someone to administer mesotherapy in your area, or you find the price is too steep, a topical approach might be just what you’re looking for.
In my own clinic we have a compounding pharmacy where we produce a cream with hyaluronic acid that penetrates into the tissues delivering vitamins, caffeine, and phospholipids directly into the damaged connective tissue.
A holistic medical doctor in your area can help tailor a topical cellulite-fighting formula for you, or you can try one of the cellulite creams on the market. There are several natural ingredients that show great promise in the fight against those dreaded cottage cheese thighs.
Vitamin A is involved in the formation of those glycoproteins I mentioned earlier. These important proteins help to hold everything together on a cellular level and play a critical role in the health of connective tissues. Vitamin A may be able to help build collagen and restore elasticity to skin. You’ll find vitamin A added to a number of skin products designed to improve skin appearance and reduce cellulite.
Caffeine helps break down fat tissue while enhancing the tightening of underlying connective material. Most topical cellulite formulas contain caffeine.
Both butcher’s broom and forskolin, the active ingredient in the herb gotu kola (Asiatic centella), can stimulate blood capillaries and improve microcirculation within tissues. This means they can help reduce the fluid retention that’s seen with cellulite, improving the appearance of the skin. These herbs are often included in over the counter cellulite products.
Silicon is one of the building blocks of connective tissue and plays a critical role in the formation and reformation of the proteoglycans I mentioned earlier.
A personalised plan
In my clinic we will often combine a number of these techniques to tackle cellulite. We work with people on their lifestyle issues such as reducing stress and adjusting their diet and exercise, and we utilise a number of topical, injectable and oral natural remedies to strengthen underlying tissues.
We carefully evaluate the build-up of various toxins in the fat cells in the body and create a plan for reducing each person’s toxic burden. (You can start reducing your own toxic load using some of the tips I shared above.) And we perform hormone testing and work to restore your hormone balance. You can talk with your own doctor about having your hormones tested.
Manual therapies such as heavy kneading of the affected tissues, and mechanical treatments such as laser therapy and ultrasonic therapies can have their use in addressing cellulite, but they don’t get at the root of the problem and should generally be considered only after all the other avenues have been explored.
Topicals tackle cellulite
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial, a combination of vitamin A (as retinol), caffeine and butcher’s broom extract (ruscogenine) was used topically to treat cellulite. There was a significant improvement in the cellulite of the lucky ladies who got the real combo compared to those who received the placebo.
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 9, Issue 11, November 2015