by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
I have talked with my patients for years about cellulite. Some will never wear shorts or a bathing suit because of the appearance of the dimpled skin known as cellulite; many have tried wraps, creams and even electrical stimulation in an effort to regain their formerly smooth and evenly plump skin.
Cellulite is almost exclusively a female concern – the anatomy of a woman’s skin is different than a man’s and cellulite is primarily about estrogen. As estrogen is released into a woman’s body, fluid builds up in fatty tissues. And women have more fatty tissue than men – particularly throughout the thighs and hips.
The very hormone which helps us relax during pregnancy decreases production of collagen, which is the protein which helps keeps skin elastic and strong. When elasticity decreases, there is a greater likelihood of cellulite.
Cellulite is located in the subsurface – or subcutaneous layer of the skin. It is made of up of connective tissue and fat cells known as the septa. Cellulite forms when the structural support of the skin starts to collapse and the fat cells push through it – that’s what causes the ‘dimpled’ look that so many women would like to do away with.
Like most things in life, there isn’t a quick fix for erasing cellulite. Let’s take a look at how cellulite forms and what you can do to help your body run efficiently to help alleviate what’s causing cellulite to form and stay.
Our lymphatic system plays a critical role in the development of cellulite. The septa becomes stiff because of decreased lymph and blood circulation to the subcutaneous layer of skin. The tissue weakens and the decrease in lymph drainage causes the fluids which should carry away waste to be trapped, the septa then becomes fibrous and tightens even more on the underlying fat cells. The decreased circulation also weakens capillaries and veins, causing the surrounding tissue to harden. Blood reroutes around the cellulite area and the septa fibers continue to thicken and even more fat continues to be deposited. The fats and toxins won’t be removed because of the poor circulation.
You can see that a healthy lymph system is critical to stopping the formation and breaking the cellulite building cycle.
Our sweat glands, kidneys, liver and lymph system are all critical to ridding our bodies of toxins. Toxic build-up is the primary cause of the stagnant lymph, which is at the crux of cellulite. When your body is overburdened with chemicals, additives, and other toxins, these organs are unable to keep up. If you think about these organs as screens or filters, it makes sense that they would need to be cleaned regularly in order to work efficiently. I recommend that my patients ‘detox’ two to three times a year – this process allows these organs to clean up and jump start to keep you healthy!
Well balanced hormones also play a role in healthy skin. During periods of great hormonal fluctuation life pregnancy or perimenopause women may experience an increase in cellulite. We’ve known for many years that estrogen plays a role in keeping skin elastic and firm, due to the role it plays in increasing the formation of collagen. When your hormones are not balanced, the walls of your veins and lymph vessels are less resilient – and they are not as efficient in removing toxins. This weakness also causes lymph flow and blood to stagnate which contributes to the stiffening of the septa.
Progesterone and human growth hormone (hGH) are also important hormones when looking at skin health. Progesterone, when used in a natural form, converts to other hormones, if needed. There is some controversy surrounding the use of hGH. Its important to research and see a healthcare practitioner before using any type of hormone replacement therapy.
Your body’s systems are all connected, and the cellulite you see is a symptom of something going on in your body. It’s important to clear your body of toxins regularly, feed your body what it needs and be aware of ways to keep your hormones balanced.
Here’s what I have recommended to my patients:
- Be aware of toxins and limit your exposure. Preservatives, chemicals, additives, alcohol and caffeine all test your lymph system. Eliminate sugar completely from your diet. Sugar interferes with Vitamin C metabolism and vitamin C is critical to the formation of elastin and collagen.
- There are many detox food plans available. You may want to consider one based on Ayurvedic principles. I’ll often recommend a two week detox plan – some women find it challenging, but most report feeling fantastic once they’ve completed it.
- Breathe! Breathing helps lymphatic flow – and it helps you relax. Be mindful to breathe several times a day.
- Consider a high-quality multivitamin, such as the one formulated by Women to Women. It is difficult to get the nutrients we need from the foods we eat. Farming and processing practices have reduced the nutritional values of our foods. A daily multivitamin is an easy way to close the gap between what we our body needs and what we are able to take in on a daily basis.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise helps increase muscle tone and burn fat. Both help to reduce the appearance of cellulite.
- Practice lymphatic massage. This will help drain and increase your lymphatic fluid. Become familiar with the gentle finger movements that create pressure to move lymph fluid through your nodes and vessels.
- Manage your stress. When our bodies are stressed, blood is directed away from the skin, affecting circulation and decreasing the nutrients being delivered to our skin. Increased cortisol tells the body to store fat which contributes to cellulite.
- Gently massage areas of cellulite – massage the area in a circular motion. This will help break down fat and toxins and increase blood flow to the area.
Many women feel that cellulite is their destiny – they may have family members with cellulite or have been told that cellulite is just to be accepted. By raising your awareness of the process that contributes toward cellulite development and supporting your all-important lymph system, you may find the combination which helps you diminish or alleviate cellulite.