The Science Behind Cellulite

I’m writing this post at the request of some of my clients. The hard truth is that most women will have to live with the appearance of cellulite. Its up to us to change our views on how we see it and try to stop judging people for having something that is quite simply, inevitable. That said, having a lot of cellulite can be a sign of imbalances within our bodies and this is a post on how to deal with it.

Upwards of 89% of post pubescent women have cellulite, as do some men, though much rarer.The scourge of cellulite in our overly judgmental society increases the stress of the overweight, as it does the skinny. Celebrities and even elite athletes are not immune to the insecurities developed by the burn of the “cottage cheese” cheeks. Unfortunately, with insecurity comes the onslaught of expensive yet valueless products that claim to solve all your problems. So, if the creams, laser treatments, massage therapies and being athletic doesn’t save you from the dimpling of cellulite what can you do?

Previous science suggested that the cause of cellulite was structural, that the collagen that surrounds fat cells in women is shaped differently than men and allows for pulling of the upper layers which causes dimpling. While certain structural differences do increase the chance of cellulite in women vs men, other studies have discovered that it is actually a breakdown of the collagen that allows for clusters of fat cells to push, and that the breakdown comes from an abundance of estrogen.

Typically, we see cellulite in the buttocks, thighs and abdomen. These areas, more so than others, are highly affected by the sex hormones, specifically, for pregnancy and lactation. An abundance of estrogen has 2 major roles in the production or appearance of cellulite. Estrogen triggers fat cell production and too much estrogen can increase the size of fat cells: fat cell hypertrophy. To make matters worse, an increase of fat cells triggers the production of more estrogen thus completing a viscous circle of events that ends with a lot of unwanted cellulite.

The second thing is that estrogen helps break down collagen. This is part of its normal role in the body and does this  specifically prior to labor to allow easier movement for the baby. BUT, an abundance of estrogen can trigger a breakdown of the collagen holding in your fat cells, allowing for the columns of fat to press upwards causing a dimpling effect on the skin.

So, how do we treat or prevent cellulite?

It seems that our first line of defense is hormone balancing, specifically for estrogen. Here are 7 changes you can make to help reduce excess estrogen and limit the occurrence of cellulite.

1- Keep a healthy digestive system. – To do this, increase your fiber consumption with lignans, oats, bran, flax, leafy greens.

One of the best things you can do for your gut is to eat fermented foods.Kim-chi, sauerkraut or other fermented foods work wonders by introducing good bacteria to your system. You can also take non dairy probiotic supplements, but these supplemements tend to only hold a few different kinds of healthy bacteria. Its best to get as many different kinds as you can.

2 – Change the kinds of carbohydrates you eat – Try to get your carbs through whole grains and vegetables – these will provide you with the fiber you need to help your gut as well as give you antioxidants and phyotestrogens. The liver can metabolize estrogen in different ways, one way (the c-2 pathway) is healthier than the others and reduces the risk of cancer. Phytoestrogens block estrogen receptors, as well as promote estrogen to be metabolized by the liver in a certain way.

By increasing protein in your diet – to a reasonable level – you can maximize liver function, and in doing so help with proper metabolism and flushing of excess estrogen.

3 – Eliminate or reduce dairy – 80% of the estrogen consumed in our diets comes from cows milk. Animals are often milked when their estrogen levels are high and this transfers to the supply for human consumption.

4. Reduce interaction with chemical compounds  Ten things you can do to limit chemical estrogen exposure

5. Reduce alcohol consumption – Once again, we want to maximize liver function in order to help eliminate excess estrogen. By eliminating or limiting alcohol (and coffee) consumption you can help keep your liver healthy.  Small amounts of certain red wines are acceptable as they have trace amounts of beneficial compounds

6. Exercise – Resistance training has been shown to help balance hormones. You do not need to lift heavy loads, but moderate levels of strength training and cardiovascular work will lead to healthier organs, better circulation, efficient glucose transfer, body weight management and hormone balancing.

7. Sleep – Sleeping in a completely dark room has been shown to lower estrogen levels. Try to eliminate all gadgets that emit light. Make sure you have black out blinds and that no light is coming through cracks in your bedroom door.


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