All medicine comes down to this: Find out what’s bugging you; get rid of it. Find out what you need, get it. The body does the rest.
—Dr. Mark Hyman
Now that we’ve covered what cellulite is, what causes it, and how we know it is possible to lose it, we can finally address the most important question about cellulite: How to get rid of it. It might seem like a daunting task but I assure you (from personal experience), the road to cellulite recovery is both pleasurable and rewarding.
The lymph theory of cellulite explains that cellulite is caused by impaired lymphatic circulation. Therefore, healing cellulite means caring for your lymphatic system. This integral part of the body is historically neglected in western medicine, not because it is unimportant but because it is still relatively mysterious. Dr. Oz describes lymphatics as “the next frontier of discovery in human disease. Long ignored because of their subtlety and complexity…”1
Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for western medicine to start taking cellulite seriously before we can figure out how to improve our lymphatic circulation. Traditional societies have been studying lymphatic health for millennia. Many of the treatment options we’ve uncovered have their roots in this traditional wisdom. Women in these societies did not suffer from cellulite so we are entering uncharted territory by applying their knowledge to a modern condition. I do hope you will join me on this adventure!
Here is what we’ve uncovered so far.
Since cellulite is caused by lymphatic congestion, the first step in healing cellulite is to decrease the load on the lymphatic system. This system is often described as the garbage disposal system for your cells. Reducing the amount of “garbage” that comes into the body will result in a direct decrease in the amount of work required of the lymphatic system and, consequently, an improvement in lymphatic health. A trash bin is a lot easier to empty when it’s not overflowing.
But what does the body consider garbage? Anything it recognizes as no longer useful will be treated as waste and can end up in lymphatic fluid, including viruses, bacteria, partially digested food particles. Ultimately, the body eliminates waste through the digestive system, the kidneys, the skin (aka “the third kidney”), or the lungs when we exhale. Alternatively, it might direct waste to certain fat deposits for storage out of the general circulation. All these systems work together to protect and detoxify the body on a daily basis, not just from the onslaught of industrial chemicals that we face every day, but also from the regular metabolic waste that healthy living cells naturally produce.
The first step in an effective anti cellulite plan is to alleviate the strain on the lymphatic system by reducing the amount of waste our lymph is tasked to process. This step will vary depending on the individual and their unique history and physical makeup. For me, I discovered that fluoride is a particularly important chemical to avoid because of early fluoride poisoning I experienced as a child. While I personally don’t believe fluoride is beneficial for any woman, your “kryptonite” might be something completely different. Perhaps your cellulite is caused by one of the usual suspects, such as sugar or trans fats. But if it is something more abstruse, you will have to listen to your body more closely than ever before to figure out what substances to avoid.
Every bump, every rash, every ache has a cause. It’s your job as a cellulite investigator to chase down each of these leads. Maybe you will benefit from keeping a food journal to help identify trends and patterns. Maybe you could conduct an elimination trial to see how your body responds when you stop using a certain food or product. You will have to nurture an acute awareness of the substances that come into your body, and pay close attention to how your body responds. D
oing no harm is the most important step of cellulite recovery. If you don’t eliminate the source of the lymphatic congestion, you will not be able to prevent future cellulite from developing.
Once the source of cellulite is eliminated, the next step is to give your body the raw material it needs to repair areas where cellulite is already present.
Since cellulite forms in the fatty connective tissue just under the skin, we must focus on delivering the right nutrients to these cells. To do this, we must first include the necessary nutrients in the diet. Second, they must be properly digested. And third, they must be circulated to the outermost cells of the body. If any of these three steps is lacking, cellulite will not budge.
What are the right nutrients to repair cellulite? As Dr. Howard Murad explains in The Cellulite Solution, cellulite is caused by damaged connective tissue. To repair cellulite, the body needs ample amounts of glucosamine and other micronutrients that serve as the building blocks for connective tissue. Dr. Murad prescribes glucosamine supplements, but these supplements do not provide the full suite of related nutrients necessary to rebuild damaged tissue. Some glucosamine supplements include chondroitin, but what about collagen, hyaluronic acid, and other micronutrients we have yet to discover?
Instead of supplements, traditional diets included slow-simmered bone broths as their primary source of glucosamine and related nutrients. Homemade stock is easier to make than you think. Simply place the bones (or shells) and other collagen-rich parts into a pot, cover with water, and turn up the heat. Adding a splash of vinegar will help draw out the nutrients. I prefer making stock in my slow cooker so I can let it simmer for 2-3 days. It is imperative to use bones from healthy animals. As with humans, toxins accumulate in the bones and connective tissue of poultry and livestock.
The other family of nutrients important for cellulite recovery are Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s). That means eating fat. Coconut oil is a good source to start with because it contains medium chain fatty acids that are easier to digest. Other sources of healthy fats are cheese, yogurt, butter, and meat from ruminants that graze on pasture (not factory farms). Even beef tallow and lard are healthy sources of EFA’s. The fats to avoid are trans fats, like those found in commercial vegetable oils.
If you are worried that eating fat will make you fat, please read Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes. Another great book on the subject is Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig. The fallacy that dietary fat causes weight gain is easy enough to disprove on your own. I was hesitant to include saturated fats in my diet at first, but I started slowly and did not see any weight gain. Now I happily include as much of these healthy foods in my diet as possible.
Once the right nutrients are included in the diet, they must be properly digested in order to be assimilated into the body. Healing digestive issues is a critical step in cellulite recovery. This means identifying any food sensitivities and rebuilding the intestinal flora. Relying on fiber to “regulate” the digestive system is not a long term solution to digestive difficulties. Instead, we must focus on rebuilding the ecosystem of healthy bacteria in the gut. Traditional societies ate a diet rich in fermented foods. The probiotics and enzymes in these foods help assimilate nutrients into the body. To learn more about the elusive anti cellulite diet, see The Kitchen: Treating Cellulite with Food.
Another way to improve lymphatic health is to enhance the body’s natural ability to eliminate waste.
Colon cleanses and fasting are extreme ways to help the body detoxify, so they are best conducted under the guidance of a knowledgeable healthcare provider. For our purposes, such extremes are unnecessary and can even be harmful. It is more effective to enhance the body’s natural detoxification capabilities in small ways on a daily basis.
There are many different actions you can take to help your body detoxify. In our segment on treating cellulite in the bathroom, I recommend starting with dry skin brushing because of its particular ability to stimulate lymphatic circulation. We also discuss the use of steam baths with essential oils, mineral salts, and herbs. Massage is another effective way to enhance the body’s ability to eliminate cellular waste. The ancient practice of oil skin scraping is my personal favorite method for keeping the skin’s eliminatory pathways clear and in optimal condition for detoxification.
Over in the CI gym, we explain why many experts believe ancient movement traditions such as yoga and tai chi were specifically designed to enhance lymphatic flow. The lymphatic system does not have a pump to propel lymph throughout the body. Instead, lymph is drawn through lymphatic vessels by a series of one-way valves. Lymph circulates as a result of skeletal movement combined with breath. This is why in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs are said to regulate the water passages.
Dietary improvements are another avenue you can take to enhance detoxification. We are just beginning to explore the subtle yet powerful effects of minerals, phytochemicals, and other micronutrients on the human body. The phytochemicals in cranberry juice, for example, are well known for their purifying effect on the urinary tract. Foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E contain antioxidants that help eliminate free radicals from the body. Even certain herbs, such as oregano and cilantro, are widely celebrated for their detoxifying properties.
There are so many healthy, life-giving foods on this planet. Get out there and start exploring them!
The connection between cellulite and hormones is not well understood. Some experts claim excess estrogen causes cellulite while others argue cellulite is caused by estrogen deficiency. What they agree on is the clear connection between cellulite and hormonal imbalance.
According to Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP, men rarely develop cellulite unless they are in an estrogen-dominant state, such as with certain genetic disorders or when receiving estrogen therapy for prostate cancer. The hormones in birth control pills are known to interfere with circulation, a causative factor in the formation of cellulite.
In addition to estrogen, our investigation has also led us to focus on hormones related to the thyroid. Millions of women suffer from low thyroid function, many of them without even knowing it. The Broda Barnes self test for thyroid deficiency is an easy way to gauge your thyroid health at home. This method is more sensitive than the blood tests most doctors use to measure thyroid hormones, so it can help diagnose thyroid deficiency before severe symptoms develop. We are also interested in the critical role of iodine in thyroid health, and how other toxic halogens can interfere with thyroid function. The conection between iodine and cellulite is still tentative, but our investigative efforts continue.
A comprehensive cellulite treatment plan should include a focused effort to balance the hormonal system. A good place to start is by charting your monthly cycle, especially your waking body temperature, to raise your awareness of what is going on in your own body. (Click here to learn about the intriguing natural hormone balancing technique I am currently testing.)
Because it is still so poorly understood, the hormonal aspect of cellulite is a regular subject of interest on The Cellulite Investigation blog. To stay updated on the latest developments, subscribe to receive CI posts via RSS or email (you will receive three posts per week) or sign up for our bimonthly cellulite support group newsletter.
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