The common wisdom on cellulite is that to lose cellulite, you need to lose weight. But in our interview with Dr. Bruno Chikly, one of the world’s foremost experts on the lymphatic system, he describes cellulite as pockets of fat that will not dissolve following an extreme fast. Some studies show that weight loss can actually increase cellulite.
Instead of focusing on losing weight, it is more effective to treat cellulite by focusing on consuming key nutrients to repair it. As we learned in our Cellulite 101 Series, cellulite is the visible component of damaged connective tissue, more specifically, the tissue connecting the subcutaneous fat to the skin. The body will repair this damaged tissue naturally when given the right raw materiel, but these nutrients need to be adequately digested and then circulated to the outermost cells of the body.
Whether you eat the typical “healthy” modern diet or the typical “unhealthy” modern diet, some of the most critical nutrients for healing cellulite will be glaringly missing.
An effective anti-cellulite diet will provide the proper nutrients to repair connective tissue, maximize digestion of those nutrients, and foster healthy circulation both to and from the cells. Here in the CI kitchen, our investigation focuses on foods that have a significant impact on each of these core functions.
In The Cellulite Solution, Dr. Howard Murad identifies a key nutrient that is particularly good at repairing connective tissue: glucosamine. When his patients start taking glucosamine supplements regularly, Dr. Murad claims they often see results with their cellulite in a matter of weeks. He says glucosamine isn’t readily found in food, but that’s not true.
Before the advent of our industrialized food supply, homemade bone broths were an essential element in human diets around the world. From chicken feet to cow knuckles, people didn’t waste any part of the animals they worked so hard to hunt or raise. Practically every part that wasn’t consumed directly was thrown into the pot where it would simmer for hours, resulting in a nutrient-dense, mineral-rich broth.
Traditional slow-simmered bone broth is rich in the raw material the body needs to repair connective tissue, which makes perfect sense considering bone broth is made from connective tissue. The nutrients in broth include glucosamine, chondroitin, gelatin, silicon, sulphur, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, trace minerals, and probably other micronutrients we have yet to discover.
Broths are relatively easy to make at home. You can find basic instructions here (although I like to cook it in a slow cooker instead of a pot so I’m not tied to the house the whole time). If you aren’t inclined to make your own broth, you can purchase it online. One of my favorite online food retailers, Vital Choice, sells organic chicken broth and beef broth (use code VCAF14 for ten percent off). A more economical option is to inquire about local retailers from a chapter leader of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), a nonprofit organization that promotes the revival of traditional foods. WAPF founder Sally Fallon Morell and Dr. Kaayla Daniel wrote a book about broth called Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World.
*One note of caution with homemade broth: it is imperative to use the best quality ingredients you can find. It is especially important to avoid using poultry if it is raised on feed that is not organic. Poultry feed is sprayed with fluoride-based pesticides that accumulate in chicken bones and connective tissue, just like it does in humans. (As you will see below, fluoride is turning out to be our number one suspect in the case on cellulite.)
Another way to incorporate these nutrients into your diet is through quality food-based supplements such as Vital Proteins Beef Gelatin. I like the Vital Proteins brand because they use bovine hides made from cattle that graze on pasture and are not treated with hormones, steroids, or antibiotics. They also make a version from collagen peptides that will not gel when mixed into cold liquids, such as smoothies.
Most cellulite experts are quick to recommend essential fatty acids (EFAs) and fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) as crucial components of the elusive anti-cellulite diet. Yet since most of these same experts are stuck in conventional thinking that says saturated fat is bad for you, they advise against eating most of the foods that are richest in essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins! Just like with Dr. Murad and bone broth, they are missing the cellulite solution that is right under their noses.
To repair fat, you need to eat fat. Not just any fat, of course —quality, nutrient-dense fat. But what does that mean?
Like with bone broth, the answer can be found by looking at traditional diets. Foods high in saturated fat such as butter, cheese, fatty seafood, and lard were prized and consumed liberally in non-industrialized societies where ailments such as heart disease and obesity were virtually nonexistent. Our investigation indicates cellulite was nonexistent in traditional societies, too.
The idea that eating saturated fat makes you fatter is intuitive, but inaccurate. Does eating muscle automatically make you more muscular? Does eating liver give you a bigger liver? Obviously the body is more complex than that. People started avoiding saturated fat when researchers decided it was the cause of the rising heart disease epidemic, a theory known as the lipid hypothesis. The lipid hypothesis is widely accepted in the medical community, but that does not mean it is correct.
Our bodies crave fat-soluble nutrients and we need them to maintain hormonal balance, repair cell membranes, lubricate connective tissue, and so much more. Fat also triggers satiety, which explains why people on low-fat diets are always hungry. Eventually the hunger becomes overwhelming and the diet will be broken. It’s not willpower, it’s physiology. By denying ourselves traditional sources of fat, we are hurting our bodies in more ways than we realize.
The quality of the fat you consume is critical. Like with humans, animals accumulate fat-soluble toxins in their fat. When it comes to healing cellulite, it is counterproductive to consume fats from unhealthy animals which unfortunately describes the majority of animal products found in your average grocery store. Below are some of the healthy sources of fat we have uncovered in the course of our investigation on cellulite.
*Please note, saturated fats require bile secreted by the gallbladder for digestion. Bile is made of fat, so your gallbladder will stop providing adequate amounts of bile if you aren’t eating enough fat on a regular basis. This will improve as your body adjusts to the change in diet. For this reason, start slow. Coconut products such as coconut oil and coconut butter are good saturated fats to start with because they don’t require bile for digestion (reference). Trans fats such as shortening, margarine, and other hydrogenated vegetable oils are industrially mutated fats and should be strictly avoided. Herbs and fermented foods, as described in the next sections, can help with fat digestion.
Wild-caught fatty fish and seafood: Seafood provides a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is an integral component of cell membranes throughout the body. Wild-caught fish such as salmon, sablefish, and tuna are the best sources but shellfish are good, too. Concerns about mercury in fish are turning out to be inflated, but most cold-water fatty fish and seafood are low in mercury and other toxins, anyway. The salmon from Vital Choice is the best quality I know of. (I purchase the bulk packs because they are more economical. Click on the coupon at right to save ten percent.)
Fish oil: Fish oil is another way to include fat-soluble nutrients from fish in your diet, although it might not be as beneficial as eating fish directly. The fish oil industry is crowded with questionable products these days, so it’s best to do some research before making a selection. One of the brands at the top of my list right now is extra virgin cod liver oil from Rosita Real Foods (use coupon code loyal10 for ten percent off).
Grass-fed meats: Animal products contain certain essential fatty acids not present in fish. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), for example, is an EFA found primarily in the fat of ruminants. Studies show CLA to be particularly effective at reducing cellulite. CLA is up to five hundred percent higher in grass-fed beef than in grain-fed. Liver and other organ meats were sacred foods in many traditional cultures and are particularly dense in fat-soluble vitamins. If you are like me and don’t like the taste of liver, a quality liverwurst like the one from U.S. Wellness Meats is a tasty way to include it in your diet. I like to put it in salads with avocado and tomatoes. They also sell grass-fed beef, lamb, and bison.
Raw dairy: Not everyone can tolerate dairy, but grass-fed dairy can be a beneficial addition to your anti-cellulite diet plan. In addition to ensuring the cow was raised in the traditional manner, meaning on pasture, it is also important the milk is handled in the traditional manner.
Pasteurization was implemented at the end of the nineteenth century as a temporary solution until urban dairies could find a way to produce cleaner milk. Instead, the urban milk industry ended up relying on pasteurization as a crutch so they could continue to sell unhealthy milk on a permanent basis (see The Untold Story of Milk). Pasteurization destroys nutrients that make milk healthy and easy to digest. Some milk is ultra-pastuerized to extend its shelf life, making it even less digestible. Homogenization, a process that breaks up the fat globules so the cream doesn’t rise to the surface, is another non-traditional process that should be avoided.
Raw, organic, grass-fed whole milk, cream, cheese, butter, ghee, yogurt, and kefir are powerful components of an anti-cellulite diet. Raw cheeses are easiest to start with since they are available at gourmet food stores and Whole Foods. For local sources of other raw dairy products, see the Real Milk Finder at realmilk.com.
Free-roaming poultry: Another powerful group of foods that contain cellulite-reducing fat includes chicken, turkey, goose, or duck products from poultry raised in the traditional manner, meaning they were outside eating bugs instead of caged and debeaked. You can eat the meat itself or cook with the rendered fat. Even eggs, long vindicated from their maligned status as a health food, have potent cellulite-healing properties. Their yolks are a major source of fatty nutrients, including a type of lipid called lecithin that is particularly important for repairing cell membranes.
Traditional cooking oils: Researchers often overlook the importance of cooking oil when conducting epidemiologic surveys on diet. For example, in The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner briefly mentions how one of the centenarians he studied walks several miles each week to buy jugs of lard to cook beans, yet Buettner concludes a plant-based diet is what makes the man so healthy because he eats so many beans.
Traditional cooking oils such as lard, ghee (clarified butter), beef tallow, chicken fat, coconut oil, and palm oil are high in saturated fat and are an important source of fat-soluble nutrients. Extra virgin olive oil is also good for cooking because of its unique chemical composition. Industrialized vegetable oils such as soy, corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, and cottonseed are modern developments that offset the balance of fats in the body and cause free radical damage.
Did you just read that eating butter, steak, and cheese will help you get rid of cellulite? Yes, let it sink in a moment… Once you really understand this information you will realize the ramifications are far-reaching and wonderful.
If you want to learn more about this alternative view of fat, I linked to some of the books I recommend in the images above. The book that initiated my change in view on dietary fat and had the most impact on my thinking was Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price.
Weston Price was the head of research for the National Dental Association from 1914 to 1928. He traveled the world looking for traditional cultures with extremely low incidence of tooth decay. He found 14 cultures who not only did not experience tooth decay, they were also immune from many of the diseases plaguing modern civilization. He published Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in 1939 explaining his conclusion that their robust health was attributable to a high amount of fat-soluble nutrients in their traditional diets, particularly from sources of saturated fat. You can read the book online for free here. The pictures alone are a compelling argument for including more fat in your diet.
Another book that had a profound impact was Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, an investigative journalist for the New York Times. In this extensive work, Taubes outlines the historical development of the lipid hypothesis and explains how the science behind widely accepted nutritional principles went so off course. He argues obesity and heart disease are the result of refined carbohydrates, such as white flour and sugar. His next book on diet, Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It, conveys the same ideas but in a more concise and readable format.
Other recommended books on the topic include The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz, Fat: It’s Not What You Think by Connie Leas, Ignore the Awkward: How the Cholesterol Myths Are Kept Alive by Uffe Ravnskov, and The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How To Avoid It by Malcolm Kendrick.
What good is a nutrient-dense diet if your body is not absorbing the quality raw material you are providing? Healthy digestion is a critical aspect of an effective anti-cellulite diet.
In the first major book on cellulite, Cellulite: Those Lumps, Bumps and Bulges You Couldn’t Lose Before, Nicole Ronsard recommends a high fiber diet to “sweep” the entire digestive system of waste and dead cells. This is a common suggestion in anti-cellulite diet plans. I followed this advice at the outset of The Cellulite Investigation by using psyllium husks for a two week “cleanse,” as prescribed in The Ultimate Cellulite Treatment in a Book by Bronwyn Hewitt. I soon noticed negative side effects that led me to an alternative theory of digestive health.
Fiber is the term used to describe a family of complex carbohydrates that are indigestible to humans. The term includes cellulose and other substances present in the cell walls of plants. As too much fiber “sweeps” through the digestive tract, it can disrupt the delicate ecosystem that exists there. Studies of the human microbiome indicate the human body contains over ten times more microbial cells than human cells. These bacteria help the body break down food, prevent the growth of pathogens, and even create vitamins such as B and K.
Fiber was not a key component in traditional diets. Instead, to aid in digestion they ate foods that are rich in enzymes and help to build healthy internal flora. Cheese, salami, beer, wine, bread, sauerkraut, cider, buttermilk, pickles, yogurt, sour cream, creme fraiche, kefir, soy sauce, fish sauce, kimchi… these are all examples of naturally fermented foods that were eaten in traditional societies on a regular basis. Even the American staples of ketchup, mustard, and relish were traditionally prepared as fermented foods.
In the modern diet, we rarely eat fermented foods and when we do they are often pasteurized. But raw, naturally fermented foods are increasingly available at health food stores and farmers markets, or you can experiment with making your own. Books like Wild Fermentation and The Body Ecology Diet provide practical information on fermenting traditional foods at home. I purchase fermented foods (including fermented ketchup and mustard!) from a farm coop I found through my local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), a nonprofit organization that promotes the revival of traditional foods. You can find contact information for your local chapter here.
One of the easiest ways to benefit from fermented foods on a daily basis is by drinking raw apple cider vinegar with meals. Dilute 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in 2-4 ounces of water. Although it is more difficult to find, raw beet kvass is an incredibly nutritious fermented drink. In Ayurveda, red-staining foods such as beets are known as excellent movers of lymph (reference). Just 2-4 ounces of beet kvass before a meal will help stimulate the production of bile needed to digest fat.
*While not as natural an option as fermented foods, a wide variety of probiotic and prebiotic supplements have exploded onto the market in the last few years. Quality varies widely so it’s important to do your research. The one at the top of my list right now is a probiotic/prebiotic blend called Prescript Assist as recommended by one of my go-to health experts, Chris Kresser. Chris also wrote a great article about fiber that explains why it’s okay to eat fiber in vegetables, etc. but the “functional fibers” in bran cereals and supplements are best avoided.
This is another example of whether you are eating processed junk food or a “healthy” diet as recommended by the CDC, you will be missing out.
The human body is mostly composed of water. Salt water, to be more precise. Our tears are salty. Our sweat is salty. Our lymph is salty. Spinal fluid, amniotic fluid, even blood —they are all salty. The human appetite for salt is strong because we need salt to be healthy. The belief that salt causes hypertension is a new idea that is not supported by scientific evidence.
Many of the studies on salt are conducted with refined salt which is clearly not the same salt humans traditionally consume. For example, sea salt contains over 80 trace minerals and elements essential to the human body. Refined salt contains sodium, chloride, and anti-caking agents. The extra minerals in sea salt are found in small amounts but that is why they are called “trace” minerals, the body only needs them in small amounts. What a fortunate coincidence! By eating a low salt diet or a diet high in refined salt, we offset the natural balance of salt in our bodies and deviate from the way humans have been eating for thousands of years.
With regard to cellulite, salt is needed to balance the level of fluid in and around the cells. In his classic book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, Dr. F. Batmanghelidj explains,
There are two oceans of water in the body: One ocean is held inside the cells of the body and the other is held outside the cells. Good health depends on the delicate balance between the volumes of these two oceans.
When the cells are dehydrated, the body resorts to collecting an emergency supply of fluid outside the cells, making you feel bloated and puffy. Over time, this “wasted water,” as it is referred to in The Cellulite Solution, prevents the body from maintaining healthy connective tissue and cellulite is the result. Dr. Batmanghelidj concludes that the elements needed to keep the inner and outer oceans in balance are water, potassium from food, and salt.
In Salt Your Way to Health, Dr. David Brownstein recommends consuming a quarter teaspoon of salt in your diet for every quart of water you drink (people with kidney problems are an exception). Salting your food to taste is a simple way to add a steady supply of healthy minerals to your diet. I like to use unrefined Celtic Sea Salt or other naturally occurring salts such as Redmond’s Real Salt which is harvested from the remains of an ancient sea in Central Utah. Bathing in sea salt is also recommended, as you will see over in the CI Bath.
Natural herbs can’t be patented and sold for high profits, so there is little incentive for expensive research studies to document their effectiveness. At best, the pharmaceutical industry will extract what is believed to be the active ingredient in an herb and offer it in isolation from the other components. Herbalists, on the other hand, prefer using the whole herb and assert that is the reason natural herbs have fewer side effects.
As with essential oils, herbs require some research prior to use. You could start by reading Healing Wise by Susun Weed or Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar, or by consulting an herbalist or a healthcare practitioner trained in Ayurveda or Traditional Chinese Medicine.
But even common herbs can support your body’s effort to heal cellulite in a variety of ways. A small kitchen garden is a very helpful ally in an anti-cellulite campaign. Rosemary is known to stimulate the lymphatic system. Parsley nourishes the kidneys. Cilantro is a powerful detoxifying agent. Dandelion root supports the liver. Bitter herbs, such as those found in traditional Swedish Bitters, are especially good at prompting the body to produce sufficient bile to digest fats. Milk thistle is another common herb that is particularly beneficial for the liver and kidneys.
Coming soon… In the meantime, here is a clue.