Summer is finally in full swing and it is bathing suit season! If cellulite is an issue for you, you are among friends as 90% of women are affected.  The catch?  Up to 98% of cellulite occurs in women only.  No fair!

Cellulite is a completely normal cosmetic defect of the skin that is not infectious or inflammatory.  It appears as a characteristic “orange peel” or “cottage cheese” appearance on the skin of the thighs, hips, buttocks, arms, abdomen and neck, and worsens with both weight gain and age.

Women and men have completely different structures to their subcutaneous tissue.  In the thighs of men, a thin subcutaneous fat layer is kept in check by an extensive network of crisscrossed connective tissue walls.  This thick connective tissue layer is firmly attached to the overlying skin, keeping the underlying fat layer in check.  In women, there are three (!!!) layers of subcutaneous fat arranged in fat cell chambers.  The overlying connective tissue is arranged in dividing walls that loosely attach to the skin, but do not hold down the fat layers in place.  This unfortunate arrangement for women leads to the fat protruding through the connective tissue layer, and a pitting deformation of the skin.

Although cellulite is not dangerous, it may give you clues about your health.  Cellulite may be related to hormone imbalance, specifically an excess of estrogen within the body, which is another reason why predominantly women are affected.  The very low percentage of men who have cellulite suffer from low levels of androgens like testosterone, and higher levels of estrogen.  This is usually due to an underlying condition such as Klinefelter syndrome, or hypogonadism.

Other contributors to cellulite are low thyroid function (hypothyroidism), adrenal dysfunction (elevated adrenaline and cortisol), and blood sugar imbalance.  Check out the common signs listed below.  Your cellulite may be trying to tell you something!

Excess estrogen:

  • Weight gain at the hips and thighs
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) – sugar cravings, irritability, water retention
  • Heavy menses
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Personal or family history of breast cancer

Low thyroid function:

  • Easy weight gain
  • Unable to lose weight
  • Fatigue
  • Hair thinning
  • Depression
  • Constipation

Adrenal dysfunction:

  • Abdominal weight gain
  • Fatigue/ “tired but wired” feeling
  • Insomina / waking between 3-5am
  • High stress level
  • Allergies

Blood sugar imbalance:

  • Easy weight gain
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Overeating
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Diagnosis of pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or syndrome x

Prevention and Treatment of Cellulite:

Your cellulite may be determined as early as within the womb!  Who knew your mom had so much to do with your cellulite?  Your mom’s nutritonal status during pregnancy determines both the number of fat cells in your body, and the size of those fat cells!  This point is really unfair, as your cellulite may have already been in the works before you were born.

If any of the conditions discussed above are an issue for you (excess estrogen, low thyroid function, adrenal dysfunction, or blood sugar imbalance), your doctor may decide to do testing or treatment specific to your diagnosis.

Cellulite can be prevented by exercise and a healthy diet.  Keeping that subcutaneous fat layer to a minimum will prevent bulging and extra stress on the connective tissue.  Remember that the connective tissue degrades both with age and with pressure from enlarged fat cells.  Vitamin C and gotu kola (a plant extract) produce glucosaminoglycans (GAGs) and maintain the integrity of the connective tissue.  Ensuring adequate testosterone levels, especially through menopause, is also important to prevent breakdown of the connective tissue and underlying muscle layers.

Blood flow and lymphatic drainage also play a role in development of cellulite.  Blood stasis, in the case of varicose veins, leads to a buildup of fluid and toxins in the interstitial space (the space between your fat cells).  This creates even more pressure on the connective tissue, and can lead to a pitting, bulging or dimpling appearance to the skin, and a feeling of heaviness in the limb.  Massage of the affected area, and dry skin brushing improve both blood movement and lymphatic flow.  Ensure that you are starting at the peripheral end of the limb and moving in a direction towards the heart.  If you suffer from varicose veins, liver congestion, and/or estrogen excess, further liver support and a detoxification program may also be of benefit.