“Orange peel”, “mattress”, “dimpling” – These are a few of the names we use to describe one of the most common “diseases” women experience nowadays – Cellulite.
What is most frustrating is that cellulite is not only an issue of overweight people. Otherwise healthy women that might look fit and slim can have just as much cellulite on their hips and legs, sometimes even in the lower abdomen. Those flawless pictures you see of models on covers? They are not real. Have a look at them before adding filters in photoshop and you will realize that cellulite does affect every woman. In fact, I have never met a woman without any cellulite, have you?
Last week, we talked about thigh fat and why women tend to store more body fat in their lower body than men. Today, I would like to address Cellulite. What is cellulite and is there are a way to get rid of cellulite naturally?
The Science of Cellulite
While there are some men who might get it, 90-98% of cellulite cases occur in women. To understand what cellulite is, take a look at this picture showing the anatomical structure of our skin.
As you can see in the picture, the epidermis is the outer layer of our skin. Right below the epidermis comes the dermis, filled with hair follicles, sweat glands, blood vessels, nerve receptors and connective tissue. The third part of our skin is called “Hypodermis”. This layer consists mostly of subcutaneous fat. In fact, this is where 50% or more of our body fat is stored.
As you can see in the picture, the dermis and subcutaneous fat are not clearly separated. Some of the fat cells in our Hypodermis might also protrude into the dermis. This is the main cause of cellulite and leads to the uneven look and the “dimpling” of our skin.
Why is cellulite more common in females?
Just like the number of alpha-receptors and beta-receptors in fatty tissue, the anatomy of skin in males is different. There are two main differences between female skin and male skin structure.
1. Thickness of fat layer
The epidermis and dermis in the thighs of males is much thicker, while the first layer of Hypodermis (the fat layer) is much thinner compared to females. This difference occurs during the third trimester of fetus development and is manifested at birth.
2. Distribution of collagen fibers
Another very important difference of skin structure between men and females is the distribution of collagen fibers.
Collagen fibers form our connective tissue, found in the Dermis. Think of the connective tissue as the framework that provides stability of the dermis layer. It offers a necessary insulation between the various nerve receptors, blood vessels and other organelles in our dermis. It consists primarily of collagen. There are different types of collagen fibers, some are inelastic and provide great tensile strength, while others are more elastic and give our skin the ability to extend and return to normal constituency.
While collagen fibers in male skin form more of a mesh or a chain, the collagen fibers of females run vertically through our dermis.
As you can see in the picture, the structure of collagen bonds in males seems to make it impossible for the fat cells underneath the dermis to protrude and lead to uneven look of the skin. In contrast, the vertical alignment of collagen fibers in female skin makes it very easy for fat cells to protrude and grow as they like.
Why is cellulite more prevalent in the lower body?
As I explained in the last article “”, women tend to hold most of their body fat in their thighs. The reason for this is the different distribution of adrenal receptors regulating fat burning and fat storage. While men have more beta-receptors (for fat burning) in their thighs and less in their belly, it is the exact opposite for women.
Cellulite gets worse as we age
As we age, the dermis area starts to get looser, due to the aging process of our collagen and elastic fibers. Thus, this will allow more fat cells to protrude into the dermis and further increase cellulite. In addition to that, muscle mass decreases as we age, while fat storage in our Hypodermis increases. However, this process largely depends on your lifestyle, nutrition and exercise regime.
Cellulite is not a problem of overweight people
Don’t make the mistake to assume that cellulite is directly linked to obesity. In fact, cellulite is most common in very slender women. The reason for this is the structural formation of their dermis. Often called “skinny fat”, those women might look skinny but their connective tissue in their dermis is loose and their subcutaneous fat layer could be just as thick as for someone overweight. In contrast, individuals with less body fat and more muscular definition tend to have less visible cellulite.
How to get rid of cellulite
To reduce the protrude of our fat cells into our dermis, we need to address the two main causes I explained above.
1. Build a strong mesh of collagen fibers in the dermis
2. Reduce fat cells in our subcutaneous fat
Thus, there are two main methods we can use to fight cellulite. The most effective way to strengthen our connective tissue is exercise, particularly strength training.
Lifting weights does not only lead to muscle mass but also to tighter and more collagen fibers. Collagen consists of amino acids, protein, just as muscle fibers. In addition to that, increased muscle mass burns more calories, which leads us to the second most effective method.
The most effective way to decrease fat cells in our subcutaneous fat is fat loss (not to be mistaken with weight loss!).
Make sure to read my series on muscle-building and fat loss at the same time. To reduce cellulite, this is the program you need to follow!
Other methods to speed up the process
Increase blood flow
Effective ways to increase circulation are frequent massages and foam rolling. Foam rolling might be very painful to you but it is one of the best ways to loosen up your muscles and increase blood flow to your problem areas. This will help eliminate toxic end products and increase fat burning, when combined with the right nutrition and exercise regime.
Free radicals occur as end-products of metabolic pathways and can attack our DNA. This does not only lead to development of cancer but also speeds up the aging process. Foods such as turmeric, lycopene, green and white tea, rosehip, silybin / silymarin contain antioxidants that bind those free radicals and make them ineffective, thus protecting our dermal connective tissue.
There are many supplements on the market and only a small percentage of them are effective. I recommend to stick to a diet consisting of whole foods and antioxidants, as listed above. However, these two supplements can be very useful for people with cellulite, joint pain, rheumatic diseases and arthritis.
- Collagen: Collagen is a kind of protein our body needs not only to build connective tissue but also for our joints. You might not be getting in enough collagen through protein sources, thus it makes sense to supplement collagen. If taken in daily, it will tighten your skin and your joints and ligaments will feel much more stable.
- Glucosamin: This is a carbohydrate that can be found in our connective tissue, ligaments and joint capsules. Glucosamin consists of sugar and binds a lot of water. This is crucial for tight, full skin and healthy joints.
Eat foods high in Vitamin c and bioflavonoids, such as rutin, quercetin, luteolin to improve dermal collagen integrity. Collagen can be found naturally in green lipped mussel and chicken sternum / cartilage.
Improve estrogen elimination
Excess Estrogen stored in our fat cells can decrease fat burning and enhance fat storage. Thus, we need to improve our body’s (especially our liver’s) ability to eliminate toxic end-products and hormones that are not needed anymore.
Increase your consumption of green vegetables, such as broccoli, broccoli sprouts, kale, spinach, radish, watercress, cabbage and cauliflower. In addition to that, make sure to get in enough B vitamins, which can be found in most vegetables and complex carbohydrates, such as quinoa a wild rice.
Find ways to lower stress. Stress leads to release of Cortisol, which decreases circulation, toxin removal and nutrient flow to skin tissue.
How about you? Are you struggling with cellulite? If you liked this article, please give it a “like”, comment below and share it!
Next week, I will share the best exercises to specifically target the lower body and increase blood flow, fat loss and tighten up our connective tissue!