In my practice I see significant numbers of women who find that the presence of cellulite on their buttocks and thighs really gets under their skin. While it may not be their primary concern, many women are keen to do what they can to rid themselves of the puckered, orange-peely dermal distortion that is characteristic of the condition. Ever on the lookout for novel, natural approaches to health issues, my eye was recently caught by an article heralding the arrival of anti-cellulite jeans. The jeans are impregnated with a form of vitamin A (retinol) which is said to reduce cellulite by promoting healthier structure in the skin. I’m all for innovation in nutritionally-oriented medicine, but even I have to admit the idea that a cure for cellulite may be found in this pair of jeans is stretching it a bit.
Those looking for a leg-up in the smoothing of cellulite may be interested to learn of other natural approaches that offer real potential here. One common feature in cellulite is fluid build-up (oedema), which in natural medicine is sometimes taken to a natural bodily reaction to excess ‘toxicity’ in the system. For this reason, those with cellulite are often recommended to reduce their toxic load, primarily by eating as natural and unprocessed a diet as possible. An emphasis on nutritious but easy-to-assimilate foods such as fruit and vegetables, washed down with plenty of water, is the cornerstone of diets designed to help the body clear itself of internal effluent.
The fact that cellulite occurs almost exclusively in women and does not blight pre-pubertal thighs points to the hormone oestrogen as a likely provoking factor. Many natural practitioners recognise a relative excess of oestrogen in the body (sometimes referred to as ‘oestrogen dominance’) as a condition in itself, common manifestations of which include irritability, fluid retention and breast tenderness before a period. In practice, the herb Agnus castus (40 drops of tincture taken each morning) seems to smooth this hormonal imbalance, and may help to smooth the appearance of the skin too.
There is some evidence that fluid accumulation characteristic of cellulite is related to ‘leakiness’ in the small blood vessels under the skin. Herbal preparations of Horse chestnut may help here, because a substance in this plant (aescin) appears to have the ability to reduce leakage from the body’s vessels. Another factor that appears to underlie cellulite is reduced flow of blood and lymph fluid (essentially, the body’s sewage) in the affected area. Taking a preparation of the herb Ginkgo biloba (120 mg of extract per day) may help to stimulate the circulation, and is an ideal accompaniment to Horse chestnut (500 – 600 mg of extract per day) for those wishing to counteract the fluid stagnation that is a feature of cellulite.
Another approach to getting blood and lymph flowing more effectively is vigorous brushing of the skin of the legs. Brushing in an upwardly direction encourages the draining of lymph and excess fluid from affected parts, and helps to stimulate the circulation too. Brushes made specifically for this purpose are available in health food stores, and are ideally employed on dry skin for about five minutes, twice each day. Skin brushing, in addition to other natural approaches, can work wonders to transform the orange peel appearance of cellulite into peachy skin.