If you're plagued with cellulite, try these natural cures from Dr Harald Gaier
Q-I am 34 years old and until two years ago my body was always bikini-ready, a real source of feminine pride for me and the cause of envy in many of my girlfriends. But now I have wobbly cellulite in both my buttocks and thighs, like the surface of a miniature mattress! Uggh! Everyone tells me there isn't anything that can be done about it, so I should just put up with it. Is that really true? Please tell me it isn't so! And why don't men seem to get this hideous problem?
R.T., Welwyn Garden City, Herts
A-'Cellulite' is the French word for the distressing cosmetic skin defect you describe. It shouldn't be confused with 'cellulitis'-which is an unpleasant diffuse, inflammatory and often infectious process involving connective tissue cells that generally shows up as an angry pink patch of skin.
With cellulite, the primary areas of involvement are the thighs and buttocks, and very occasionally the lower neck area, and there's no change in skin colour. In this condition the three layers of subcutaneous fatty tissue that lie beneath the dermis, which sits just below the skin (epidermis), are disturbed.
The reason this affects only women and not men has to do with a fundamental difference in the structure of the subcutaneous fat tissue in men vs women. The first layer of subcutaneous fat in men is slightly thinner than in women and the fat cells have walls of criss-crossing connective tissue. In contrast, the subcutaneous fat layer on a woman's thighs and neck is made up of large, upright fat cells separated by curved connective tissue walls . When these fat cells protrude up into the dermis, the fatty lumps are projected onto the skin surface, giving it that aptly described 'orange-peel' appearance.
The difference is especially clear when you pinch the skin and subcutaneous tissue on the thighs of men and women. On women you're likely to see bulges and pits-like the surface of a mattress-but on most men the skin will only fold or furrow.
As women get older, their connective tissues become even thinner, which contributes to the development of cellulite and its granular texture along with the tightness and heaviness that usually accompanies it. In the very rare instances where this 'mattress' phenomenon is seen in men, it usually suggests a hormonal (androgen) deficiency. Recent DNA-based animal research has discovered that females store fat more efficiently than males (in other words, they lay down more fat deposits than males do while eating the same diet), and the fat cells of females also behave differently from those of males.1
In women, the tissues on the thighs have more of a certain type of receptor that actually causes the fat cells to make even more fat. These receptors (alpha-adrenergic receptors) outnumber the fat-burning 'thermogenic' beta-adrenergic receptors by a whopping nine to one. It's no wonder women get cellulite on their thighs despite being significantly more efficient at burning calories during exercise than men are.
But these anatomical differences don't mean that you can't do anything about cellulite if you have it. Gradual weight reduction, lymphatic massage, skin-brushing and vigorous exercise all should be part of your first course of treatment, and they can usually improve the appearance of any cellulite you may have.
Adopt a diet low in refined carbohydrates and fats, but high in complex carbs. The easiest regime to follow is a macrobiotic diet, which involves eating rice and other whole grains as a dietary staple, supplemented by other foods like local vegetables, fish and other seafood.
Avoid any highly processed or refined foods and most fatty or animal products, although chicken is allowed if balanced with lots of fruits and veg.
Macrobiotics also addresses how you eat by recommending that you chew thoroughly and avoid overeating.
As you may have noticed, slim women and female athletes rarely have cellulite, and neither do dancers. And given that dancing predominantly moves butts and thighs-the two biggest problem areas-vigorous dancing may be the ideal exercise for getting rid of that cellulite while having fun while you're at it.
Besides diet and exercise, you should also massage regularly with a string glove or loofah, using aromatherapy.
Although there's a raft of cosmetic formulas on the market making big claims, when put to the test under long-term scientific scrutiny, they have generally been found to be no more effective than
A better option is to make your own highly effective-and fragrant-massage oil, using the following recipe:
Avocado or almond oil
Gently massage the affected areas twice daily using five drops of the oil over small areas and 10 drops over larger ones.3
I have found the remedy Dichapetalum to be effective for cellulite, but only when used in the lower potencies (3D, 4D and 6D). There's also scientific proof of its effectiveness, which was established in an extended homeopathic proving involving a group of male and female medical practitioners.4
A number of herbal preparations can also help. Aescin, a mixture of saponins and the active ingredient in horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) seed extracts, has been shown to help reduce water retention in cases of cellulite. By reducing the number and size of the pores in capillary walls, it also reduces the fluid leakage that contributes to bloating.5
You might also try taking an extract of the medicinal plant Centella asiatica, also known as gotu kola and Indian pennywort.It works as a diuretic while also stimulating the blood circulation-so improving the health and condition of the skin.
Numerous studies have shown that Centella extract supports connective tissue by stimulating the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans, essential components of connective tissue and skin that are also the body's natural moisturizers, without promoting excess collagen or cell growth.6
Tinctures that are 70 per cent triterpenic acids (natural bioactive plant compounds with health benefits) taken orally have demonstrated impressive results in the treatment of cellulite.
1-Int J Obes [Lond], 2010; 34: 989-1000
2-Z Hautkr, 1973; 48: 1009-17
3-Bartrum T. Bartrum's Encyclopaedia of Herbal Medicine. London: Robinson Publishing Ltd, 1998: 105
4-Allg Homoopath Ztg, 1960; 24: 127
5-Clin Ter, 1965; 32: 297-328; Arzneim Forsch, 1964, 14: 892
6-Clin Ter, 1981; 99: 507-13; Minerva Cardioangiol, 1982; 30: 201-7