Basically, cellulite is those unsightly lumps and dimples you see in your skin, primarily on legs and thighs. Cellulite forms when fat cells (which are arranged vertically underneath the skin) push upwards into the skin. This gives the appearance of cellulite, they also call it “orange peel” or “cottage cheese” skin.
Cellulite is a common cosmetic problem that bothers many women these times. But it not only looks distasteful, it may be a sign of health issues. For example, the hormonal imbalance is one of the main reasons for cellulite. So let’s discuss this in more detail.
What hormones cause cellulite?
Usually, people speak about the lack of activity as the main cause of cellulite. And that’s fair enough. But if you train regularly and still have a lot of cellulite on your body, this may be a sign that you have a hormonal imbalance. Hormones such as estrogen, insulin, prolactin, noradrenaline and thyroid hormones all contribute to the development of cellulite.
You may not realize that the hip and thigh region is heavily influenced by female hormones – that’s the reason why cellulite in this area is so common among women. If you’ve been through puberty, had a baby, or been through menopause (or all of the above) you might have noticed that hormonal changes seem to increase the appearance of these dimples. The development of cellulite in women is a natural process, and it starts with estrogen.
Estrogen stimulates fibroblasts to make collagenase which acts on collagen and breaks it down, which in turn starts the cycle of cellulite formation. This means that the higher levels of estrogen (or poor estrogen metabolism) cause low levels of collagen, and therefore, increase the cellulite appearance.
Women with cellulite may be experiencing estrogen dominance, which is an imbalance in the ratio between estrogen and progesterone. It’s also possible, especially during menopause, to be both estrogen-deficient and estrogen dominant. There may still be too much estrogen related to progesterone, though the levels of both hormones are too low. Finding a hormonal balance helps to address a number of other issues, not just cellulite.
Prolactin, the hormone responsible for the development of breastmilk, increases water retention in fatty tissues. That water retention makes each fat cell swell, appearing larger and lumpier on the skin’s surface. Prolactin causes an increase in water retention. This creates a more visible form of cellulite, with each cell appearing larger.
Prolactin also decreases your ability to metabolize fat. High levels of prolactin force out the fat-burning hormones, testosterone and progesterone. Prolactin influences women’s inability to lose weight while breastfeeding, and that is why cellulite becomes more visible during pregnancy and postpartum.
High levels of insulin could put a person at a higher risk of developing cellulite. The body releases insulin every time you eat food, especially if it’s high in carbohydrates.
If your body can’t manage insulin properly (for example, when you have insulin-resistance) or if you are not regularly active, insulin tends to convert the carbs into fat cells which are stored as triglycerides (called lipogenesis). The fat cells in the lamellar layer become bigger, which pushes on the fat cells in the areolar layer, increasing their visibility.
That said, it’s still a good idea to ensure your diet doesn’t contain excessive amounts of refined sugars or carbs. An appropriate diet controls insulin and reduces body fat by reducing the inflammatory. It has now become clear that the first step in treating cellulite, excess adipose tissue and inflammation is to control insulin through diet and physical exercise.
Carbohydrates are the primary driver for the release of insulin. This doesn’t mean that all carbs are bad. Carbohydrates that are high in fiber (think green vegetables) create lower spikes of insulin and some starchy veggies (like sweet potato, squash and peas) produce a bit more insulin, but their high fiber content is important. A diet high in fiber along with sufficient water consumption support regular digestion and improves blood flow.
To reduce the appearance of cellulite, the best diet will contain high-quality whole foods and sufficient proteins. You should avoid preservatives, added sodium or sugar. Organic seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds, vegan protein powder are all good for you. Colorful vegetables should be eaten abundantly, providing the body with a high amount of fiber, antioxidants and potassium. Healthy fats found in whole foods should also be plentiful, including avocados, egg yolks, seeds and olives.
Thyroid issues can also be the factor of excess cellulite. When the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones it’s called hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormones are instrumental in regulating the metabolism, and if there are not enough of them being produced in the body, the metabolism slows.
Since hypothyroidism lowers the basal metabolic rate, it will surely put one at risk for developing cellulite especially with symptoms of cold extremities. Thus, if you have prominent cellulite on your body, you should check your thyroids first. In some patients, early cellulite may be the only sign of hypothyroidism.
Cellulite also develops due to a deficiency of minerals such as zinc, selenium, manganese and iodine. These deficiencies result in hypothyroidism, which is the thyroid’s inability to produce thyroxin and a slow metabolism.
Another common hormonal imbalance that may cause cellulite is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). There are five main symptoms of PCOS: irregular periods, ovaries becoming enlarged and containing fluid-filled sacs, acne, unwanted hair growth and weight gain – including the build-up of fat and cellulite.
Gut health and estrogen
A healthy gut removes estrogen from the body through the bowel. If your gut isn’t functioning properly, estrogen gets reabsorbed back into the body and can cause cramping, bloating, and heavy periods. Research indicates that imbalances in the gut may lead to a decrease in estrogen levels and an increase in androgen biosynthesis through lowered beta-glucuronidase activity. This leads to the hormonal imbalances characteristic of PCOS.
The birth control pills impact your gut by disrupting its normal flora or bacteria. It creates an environment where yeast and harmful bacteria can grow. This may cause gas, bloating, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, acne, eczema, and leaky gut syndrome. The pill can inflame the digestive tract and increase your risk for autoimmune diseases.
You can support a healthy microbiome and balance of estrogen in your body through a combination of detoxification, diet, and supplementation to encourage the body to keep the balance. Fermented foods (include kimchi, sauerkraut, and kvass etc) are known for increasing gut diversity and rebalancing gut bacteria. Prebiotic and probiotics supplements can be also very beneficial for your health. Minimize your use of plastics such as plastic water bottles and food containers, especially when heated, to avoid xenoestrogens and toxins.
How to reduce hormonal cellulite?
First of all, check your hormones to learn whether you have any imbalances. Estrogen and progesterone, along with the adrenal and thyroid hormones, are main hormones that may be responsible for how your body looks like. So you should check these hormones in the first place if you have excess cellulite.
Second, change your lifestyle by implementing an anti-inflammatory, low carb diet to balance your blood sugar and improve gut health. As it was mentioned earlier, a low carb diet can be very beneficial for managing insulin levels and losing weight. You should also pay attention to your gut and liver health, as they are responsible for estrogen metabolism. Practice detox from time to time to help your body get rid of excess toxins. This should help you to reduce the appearance of cellulite pretty fast.
As you can see from this post, hormones play a huge role in developing cellulite. If you eat healthy and work out regularly but still don’t see results, consider checking your hormones – they may be the ones to blame.
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