Fascia is a specific type of connective tissue that is found literally everywhere in the body. It is under your skin, it envelops the organs, it is layered around muscle and is truly everywhere. It is the interplay between fascia, skin and muscle that gives our bodies the ability to move and function, that gives our skin elasticity and youth, it has even been recognized as an important factor in cancer treatment (1)!
We cannot ignore its importance in the body yet we rarely think to address its needs directly. Today I want to challenge you to do so with a few simple steps that can increase your health, vitality, beauty and wellness.
#1 - Collagen Is Your Friend.
Fascia is made up densely packed collagen fibers and regularly consuming collagen can help to nourish and strengthen its matrix in the body leading to increased elasticity and firmer skin. A great way to get collagen is to make or buy Bone Broth - essentially, bones (chicken, fish, beef, your choice) that have been simmered for 24-48 hours with a little apple cider vinegar splashed in the water to help demineralize the bones. Making broth not your thing? No problem! You can buy pre-made bone broth over the counter, buy powdered collagen such as Great Lakes Collagen Powder or, if you are a vegetarian, you can look for an Acacia collagen powder or capsule.
#2 - Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate.
Beyond the densely packed collagen fibers, fascia is 2/3rds water and if you are ever interested enough to look online at living fascia videos on YouTube (yes, these are videos taken inside peoples bodies during surgery, not for the faint of heart!) you will see that living fascia is in fact made up of vacuoles that actually transport fluids in the body! There is communication going on there that we still don’t completely understand, but its happening via water. If you want supple fascia and good communication throughout its network, drink water and lots of it! If you can consistently get 64 ounces of water or a little more each day and you haven’t been doing it already I guarantee you will see a big difference in the appearance of your skin after a few weeks times.
#3 - Get Acupuncture.
Yes, as an Acupuncture with 10+ years experience I know I am biased, but even the 2015 Fascial Research Congress (1) recognized the importance of Acupuncture as a way to positively affect fascia in the body. It has long been known that the “de Qi” or “arrival of Qi” sensation that we typically feel at the site of an acupuncture needle insertion has to do with fascia because fascia will actually grab the needle in the body and tug on it. Have you ever watched a fly get caught in a spiders web and noticed the vibrations throughout the entire web structure? Acupuncture has a ripple effect like this on the fascia which increases movement and communication. Some people even believe that fascia is actually the mechanism of action by which Acupuncture works from a western scientific perspective (3) but this has yet to be concretely confirmed. Suffice to say, we know Acupuncture works to treat pain, to relax muscles and improve function and also to treat lines and wrinkles with Facial Acupuncture, can affect fascia in a positive way and is worth being part of a fascial support program!
#4 - Use Smooth Flowing Movements and Slow Dynamic Stretching
Fascia has so much fluid in it, its much like a sponge. You need to wring it out and let it fill up again to flush it. This exchange refreshes the tissue and renews the area reducing inflammation and free radicals and improving fluidity and motion (2). Gentle vinyasa-type yoga flows that involve slow, fluid movement or Chinese energetic exercises like Tai Qi and Qi Gong are perfect for enlivening and nourishing your fascia.
#5 - Gua Sha and Foam Rolling
In addition to the movement recommendations above, Gua Sha, which translates to “scraping” and is a Chinese myofascial release technique, and foam rolling which you may have seen at the gym or a pilates class, are another way to squeeze out the sponge and give it a chance to refill again. The focused pressure and long strokes involved in these types of treatments encourage movement and flow. Gua Sha is also used in Facial Acupuncture techniques specifically to decrease lines and wrinkles and improve skin tone by activating the fascial system.
This may sound like a lot, but if you can incorporate these simple recommendations into your life on a regular basis you will see and feel a difference. Improved energy, increased flexibility in your body as well as improved elasticity in your skin which will give you a more youthful glow and vital appearance are just some of the benefits I feel confident you will enjoy if you give your fascia a little love.
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.