Putting Fascia at the Forefront of Wellness
Why we should move our bodies and eat with the connective tissue in mind.
While exercising and eating healthy have obvious external benefits, the internal benefits are tenfold — especially as far as the connective tissue (i.e., fascia) is concerned. From the lymphatic system to the nervous system, the fascia plays an integral role in the body’s overall health, both physically and emotionally. With stress persistently taxing our bodies, keeping the connective tissue at the forefront of our exercise, diet, and self-care regimens is actually an important part of the future of healthy living.
What the F Is Fascia?
Fascia is the connective tissue that wraps around the entire body “like a full body wetsuit,” explains Lauren Roxburgh, a body alignment specialist and author of The Power Source: The Hidden Key to Ignite Your Core, Empower Your Body, Release Stress and Re-Align Your Life. “It is this living matrix that lies right underneath the skin. It also wraps around each individual muscle and the organs, and it connects our joints as well.” Roxburgh notes that, because of this, fascia can impact the body’s lymphatic system, nervous system, and energy meridians, too.
At its healthiest, connective tissue is like a “liquid crystal” that is both fluid and flexible. But, according to Roxburgh, “trauma lives in the tissue,” which can cause fascia to become thick, dense, rigid, and brittle, resulting in energy blockages, pain, and discomfort throughout the body. “Emotional and physical trauma gets stored in the tissue and, if we don’t emote that energy out, it can get stuck in the hard, dense areas,” she says. This, she explains, is why some deep stretches in yoga might prompt a good cry session. “[This happens when] there’s a memory or some sort of trauma that’s trying to unwind and come out of the body through that movement and breath.” When fascia becomes dense, thick, and brittle, the body might start to also feel “hard, thick, dense, and heavy,” lacking that natural state of “suppleness, fluidity, and grace,” says Roxburgh, adding that it makes our lymphatic system (which is the biological mechanism responsible for detox) and life force energy sluggish, too.
The good news is that it is never too late to give your connective tissue some love. “The beautiful thing about fascia is that it is so malleable, so it can be changed so quickly and so easily,” Roxburgh reassures. From simply having awareness, to movement, to eating certain foods, connective tissue can rēlease and rēset back to its flow state.
The Fitness and Diet Connection
Roxburgh likens weakened connective tissue to a dried up sponge that is hard, brittle, and lacking moisture. With hydration, however, it again becomes soft and supple. One of her tried-and-true ways of adding in that hydration — and working through the denser parts of the fascia — is through foam rolling. “A roller is so amazing because it’s like taking a rolling pin on dough and smoothing away the density,” she explains. She adds that applying pressure to the dense areas helps to release the congestion. “As you roll on a foam roller, you put pressure on the tissue and release the tension.” This allows “blood and lymph [to] come through that tissue, and that is what gives it that suppleness and hydration again — it puts the water back into the sponge.”
Roxburgh is also a huge fan of breathwork exercises because of their effect on the diaphragm, which is an “amazing pump that moves the lymph as well as the breath” through the body. Plus, the diaphragm also plays an important role in digestion and helps create “more elasticity in the lungs.” “If the diaphragm is really wound up and tight with the fascia gluing it down, then the metabolism is going to be more sluggish,” she notes.
In addition to exercise, eating with the connective tissue in mind can also help promote healthy fascia. Roxburgh says one of the most important things to get into your diet for a healthy fascia is fiber, which “helps scrub and clean out the organs from the inside out.” She recommends at least 35 grams of fiber — plus lots of water — per day. Consuming bone broth is another good way to nourish the connective tissue because it contains vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that support a healthy fascia. Collagen is also beneficial for fascia and one way to support collagen production is through consuming foods that are high in vitamin C, such as citrus, broccoli, peppers, and kale. Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil can also nourish the connective tissue.
Caring for Your Fascia is Self-Care
Self-care plays an integral part in connective tissue health, too. Some rituals and practices Roxburgh recommends for releasing tension and nourishing the body and connective tissue are meditation, hot baths with magnesium chloride salts, dry brushing the skin to promote lymphatic drainage, and getting a good night’s sleep — as sleep is the time when the body enters rejuvenation and regeneration mode, and the better we sleep, the better the body can reset. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that caring for your body from the inside-out is one of the most impactful reminders to make self-care a lifestyle.