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How Do We Get Cellulite and Why?

Cellulite is a problem confined to women. Men never get it. As such, it is safe to assume that there is a hormonal factor involved. In fact, it seems most likely – and I have to say ‘seems’ because there are no proper medical studies on the subject – that the condition is caused, above all, by the presence of oestrogen.

The more oestrogen there is in a woman’s body, the more likely it is that cellulite will develop. The danger times for developing cellulite are at puberty, pregnancy and the menopause, the times of greatest hormonal fluctuation.

Cellulite was first thought to have a hormonal component when French doctors realised that men never suffered from it. It was then discovered that the female hormone oestrogen predisposes women towards retaining fluid. From there, it was a short step towards an understanding that oestrogen must somehow be implicated in the formation of cellulite.

Unless women are frequently pregnant, they have high levels of oestrogen circulating around their system continuously. The amount of oestrogen circulating in women’s bodies has also increased enormously since the mid 1960s with the introduction of the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal women.

Oestrogen has a specific purpose, and that is to prepare the body to receive and nurture an embryo. Whenever pregnancy occurs, the amount of oestrogen circulating in the system drops rapidly. Nowadays most women have far more oestrogen circulating in their system than was intended by nature. It acts to send waste materials away from vital organs and into areas where they will be relatively harmless. This eventually becomes apparent as cellulite. In men, waste products have the effect of furring up their arteries, so they are more likely to succumb to heart attacks it seems as if biology acts to protect the female. We get cellulite, whereas men get hardening of the arteries – a condition which is taken extremely seriously by most doctors. What they have not realised yet is that cellulite and coronary heart disease are different manifestations of an identical problem – too much stress, a bad diet, too little exercise, and too much rubbish getting into the system and not being able to get out.

Although men don’t have cellulite some of them do have beer bellies, which are a related problem caused mainly by the high oestrogen content of hops. It is also noticeable that men who are very heavy beer drinkers often suffer from female-type breast development. This is yet another indication that oestrogen appears to predispose towards the retention of unwanted fluid.

Recent studies on the contraceptive pill have linked it with the formation of breast cancer and an increased incidence of thrombosis. Dr Ellen Grant, an early researcher into oral contraception and now one of the pill’s most outspoken opponents, believes that it is linked with general bad health in women. She argues that the pill significantly interferes with carbohydrate metabolism and blood function. Studies carried out by Professor Victor Wynn at the metabolic unit, St Mary’s Hospital, in London, have shown that the pill encourages blood fats to increase. It also stops the uptake of certain essential minerals such as zinc, iron and magnesium, and encourages an excess of copper to stay in the system.

Dr Grant does not mention in her book The Bitter Pill that oral contraception encourages the formation of cellulite, but from what we know about the action of oestrogen it seems extremely likely that this is so. Although cellulite is very probably not a new problem, as far as we can tell it appears to be far more prevalent in the late twentieth century than at any other time in history.

The contraceptive pill is, of course, formulated from synthetic hormones. But the body does not distinguish between synthetic and natural hormones, and SO far as the female system is concerned, taking the pill simply means that the oestrogen action on the body is increased.

Ellen Grant believes that oral contraceptives interfere with body metabolism and the release of complex biochemical substances. They can also cause far-reaching blood and circulatory changes and can lead to weight gain and breast tenderness.

Another factor, most probably linked to hormones, is that women’s bodies simply cannot take the same amount of punishment and abuse that men’s can. We know now for a fact that women’s tolerance threshold for alcohol and nicotine is far lower than men’s. But all the time women are abusing their bodies, oestrogen performs its powerful protective function, and does its best to send the waste to outlying areas so that we will survive.

The reason most of us don’t feel ill when we have a cellulite problem is that the body has been successful in sending the rubbish far away from vital organs. With men, the rubbish is retained nearer the centre, which is why they are far more likely to suffer from heart, circulatory and blood pressure problems.

To sum up, we can say that cellulite forms when there is a general circulatory problem in the body. It is, above all, an indication of a sluggish circulation, a sign that body wastes cannot be disposed of in the normal way. When cellulite is present, this means that the lymphatic system, the body’s main vacuum cleaner, cannot do its job, and that there is internal clogging.

The next step is to understand exactly what causes the clogging in the first place. Because once this is understood, we can set about unclogging the system.