Causes of Cellulite
The Causes of Cellulite
I think we can safely assume that cellulite does exist, whatever some doctors may say to the contrary, and that it is a major problem for thousands of women in the world today.
Every woman who has cellulite would rather not have it. But having been assured by countless medical ‘experts’ that the stuff doesn’t exist, the cellulite sufferer has assumed it is just something she has to put up with, just another of the difficulties which go with being a woman.
This is not so. Nature never meant us to have cellulite and we would all be a lot better off without it. But before attempting any successful anti-cellulite regime it is essential to understand exactly what cellulite is, why it develops, and what will make it go away. It becomes possible to get rid of it once you understand why it forms.
So how do you know whether you’ve got cellulite in the first place? One of the main characteristics is dimples. You know you’ve got cellulite on your legs if they have a dimply appearance when you stand up. Another factor is that cellulite areas feel cold to the touch. This is because circulation is poor in those areas.
Almost always, the skin on cellulite areas is whiter and more difficult to tan than other skin.
Cellulite is not flab, and it is not fat. Flabby skin does not have the dimpled appearance, and nor does ordinary fat. If you pinch an area containing cellulite you will find that it stays up for far longer than skin pinched, say, on the forearm. This indicates that the fat cells are waterlogged. If it is allowed to accumulate, it becomes hard and grainy. In the early stages it is soft because of the presence of fluid, but becomes progressively harder as the years go by. The harder cellulite is, the more difficult it becomes to lose, although it is never impossible.
The presence of cellulite is nothing to do with being overweight. You can be verging on anorexia and still have cellulite deposits. Conversely, you can be extremely fat and still not have any cellulite on your legs.
If you do have it, though, you should do all you can to get rid of the stuff. For it indicates that your body is in a toxic condition. If the cellulite is left untreated, the toxicity could lead to more serious conditions, such as arthritis or permanent water retention. The presence of cellulite is a warning that your body needs a thorough cleanse and detoxification.
Is cellulite a new problem, brought about by the artificiality of modern living, or has it always existed? Of course, it is difficult to be certain, as the concept and treatment did not come into being until about forty years ago. But, looking at certain Old Master paintings, it seems as though cellulite certainly existed in the seventeenth century. Many of the nudes in Rubens’ paintings, for instance, seem to have loads of cellulite. Patricia Davis, who was one of the first British aromatherapists to develop a successful cellulite treatment, believes that it is not a new phenomenon at all.
‘Most of Rembrandt’s nude paintings were of his second wife – and boy, did she have cellulite,’ Patricia said. ‘All the characteristics are there – the dimpliness, the whiteness, the bulges. The classic painting of a woman with cellulite is the one where she is stepping into water semi-nude, and you just see the texture of her thighs, which are a dead giveaway.
1t seems extremely reasonable to suppose that cellulite existed in Holland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After all, the Dutch diet was high in dairy produce and the rich women would have led extremely sedentary lives. So I doubt that it’s all that new, although few people would have bothered about it much when thighs were never normally exposed.’
Patricia Davis says that she first became aware of cellulite as a medical problem in France around 1952, when she was studying ballet there. ‘At that time, the condition was attributed to water retention, and was considered treatable,’ she said. ‘In fact, we now know that although cellulite and water retention are linked, they are not exactly the same thing.
‘The standard treatment in those days was hydrotherapy at one of the famous spas, where extremely fierce jets of water would be applied to the affected areas. Hydrotherapy is the medicinal equivalent to a jacuzzi. The treatment worked, because you got a lot of pummelling, which would drive the cellulite out of the fat cells and help it to disperse. This treatment was backed up by lots of ordinary massage, mud baths and a “nature cure” diet.
‘In the 1950s the condition was thought to be caused by poor kidney function, which meant that excess water could not be excreted. Now of course, we know that cellulite is caused by a sluggish lymphatic system. But certainly in France it was always recognised as a woman-only problem.’
Patricia became interested in the question of diet and health when, at the early age of twenty-six, she developed severe arthritis. She gave up dancing when her first child was born, and soon her arthritis was so bad that she could not even walk down the street.
‘My doctor told me that I had given up dancing too quickly, and that arthritis was always a danger for dancers and athletes who suddenly stop. I was put on some drugs which were later found to be highly dangerous, but the condition just got worse. In those days- 1950-nobody ever spoke about curing yourself through diet. It would have been considered extremely cranky.
‘But one day a friend said, “Why don’t you try the nature cure?” She lent me a book written in the 193OS, and everything I read made complete sense. I put myself straightaway on what we would now call a healthy diet, and cured my own arthritis completely. Since going on the nature cure I have never had even a twinge.
‘That opened my eyes to the powerful effect food can have on bodies. Having made myself completely symptom-free I helped other people with arthritis, and then realised I could treat those with chronic illnesses.’
When her children were young Patricia ran a ballet school, but later she trained as an aromatherapist and masseuse and set up business in the mid 1960s. It was then that she began to realise the extent of the cellulite problem. In those days, she said, women did not come to her for their cellulite, as most had no idea they were suffering from any kind of treatable condition. They just assumed that the lumps and bumps were somehow supposed to be there, just the way they were made.
‘Very many of my clients were coming to me because of a weight problem’ she said. ‘But as I massaged them, I realised that many hadn’t got a weight problem at all but were suffering from cellulite instead.
I would tell them that it wasn’t fat they had, but cellulite, and they would say: but what’s that?’
Since there were no textbooks to guide her, Patricia Davis began treating cellulite with hard massage and essential oils. ‘It was simply trial and error,’ she told me. ‘I knew from my aromatherapy training that certain essential oils did help the body to cleanse and detoxify, and that others were stimulating for circulation. The effect of certain essential oils has been very well documented in France, and I simply applied this knowledge to the cellulite problem.
‘I knew all about detoxifying diets from treating my own arthritis, and so I just put the two bits of knowledge together. If, as I suspected, cellulite was a toxic condition, then the diet plus massage and aroma therapy treatments would get rid of it. And of course, it did.
‘But I have to say that I and other aroma therapists were proceeding very much from theory. In the early days, it was a matter of backing a hunch, as we had no medical textbooks to guide us. It was all very difficult, as our treatments and suggestions were being completely derided by orthodox doctors, who regarded us as charlatans and cranks.’
In many ways, the story of cellulite can be compared to the pre-menstrual tension saga. In the 1920s and 19308 there was no mention whatever of PMT in any medical textbook. So far as the mainly male medical profession was concerned, the condition simply didn’t exist. All ‘female problems’ were just evidence that women were the weaker sex and had to be humoured like children. And of course, all doctors knew the correct cure for period problems of any kind – go away and have a baby.
It wasn’t until gynaecologist Dr Katharine Dalton began to ask pertinent questions about hormonal fluctuations in women that the syndrome began to be recognised, named, and written up in medical literature. This was in 1953. When Dr Dalton began training as a doctor she was already married with three children, and had noticed that whenever she became pregnant the headaches, depression, heaviness and bloating. that she suffered from just before a period, went away. Of course, in those days, the term ‘premenstrual tension’ had not been invented. But through study and research, Dr Dalton came to realise that it was a medical condition suffered by very many women, and that it was treatable.
Now, of course, her conclusions are accepted by all doctors, several of which have set up special PMT clinics. PMT is big business nowadays, and huge sums of money are being made out of patent treatments such as evening primrose oil and vitamin B6. Consequently it is hard to realise that only forty years ago doctors were assuring women there was no such thing as PMT. Problems associated with menstruation were, like many women-only complaints, seen as trivial.
Over the past few years there has been much research on PMT. Since about 1980 it has been established that there is a definite connection between PMT and the lack of certain vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. This explosion of knowledge on the subject means that there is no longer any reason for women to suffer from PMT – at least, not in silence.
The same thing now needs to happen with cellulite.
Unlike PMT, which comes and goes, cellulite is an ever-present problem. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is caused by the wrong kind of diet, stress, prescription drugs, a sedentary lifestyle, too much tea, coffee and alcohol, cigarettes, poor circulation and a sluggish lymphatic system.
Although cellulite has probably always existed, it seems reasonable to suppose that the problem is getting worse. The main reason for this is that more women than ever now smoke, drink, eat processed foods and take prescription drugs, such as the pill. All of these alter hormonal balance and may well affect the workings of vital organs.
The other factor which has a bearing on our new awareness of cellulite is that it is only in the latter half of this century that women generally began exposing their legs and thighs. In the past, that was confined to artists’ models. In the mid-1960s, with the advent of miniskirts, the standard explanation of bulgy thighs was that they were caused by cold weather. If girls were daft enough to walk around in the middle of winter with skirts halfway up their thighs they must expect some bulges, doctors seriously said.
They then explained cellulite by saying that body developed extra layers of fat to cope with the cold. For a time, we all believed this. But then when miniskirts went out of fashion to be replaced by midi skirts and the bulges still didn’t go away, that theory fell into disuse.
To me, the most telling evidence for the existence of cellulite is the neat appearance of French women over ‘a certain age’. Whereas the majority of middle-aged English women have thighs absolutely thick with cellulite, it is noticeably absent from the legs of French ladies. Now, either French women are constructed completely differently from their English counterparts, or they have learned something that we still need to learn – that cellulite is a problem which can be treated.
Not that cellulite is a problem confined to older women by any means. The condition can appear as early as the age of twelve or thirteen and then remain for life, unless treated.
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.
THE MAIN CAUSES OF CELLULITE
There is very little we can do to decrease the amount of oestrogen circulating in our bodies. But oestrogen will not send rubbish to outlying areas unless there is rubbish to send. So the first thing to understand about cellulite is that it is caused mainly by leading the wrong lifestyle. The body is very clever at recognizing the difference between nutrients and anti-nutrients, and does all it can to neutralize the effect of those substances which it does not need, and which actually have a harmful effect.
Of all cellulite-causing substances, probably the most harmful is coffee, because of the caffeine it contains. The bad effects of coffee have now been well documented, and several medical studies have suggested that more than three cups a day can do damage. None of the studies mentions cellulite, of course, as a possible adverse side-effect of caffeine, but the substance has now been definitely linked with all kinds of female complaints from benign breast lumps to pelvic disorders. Caffeine interferes with the uptake of certain essential minerals in the diet, particularly iron, and also predisposes to certain anxiety states.
The main reason for this is that caffeine puts extra stress on the adrenal glands, which release adrenaline. Like cocaine, caffeine gives the system an instant boost by making the adrenals pump out extra adrenaline. The problem is that when we drink huge amounts of coffee, we enable large quantities of adrenaline to be released which are not burned up at all. Biologically, adrenaline exists to protect us from danger, to enable us to run away or to stay and fight. We naturally get surges of adrenaline when there is a near miss on the motorway, when we are about to take an important exam or attend a vital interview. Then, when the danger is past, the adrenaline production ceases. Caffeine enables this hormone to be secreted all the time.
So coffee puts extra stress on the adrenals by over-working. They discharge too much adrenaline into the system and become exhausted. Too much caffeine in the system also puts extra stress onto the kidneys, where all water-soluble rubbish is taken so that the blood can be cleansed.
It is now well known that a high intake of caffeine puts people at extra risk of heart attack, as it increases the amount of cholesterol in the system. This causes even more clogging up. In women, the net result of over-consumption is to increase the amount of cellulite on the thighs. For most women, the presence of cellulite is a potent indicator that they are drinking too much caffeine, in the form of tea, coffee, or colas. Chocolate also contains a significant amount of caffeine.
Drinks containing caffeine make you feel good by giving you an instant lift, but this is followed not much later by a nasty low – the well-known withdrawal symptoms. In women who are pregnant or on the pill, caffeine is eliminated particularly slowly, which indicates a hormonal link.
Furthermore, coffee beans are loaded with pesticides, which in large quantities can upset the digestive process. There is no particular advantage in drinking tea, either, as it also contains Significant amounts of caffeine, though only half as much as coffee and, in addition, can be loaded with impurities such as copper. Consuming anti-nutrients means that the deposits of cellulite can only get bigger.
In the past, both women and men would have drunk very little coffee. It was first introduced into the Western world in the eighteenth century, and for a long time was confined to men drinking it occasionally in the famous coffee houses. It was not until the 1920S that women began to drink coffee every day, and the development of instant coffee – even worse for you than the filtered variety – meant that we could all drink vast amounts every day.
Now, of course, coffee is the favourite non-alcoholic beverage among young women. Very many women also drink vast quantities of tea, thinking nothing of downing five or six cups a day.
Possibly one of the reasons the French recognised cellulite so long ago was that they have for a long time been a nation of dedicated coffee-drinkers. Coffee and tea have now become our most universal stimulants, and we tend to forget that, delicious though they may be, they are actually non-nutrients, substances the body emphatically does not need for its daily functioning.
The potentially addictive quality of tea and coffee is a warning sign, or should be. The body develops specific cravings only when its biochemistry has been artificially adapted to accommodate an alien substance. If you give your body just what it needs for proper functioning, cravings and addictions do not develop. Unfortunately, in our present society, we have mistaken cravings and addictions for excitement. We appear to thrive on artificial sensual stimulation, forgetting that the human body was not originally designed to cope with these substances. It’s therefore not surprising if, after a time, it cannot cope with the onslaught and starts to rebel.
Of course, not everybody who consumes vast quantities of caffeine will get cellulite any more than every single person who smokes will die of lung cancer. Some systems can withstand large amounts of stimulating beverages, others can’t. The fact is, though, that caffeine significantly adds to the burden on the body.
Nicotine, like caffeine, is extremely bad for women. It is bad for men as well, but it seems that a woman’s system is less able to withstand the poisons released by tobacco in the blood-stream. We have known for twenty years or more that smoking during pregnancy causes low-birthweight babies and, more recently, it has also been linked with malformations and brain damage in embryos.
The first effect of nicotine is that it uses up oxygen, reducing the amount available for use by the cells. It does this by decreasing the efficiency of the lungs. It also affects the haemoglobin – red cells – in the blood. Haemoglobin is the main carrier for oxygen in the blood, and picks up the oxygen in the lungs as the blood circulates.
If the oxygen exchange in the blood is less efficient because of nicotine intake, then every cell in the body will receive less oxygen than it should. This factor is extremely relevant to the cellulite problem because, above all, oxygen acts as a powerful stimulator and cleanser for the blood. Body cells cannot function without adequate oxygen any more than we can ourselves. Whenever there is reduced oxygen in the body, cell function is impaired and circulation is adversely affected.
Some anti-cellulite therapists in America are now noticing that the problem is worse in young girls than in middle-aged women. The main reason for this, they theorise, is increased cigarette consumption. Because although older women – and men – are now significantly reducing their nicotine intake, the habit is becoming more prevalent among young people.
A recent large-scale study among schoolchildren in Britain revealed that teenage girls are now smoking far more than teenage boys. In addition, they find it more difficult to give up, and are more likely to become addicted smokers by the time they are in their mid twenties. The main reasons given for taking up the habit were release of tension, and a desire to appear sophisticated, ‘cool’ and grown up.
Smoking adds to the amount of toxic wastes that enter the body, which means that the system has to work even harder to get rid of them. Nicotine is a powerful pollutant and, like caffeine, it is an anti-nutrient.
A report by the Royal College of Physicians in 1983 provides some useful figures on women and smoking. Few women, according to the report, smoked before the Second World War but by 1956 around forty-two per cent of women in Britain aged sixteen and over were smokers. Since that time, there has been a steady decline, with around thirty-seven per cent of British women smoking today. The vast majority of these are women under the age of twenty-five.
It has been known for decades that women who smoke are at vastly increased risk from heart disease and all diseases of the circulatory system. It has also now been established that smoking affects fertility and results in an earlier menopause.
The Royal College’s report states that women seem to find it harder than men to give up smoking, and adds that the reason for this is unclear. One major reason why women continue to smoke is that they are afraid of gaining weight if they give up. Smoking increases metabolism, and also provides an alternative to eating when some kind of comfort is needed. But as smoking affects circulation, it also adds to cellulite deposits which are, of course, as much a problem as overweight.
The anti-cellulite programme outlined in this book ensures that smoking can be given up without any danger at all of unwelcome weight gain.
As with cigarettes and coffee, alcohol consumption was not a significant factor for women until the 192OS, the so-called ‘flapper age’ when cocktails became popular and it was suddenly fashionable for women to drink. Nowadays, most women drink alcohol regularly.
Women can take far less alcohol than men. One reason for this is that female livers are smaller and able to process less. Another reason is that women’s bodies have a higher proportion of fat than men’s, and alcohol does not enter fat cells. This means that its effect is concentrated into a smaller area and takes longer to be processed by the liver.
Alcohol enters the blood very quickly and instantly alters blood chemistry. It adds to the workload of the liver, which can then very quickly become overloaded. When alcohol is added to the sum total of non nutrients entering the body the result is that the liver and kidneys cannot effectively handle the excess waste material. For most people, the eliminative organs have enough to do handling ordinary waste materials produced by the diet. If they have to deal with caffeine, nicotine and alcohol loads as well it is not surprising that they find it hard to cope, and that much waste matter simply stays in the system.
Large deposits of cellulite can be seen clearly in the paintings of Rubens, Rembrandt and Renoir, it is unlikely that women living in pre-literate societies ever collected much of the stuff. In fact, very few women living what we might call a ‘natural’ life – eating whole foods, lots of fruit and vegetables and not drinking tea, coffee or alcohol- ever develop a cellulite problem.
In the modern West, the eliminative difficulties caused by smoking, coffee and alcohol consumption are exacerbated by an artificial diet. In recent years we have of course been urged to eat more fruit and vegetables, brown rice and wholemeal bread in order to stave off serious diseases. Nutritionists say that we were designed to eat a pure, whole food diet and to experience stress only at certain times, such as when specific dangers threatened. We have already seen how a high caffeine intake adds to the number of stress hormones circulating round the body. Excess stress is also placed on body systems by eating artificial and processed foods, substances which, like caffeine and alcohol, the body was not designed to cope with.
When a pure, natural diet is eaten, the liver and large intestine are extremely efficient at getting rid of wastes very quickly. In fact, the more natural the food, the quicker the digestive system breaks it down. The more artificial it becomes, the longer it takes to go
through the body. In some cases, the artificial substance may not be eliminated by the body at all, and may simply stay in the system, sometimes for years on end. Recent work in America on colon cleansing – which is very similar to the anti-cellulite programme – revealed that years of eating artificial foods mean that waste products are never eliminated from the colon but remain there for ever. Autopsies nowadays often reveal many pounds of waste material which would have been completely eliminated if the system had been working effectively.
Much of the waste material that is not handled by the liver or large intestine gets reabsorbed back into the body, where it starts to do damage. It is when too much waste material accumulates that we notice cellulite deposits. The more the system is clogged up and the more sluggish the circulation becomes, the worse the cellulite problem is likely to be.
Cellulite-encouraging foodstuffs are sugar, dairy produce, meat and anything processed, smoked or preserved. Sugar has a similar effect on the body to caffeine, in that it releases adrenalin and gives a quick energy boost, followed by a I down’ not long after. Dairy produce is mucus-forming, which means that it encourages waste material to become sticky and stay in the system. Meat products also take a long time to be processed by the body and, in some cases, may never be entirely eliminated.
These days, most people do not drink enough water. Very many people never drink any at all, and imagine that diet colas, fruit juices and ‘health drinks’ do much the same job, or that herbal teas are ‘better’ for you than black tea.
In fact, water is the only drink which can successfully rehydrate the body, and help to flush out toxins and accumulated wastes from the system. No other drink can do this. In fact, whenever you have a drink which is not water, award it minus points, and make sure you have a glass of water to compensate for it. We need to drink at least a litre of water a day, in water form – not in other liquids. Remember, nothing which is not water counts as water. This is most important for all cellulite sufferers.
A SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE
Women who are very active eat a whole food diet and abstain from alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine, will rarely get cellulite. These days, very many women have jobs that necessitate sitting at a desk all day long. Prolonged inactivity of this kind can cut off circulation. When treating cellulite, therapists often notice that cellulite deposits are at their most intractable where the legs meet the chair edge – at the place where circulation is cut off most.
Prolonged physical inactivity leads to an increasingly sluggish circulation, making it even harder for the blood and lymphatic system to get rid of waste materials and send life-giving oxygen round the system.