A Woman’s World

To understand cellulite it is important to understand how your flesh is structured. Let’s look at the deeper layers first. They are known as subcutaneous tissues. In your thighs, these are made up of three layers of fat with two planes of connective tissue and ground substance in between.

This brings us to one of the interesting things about cellulite: It is almost always a female complaint. With a very few remarkable exceptions, men simply do not get it. In part this is hormonal. A woman’s body is rich in female hormones such as oestrogen, which encourage the laying down of fat. (For years farmers injected oestrogen-like substances in cattle and chickens to fatten them rapidly for market.) This is also why cellulite tends first to appear during times of intense hormonal change such as puberty, pregnancy or when she goes onto a birth control pill. In part, however, cellulite is a woman’s condition because the basic construction of subcutaneous tissue of the thigh differs in men and women.

In women, the topmost subcutaneous layer is made up of what are termed large ‘standing fat-cell chambers’, which are separated by radial and arching dividing walls of connective tissue attached to the overlying tissue of the dermis or true skin. The uppermost part of the subcutaneous tissue of men is different. It is thinner, and there is a network of crisscrossing connective tissue walls which makes it harder for a man’s body to lay down large fat cells and to trap stored wastes and water in the tissues.

Also the corium – the connective tissue structure between the true skin and the deeper layers or hypodermis – is thicker in men than in women. You can check on these differences yourself by carrying out a ‘pinch test’. It is only pinching the thighs of women that results in the ‘mattress phenomenon’ with its pitting, bulging and deformation of skin. Pinch the thighs of most men and you will get gentle skin folds or furrows, completely without bulges or pits.

beware the ravages of time

Age-related changes in women also encourage the build up of cellulite. For instance, as women get older, their skin gets progressively looser and thinner. This encourages the migration of fat cells into this layer. The connective tissue walls between the chambers of fat cells also get thinner allowing the fat-cell chambers to enlarge – a condition known as hypertrophy. This progressive thinning of connective tissue structures is another major factor in the development of cellulite and creates the granular texture and buckshot feel of much cellulite-riddled flesh.

An examination of cellulite tissue under the microscope also reveals that a number of histological changes have taken place. They include a distension of the lymphatic vessels of the upper skin, for instance, and a decrease in the number of elastic fibers. The circulation of blood, too, has been slowed, and the connective fibers have undergone a sclerotic hardening, so that the fluids and the wastes they contain become trapped in an unpleasant network which pinches nerve endings (hence the pain in well developed cellulite) and create stasis in the tissue – rather like a polluted swamp – where energy exchange is reduced. The whole area takes on a deadened quality – a sure sign of poor body ecology.

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