Let’s not fool ourselves with this one.
Causality is a complex subject that philosophers and scientists have been untangling for millennia.
The human brain has not proven adept at understanding the complex nature of causality. We are notorious for confusing correlation with causation. We are easily caught up in tautological reasoning. We are especially perplexed by situations of circular cause and consequence —the old “chicken or the egg” conundrum.
Aristotle identified four distinct causes that explain an event: a material cause, a formal cause, an efficient cause, and a final cause. Modern theorists make a further distinction between necessary causes, sufficient causes, contributory causes, etc. It is helpful to keep the complexity of causality in mind when investigating the various causes of cellulite.
To fully understand cellulite, we must not oversimplify this one critical question: Why?
There are many possible explanations for cellulite. Some cellulite pundits, such as dermatologist Amy Newburger, claim cellulite is caused by a genetic factor that determines the number of septa bands found in the skin. “Cellulite is hereditary,” she explains. “The indications of who will get it, and to what degree, are present almost from birth.”¹
Others claim cellulite is a result of the aging process or that it’s a normal part of being a woman. Women develop cellulite because our septa bands are arranged in a different pattern than in men. When these septa lose their natural elasticity, cellulite is formed (this is a tautological statement, by the way, based on our definition of cellulite).
While this reasoning might very well be true, it is not intellectually satisfying on its own because it only explains a necessary cause, not a sufficient or contributory one.
Why do some women develop cellulite while others do not? If it’s genetic, why does the degree of cellulite fluctuate throughout a woman’s lifetime? Why can it decrease with a change in diet or exercise? Why can it increase when a woman gains weight or when she loses weight? And if cellulite is inherited from the previous generations, why has the rate of cellulite so dramatically increased in the last few decades?
The conventional view of cellulite does not provide adequate answers to these questions.
A competing theory of cellulite is that it is a modern condition. Dr. Lionel Bissoon argues this point in his book The Cellulite Cure. During his research, he studied thousands of paintings and old photographs and found virtually no evidence of cellulite.
Dr. Lionel Bissoon also visited non-industrialized societies in the Amazon and documented the nonexistence of cellulite amongst women in those communities. The tribal women he met were shocked when they saw pictures of American women with cellulite. They had never seen it before. (Dr. Bissoon shared this info in a comment on The Cellulite Investigation site in April 2010. You can read the full conversation here.)
Dr. Bissoon’s argument is supported by accounts of healthcare practitioners who traveled the world during the early twentieth century. Doctors such as Albert Schweitzer, Weston Price, Samuel Hutton and others documented the absence of certain diseases in non-industrialized societies. These diseases came to be known as “the diseases of civilization.”
The word for cellulite did not exist at the time (a telling fact), but these world travelers frequently listed varicose veins as one of the conditions that did not affect women who maintained a traditional lifestyle. Is it possible that cellulite, too, is caused by factors specific to the modern era?
The evidence we’ve uncovered so far at The Cellulite Investigation supports this hypothesis.
Returning to our discussion of how cellulite is formed, we now have more than just fat cells to work with. We already discussed the subcutaneous fat cells and septa holding them in place to the skin. There is also an intricate network of circulatory vessels involved —and I’m not talking about just blood vessels.
We are all familiar with the cardiovascular system, which is responsible for the delivery of life-sustaining oxygen, nutrients, and other chemicals to the trillions of individual cells in the human body. Yet we are less familiar with the system western medicine often calls the “secondary circulatory system.” I am referring to the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is often thought of as the sewage drainage system for the body. Like the cardiovascular system, it is connected to every organ in the human body through a network of capillaries, vessels, and ducts. Although it has a variety of functions, its main purpose is to remove metabolic debris from our cells, including our fat cells. It’s odd the lymphatic system is thought of as the secondary circulatory system; the human body contains twice as much lymph as it does blood.
When lymph circulation is impaired, cellular waste builds up in and around the fat cells. If these cells are located in regions of subcutaneous fat, the restricted flow of lymphatic fluid contributes to the breakdown of septa that hold the fat cells smoothly in place against the skin.
And there you have it: cellulite is born.
Like a child who repeats the word “why” after each answer you give her, we can continue to ask this one simple question regarding the cause(s) of cellulite. Why does the lymphatic system become impaired? What causes lymphatic congestion?
One possibility is that cellulite is caused by the presence of something that contributes to lymphatic congestion, for example “toxins,” unhealthy hormones, or trans fats. Another possibility is that cellulite is caused by the absence of something that prevents lymphatic congestion, such as certain nutrients, adequate rest, adequate movement, etc. A third possibility is that cellulite is caused by both.
This latter option adds another layer of complexity to an already complex subject, but it also exposes a myriad of treatment options for the dreaded blight.
But first, it’s easier to stay motivated with a cellulite treatment plan if you are confident it will produce results. How do we know it’s even possible to get rid of cellulite?
Explore more of our Cellulite 101 Series below: