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Hormones and Cellulite

Onset of cellulite in women can occur anytime after puberty, as estrogen levels rise. Higher levels of estrogen act in multiple ways to help start and perpetuate cellulite.

In the formative stages of cellulite your body attempts to repair connective tissue damage by making more connective tissue. This does not work so well because pressure problems, fluid problems, inflammation, and free radicals have weakened the existing connective tissue structure to the point that fat cells have slipped out of alignment and taken up irregular shapes due to all the various stressors on them. This means the new connective tissue goes around the problem as opposed to being able to fix the problem. Fibroblasts in the dermis and insulation layer of fat are trying to make the new connective tissue and the rate these fibroblasts operate is controlled by estrogen (estrogen activates the enzyme adenyl cyclase, turning on the cyclic nucleotides that activate fibroblasts).

The improperly formed new connective tissue actually attracts more water causing an increase in pressure and a lack of oxygen in the skin, resulting in further damage (tissue hypoxia) and an even increased attempt to make more connective tissue that isnt working right. Estrogen also acts to swell the size of the fat cells, helping to form larger irregular shapes of fat cells.

If a woman is overweight the extra fat cells in the deeper layer of fat not only push pressure outwards and infiltrate the insulation layer of fat, they also synthesize more estrogen, aggravating the issues explained above. Estrogen itself then stimulates the storage of more fat, expanding fat cell size, and increasing pressure on the problem areas that result in cellulite.

Many women have high estrogen menstrual cycles, relative to low progesterone. Such women have PMS, menstrual headaches, breast swelling and tenderness, and heavier menstrual cycles. Even in the absence of such classic high estrogen symptoms, excess stress will deplete progesterone and leave a woman exposed to higher estrogen. All these factors, especially if combined with obesity, fuel the estrogen problem that causes cellulite. Many women notice that cellulite appearance worsens and subsides in response to the fluctuating estrogen levels of their menstrual cycle. Smoothing out excessive estrogen or excessive fluctuations in monthly estrogen patterns is vital to preventing or improving cellulite.

Birth control pills, which are a steady state of estrogen, can cause cellulite. Women approaching menopause typically have higher estrogen levels (heavier periods) before they lighten and go away another period of a few years when cellulite may really flare up. Estrogen replacement therapy can cause cellulite. Any woman gaining weight while taking any form of estrogen is at risk for an increase in cellulite.

Testosterone levels in men, which usually support muscle strength, less body fat than women, and better fat burning tend to protect men from cellulite. This natural protection declines after age 40 as androgens decline, opening the door for cellulite to form.

Thyroid problems aggravate the cellulite issue. Hypothyroid results in poor energy status and thus a reduced ability of circulation, lymph, and fatty acid metabolism to work properly playing into the stagnation aspect of the cellulite issue. Hyperthyroid speeds up the estrogen-driven faulty formation of new tissues provoking fluid retention under the skin, also making cellulite worse.

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