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Spanx And Other Shapeware Can Hurt Your Internal Organs

Shapewear like Spanx compresses your internal organs, which can lead to digestive problems and even blood clots, doctors say.

Researching the health effects of wearing constrictive shapewear, Huffington Post spoke to gastroenterologist Dr. John Kuemmerle, dermatologist Dr. Maryann Mikhail and chiropractor Dr. Karen Erickson to find out.

Dr. Kuemmerle said shapeware compresses the stomach, intestines and colon, which can lead to acid reflux and possible erosive esophagitis.

Kuemmerle says shapewear could worsen bowel disorders by increasing abdominal pressure.

"In someone who has weakness down below and a tendency towards incontinence," he says, "increasing intra-abdominal pressure can certainly provoke episodes of incontinence."

Dr. Erickson said the inconvenience of getting shapewear on and off leads some women to avoid using the bathroom.

"You've got all of this pressure on your bladder from the shapewear pressing down," Erickson says. "If you postpone urinating, it can cause stress incontinence, where you leak, or it can exaggerate stress incontinence with people who already have it.

Sitting down in shapewear can lead to a reversible condition known as meralgia paresthetica, when a peripheral nerve in the thigh is compressed, causing numbness, tingling and even pain in the legs. 

"It's like putting these giant rubber bands around your upper thighs and tightening them when you sit," Erickson says.

Because it cuts off circulation it becomes a blot clot concern. Erickson says people prone to varicosities can also develop varicose veins and lymph congestion from sitting in Spanx.

Dr. Mikhail says the moisture trapped under shapewear is a haven for yeast and bacteria.

She says the most common infection she has seen is bacterial folliculitis – when bacteria gets trapped in hair follicles and causes red puss-filled bumps.

"Usually folliculitis can be easily treated with topical antibiotics," she says. "But recurrent infections may develop antibiotic resistance, meaning they get harder and harder to treat."

Mikhail said that risks are higher in overweight women and sweat more.

Erickson says many people squeeze themselves into shapewear that is too tight for them.

“You want it to do its job, but you don't want to get something so small that it's damaging you,” she says.

She says the key to the right size is finding one that’s “not cutting anywhere” and "all it really does is smooth out the rough edges and you can easily get in and out of it without a struggle."

She warned not to use shapewear as a medical brace.

"Shapewear's a little different in that it's not therapeutically designed -- it's cosmetically designed," she says.

She says shapewear should be saved for special occasions, not worn every day.

"Everyone I know owns shapewear -- it's kind of a miracle," Dr. Erickson admits. "But I think we want to be mindful to not wear it on a day-in and day-out basis."

Sources: Huffington Post, Newser


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