So many women swear by the belly flatteners and thigh tighteners in their lingerie drawers. But could those pieces actually be leaving you worse for the (shape)wear? That's one of the big questions of the week after the Huffington Post published the story "Spanx and Other Shapewear Are Literally Squeezing Your Organs."
Yes, depending on the fit and how often you wear them, shapewear pieces can cause some health issues, says Keri Peterson, M.D., a physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and a medical advisor for Women's Health. "If they're worn too tightly and too often, the compression has ramifications," she says.
MORE: The Truth About the Corset Diet
"(Shapewear) presses on your stomach, so the acid can come up into the esophagus and cause reflux and heartburn," she says. And because the tight duds press on the diaphragm, they can restrict your breathing. Shapewear could also create a stress incontinence issueÃ¢â‚¬”a.k.a. leakageÃ¢â‚¬”for people who are predisposed to or already have it, says Peterson: "If you're pressing on your abdomen, it's going to put pressure on the bladder and potentially lower the bladder down farther into the abdomen." Plus, wearing something that digs into your waist too tightly (including a belt or stockingsÃ¢â‚¬”not just shapewear) can compress a nerve and make the side of your thigh numb, says Peterson. Doesn't sound very pleasant, huh?
Fortunately, most of those shapewear issues are temporary. "The only thing that would be alarming is if you're having constant reflux and the acid is burning the esophagus," says Peterson. "That would be the extreme. But the other things are about good quality of life." One other not-as-temporary risk: the worsening of varicose veins, which could happen if someone wears thigh shapewear that's so tight that blood can't circulate as easily, says Peterson. (The Huffington Post piece also mentions blood clots and digestion issues, but Peterson is not aware of any conclusive evidence that would suggest wearing shapewear is associated with those problems.)
MORE: What Happens to Your Body When You Wear Heels
That isn't to say that you should toss the smoothing undergarments you planned to wear to your friend's wedding. If you're not experiencing any health issues, it's OK to wear shapewear on special occasions so long as you limit your time in them; it definitely shouldn't be a part of your daily work uniform, says Peterson. She also recommends making sure your pieces aren't so tight thatÃ¢â‚¬”as mentioned in the Huffington Post articleÃ¢â‚¬”they're digging into your skin.
So tell us: Do these warnings change your opinion of shapewear? Do you think you'll stop wearing them? Sound off in the comments below.
MORE: The One Place You Shouldn't Try to Lose Weight