Shapewear, like corsets and waist trainers, are hugely popular because of the hourglass figure they readily bestow. They sculpt the body into a flattering figure and are marketed almost exclusively to women. Shapewear is marketed as a way to lose inches instantly, boost self-esteem and confidence and even improve posture and abdominal muscles. However, doctors caution against them for these reasons:
Side-effects of shapewear
1. Can cause acid reflux
The pressure of body-shaping clothing puts too much pressure on the stomach which can cause food and acids to ascend through the weaker (lower) oesophagus. It compresses your stomach, intestines, and colon which can worsen acid reflux and heartburn.
2. Affects digestion
Shapewear puts pressure on the stomach messing up with digestion including causing gas or bloating. It also exacerbates irritable bowel syndrome. People dealing with this condition are generally warned not to wear tight clothing.
3. Affects lung function
The lower lobes of the lungs may be compressed when wearing shapewear, preventing them from expanding to their maximum. For people who wear them for extended periods, this can lead to reduced oxygen flow and adversely affect the lungs’ performance. This is common for body shapers that cover you up to the diaphragm. The tightness can also cause shortness of breath and hyperventilation.
4. Affects circulation
Shapewear constricts the waist which means the heart has to exert more pressure while pumping blood which may lead to palpitations. While body shaping clothing nowadays is made from more breathable fabrics and not as tight as corsets likely affect circulation less but that does not mean they have no effect at all.
5. Compresses organs
The body-shaping effect is a product of the tightness with which it holds everything in place. Prolonged wear can compress body organs leading to severe complications in the future.
6. May cause numbness and tingling
One result of compressing your body in tight clothing for extended periods is a condition known as meralgia paraesthetica. The patient experiences extreme and painful burning and tingling in the thighs. This is caused by the nerves that run through the groin having too much pressure on them and for too long.
7. Affects bladder function
The tightness of shapewear makes it a lot more difficult to get out of than your average free-flowing clothes. For this reason, people delay and hold in pee longer. This can lead to urinary tract infections. Other effects of holding it in are leakage and incontinence.
8. May cause blood clots and varicose vein
Too much pressure on the limbs increases the chances of getting blood clots and varicose veins disease. When blood does not flow evenly, it can cause blood clots for people genetically prone to developing them.
9. Breeding ground for bacteria
Tight figure-hugging clothes cause you to sweat more. Bacteria and fungi love the moisture that gets trapped in certain areas of shapewear. It’s not uncommon for rashes to appear in the affected areas accompanied by itching. If you itch to the point of developing wounds, the wounds could get infected.
10. Ingrown hairs
Wearing tight clothing increases friction in the groin increasing the likelihood of having ingrown hairs.
Tips to minimize negative effects
- Always try the shapewear before buying. Make sure that it is not too tight or loose. Remember that body shapers gradually adapt to the tightness so start slow.
- Shapewear is only part of the weight loss solution and should be complemented with a balanced diet and workout.
- Limit the time you wear it and never for long hours, certainly not daily.
- When you feel discomfort, stop wearing the shaper and change to a less tight version.
Doctors recommend this type of clothing in the case of compression socks which improve blood flow and reduce the risks of clots. They however caution against shapewear in general, recommending exercise and a healthy diet instead.