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Doctors say there are risks to shapewear

Thursday - 1/23/2014, 5:37am  ET

WASHINGTON -- Spanx and other shapewear are often cited as a saving grace for women who want to look a bit smoother under their clothes. But at what cost? According to three doctors with whom The Huffington Post spoke, wearing shapewear every day can actually cause or exacerbate existing health problems.

The inherent tightness of shapewear does contribute to the desired smooth look, but, in order to do that, it also compresses your stomach, intestines and colon. In turn, this can aggravate acid reflux and heartburn. It also interferes with your digestive tract, which can cause abdominal discomfort and bloating. In those prone to incontinence, shapewear can provoke symptoms -- especially if you put off a visit to the restroom.

Normal breathing is impacted as well -- your abdomen cannot expand as it usually can, leading to shallower breath.

In all women, wearing shapewear can lead to yeast and bacterial infections by locking in moisture. This can lead to folliculitis, or the growth of red pus- filled bumps due to trapped bacteria around hair follicles.

The compression in your legs also can lead to tingling, numbness or pain, a reversible condition that can be temporary or constant. Blood clots from decreased circulation are a risk factor. For those genetically predisposed, sitting in shapewear for extended periods of time can lead to varicose veins and lymph congestion leading to swollen ankles

The cosmetic purpose of shapewear is important to remember if you use shapewear as a back brace. Shapewear is no substitute for the muscle tone you need for proper posture.

Although all of these symptoms can arise if you wear shapewear all day, every day (especially if you're sitting), wearing it on occasion is fine. Picking the right size is also key, as is being mindful of your body -- if you have acid reflux or are prone to varicose veins, try to avoid shapewear. If symptoms do arise, though, you should stop wearing shapewear until they disappear.

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