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Jan 21, 2014 11:28 AM EST

Are Spanx And Shapewear Crushing Your Organs?

Popular undergarments that many women seek out to make them look slimmer not only cause pain and suffering for those wearing them, but it could also lead to health problems, the Huffington Post reported.

Gastroenterologist Dr. John Kuemmerle, dermatologist Dr. Maryann Mikhail and chiropractor Dr. Karen Erickson contend that the shapewear many women wear to smooth out the unwanted bumps and bulges in their figure may compress organs and create environments vulnerable to infections.

The slimming undergarments couldn't do their jobs if they weren't tight. However, Kuemmerle said shapewear often compress stomach, intestine and colon which could worsen acid reflux and heartburn.  He said they could also provoke erosive esophagitis.

Kuemmerle added that the restrictive apparel could stifle the digestive tract and lead to unpleasant symptoms like abdominal discomfort, bloating and gas. He also warned that people with irritable bowel syndrome or functional bowel disorders should wear the shapewear with caution.

Erickson added that shapewear could also cause numbness or tingling in women's legs. She said wearing the undergarment is like putting "giant rubber bands around your upper thighs and tightening them when you sit." This could apparently lead to a "condition called meralgia paresthetica, which is when the peripheral nerve in your thigh is compressed." Symptoms of that are numbness, tingling and pain that all come and go. The decreased circulation caused by the slimming undergarments can also cause blood clots.

The shapewear could also create an environment prone to infections, according to Mikhail. She told the Huffington Post that because the undergarment is "occlusive, meaning it traps moisture and anything else under it," it could lead to both yeast and bacterial infections.

Mikhail says that the most common infection she sees is folliculitis, since bacteria often gets trapped among hair follicles and causes red puss-filled bumps.

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

The experts noted that it is important to wear shapewear in moderation.

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

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