Health & Wellness

Your shapewear may be giving you the squeeze

Spanx and other types of popular shapewear make our figures look tight and curves feel smooth, but some doctors say they can be so constricting they may be harmful to our bodies.

Guys know tighty whities can affect sperm count. But women who want their booties to be jiggle-free may not know their gut-sucking lingerie can squeeze their organs if not worn properly, causing acid reflux, heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, gas and shallow breath, doctors told the Huffington Post. Leg numbness and possible yeast and bacterial infections can also be caused by moisture trapped in the synthetic underwear, the article warned.

A physician's illustration from the 1700s shows how corsets damaged women's ribs. This hurts just looking at it.

“I thought you were supposed to buy them tight, to sort of suck everything in?” TODAY anchor Savannah Guthrie said Tuesday. “Buying them in extra large is kind of counterproductive.”

Dr. Natalie Evans, a specialist in vascular medicine with Cleveland Clinic thinks a Spanx health worry is "in all likelihood overblown." 

Obviously, someone shouldn't be wearing something so compressing it's painful or uncomfortable, Evans told TODAY. But in terms of avoiding health risks, "people would be better served quitting smoking or wearing seat belts."

And even if Spanx or other shapewear does cause some gas or bloating, they’re nothing like corsets or highly restrictive girdles women used to endure. 

"It was worse then, back in the day," Guthrie said on TODAY. 

No joke. A 2002 article in the American Journal of Public Health featured an illustration from a physician's book in the 1700s, showing how corsets compressed ribs and changed a woman's figure. 

If you can't give up shapewear, at least don't wear it too often, experts say. Or, as Al Roker advises, "don't wear them so tight, it bursts your appendix."