Beware what you wear

It may be catwalk envy that has you hoisting up the droopy bits and strapping back the flab, or you may just want to show off last year’s skinny-fits one more time. But if you see gaffer tape, tweezers and twine as part of the morning preening ritual, stop to think about what trussing yourself up like a plucked bird ripe for roasting is doing to your body. There could be plenty more embarrassing things than a stray bit of flab lurking round the corner if you keep it up – and a lot more foul-smelling.

Love it when your loins burn after a night on the tiles? Those skin-tight trousers might catch you more than a lusty bedfellow. You may have heard of cystitis, an irritating bladder infection caused by intestinal bacteria. If you’ve been unlucky enough to suffer from it, the very word might remind you of that unstoppable urge to wee, and the nasty burning sensation when you do. Tight jeans and panties can be one step towards picking it up, especially synthetic ones that build up entirely the wrong kind of heat around the crotch.

It could be a lot more long-term than a couple of days squealing on the loo with a carton of cranberry juice too. Super-tight clothing can force the cells lining the womb back towards the ovaries, causing crippling pain and even infertility in a condition known as endometriosis, which affects some 2 million women in the UK alone.

Working upwards, take that high-fashion belt down a notch to avoid trapping all manner of volatile gases and bubbling potions where they shouldn’t be – a condition known as acid reflux results when stomach contents are forced upwards, leading to painful heartburn, while at the other end a stifling build-up of bowel gases that your body would normally release as nature intended, will instead double you up with cramps and have you hobbling like a granny.

Everyone knows that if you squeeze a ball of putty tightly in your hand, it’ll bulge out somewhere else. But comic as it sounds there are much more serious consequences for those sporting waistband muffin-tops. Meralgia paresthetica is its much more fearsome-sounding technical name: too much pressure on your peripheral nerve, which leads from your thigh to your spinal column, can cause bee sting-like tingling across your thighs, groin or buttocks. Buy bigger trousers if you don’t want people assuming you have ant-infested pants.

Men: if you’re reading this and chuckling, don’t think you’re getting away so lightly. If fatherhood’s your thing you may want to consider going commando: keeping the crown jewels locked away too tightly can dramatically reduce your chances by virtually shutting down the sperm-producing cells in your testicles. There’s a reason why they’re dangling down below – you need to keep them cool.

Back to the ladies: you’ve loosened your belt and been and bit more honest about your jeans size. You no-doubt know that tight bras can lead to pain in the neck, arms and shoulders, especially if you’re somewhat heavier in the bust. But did you know that they can also damage the nerves to your hands and fingers, causing tingling and numbness that will have you twitching and fidgeting like a thing possessed?

Sore soles after a night on the dance-floor might seem an evil worth paying for jazzing up those party feet – and you might think injuring your pride doing a Naomi Campbell is the worst you should fear when tottering towards town. But sharpening those toes to a point in over-tight shoes can cause everything from corns to spinal problems. And yes, even Victoria Beckham has bunions.

Contorting your tootsies into unnatural poses is one thing, but if you don’t keep them fresh and aired then trapped sweat can cause all manner of nasty fungal infections, from athlete’s foot to infected toenails. Unfortunately, flat shoes aren’t much better as they can also cause plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation known as policeman’s heel that gives an apt warning to Bobbies pounding the beat.

Even flip-flops and backless mules can crush your toes as you push forward on them, so maybe barefoot is best – but watch your step, as over 100,000 people injure themselves like that each year too.

So there you go: next time you fish out the glad rags, besides fashion have a little think about infertility, farts and feet.

© Nick Carson 2008. First published on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Illnesses online.

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