Medicine’s Clothing Problem

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Sydney Ross Singer, Medical Anthropologist

6/26/2024

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If you look around you at other people, there is one thing you will find all of them are doing, regardless of race, religion, nationality, gender, or any other way people are differentiated from one another. This one thing is something all people do, whether they like it or not. Most don’t even question doing it, although it is really worthy of questioning. Of course, that thing is that they are all wearing clothing. 

Clothing clearly sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. You can’t seem to spot a human without them wearing some material made of plastic (such as polyester) or natural fiber (such as cotton, wool, silk, or linen) on all or part of their bodies. From the feet to the top of the head, the human body is covered, adorned, constricted, compressed, squeezed, wrapped, or draped in some material, and which is intimately in contact with the skin. 

Amazingly, this is all ignored by the medical industry. As far as medicine is concerned, the human body is a biochemically operated machine, and treatment involves finding the right drug to tweak the body’s biochemistry. Clothing has nothing to do with that, so it is ignored. 

Meanwhile, in the real world of clothing-clad people, there are tight shoes that are distorting and misshaping feet, resulting in foot, ankle, knee, hip, and back complications. Toxic chemicals in the shoes leach into the foot skin, resulting in foot fungus, and even melanoma skin cancer. Add to this the tight socks that leave marks around the calf or ankles from being too tight, and you have impairment of circulation from the feet, especially of the lymphatic system in the skin. The lymphatic system is part of the immune and waste disposal systems of the body, essential for removing toxin-containing lymph fluid from the tissues, such as chemicals released from shoes and marinating the sweaty skin of the feet. The foot skin retains these toxins longer as a result of the tight shoes and socks impairing the lymphatic drainage from the foot skin. This results in fluid accumulation, which many people see at the end of the day when they remove their shoes and socks. 

Doctors will ignore shoes when discussing the feet, ankles, legs, hips, or back. When was the last time your doctor asked you about how tight your shoes were, or how toxic they were? You probably weren’t even asked about your tight socks, and what that might do to your feet, unless, maybe, you had diabetes. There are actually diabetic socks that are looser fitting around the ankles for this very reason, but this is an exception. Doctors rarely discuss them, since you can buy them without needing a prescription. 

Then there is tight underwear and its harmful impacts. Let’s face it. Penises and testes do not like being compressed by tight briefs. And vaginas don’t appreciate being smothered and unable to breathe, either. Give them a little room. Of course, all these pieces of underwear hold on by uncomfortable elastic bands which stay on by squeezing. This is actually compression, and impairs the easily-compressed lymphatic system, just like sock tops do to the skin lymphatics. Add to this the nature of the material smothering the vaginas, penises, and testes, and whether it is natural fiber or plastic. You have to let the crotch air out, not keep it sealed and set for fungal or bacterial incubation. 

Underwear, of course, implies that there is overwear, which there is. Pants are typically used by men and many women, and these garments must somehow hold onto the hips. This is more difficult to achieve for men than for women, and there needs to be some elastic or belt to hold the pants up. The pants are tighter when sitting than when standing, so unless they are adjusted constantly, they are either too tight or too loose. Elastic bands stretch to fit the size, but that makes them extremely tight when sitting if they are already tight enough when standing. Suspenders can hold pants up from the shoulders, but this places uncomfortable pressure on the shoulders, which can lead to headaches, backaches, and neck pain. But a tight belt around the waist can interfere with digestion and cause increased tissue pressure and fluid accumulation in the parts of the pelvis beneath the belt. 

When does a doctor ask a patient with digestive issues about their belt tightness?  Never.

Women often wear a layer of plastic closely adhered to their legs and over their belly, called pantyhose. These can breakdown into toxic chemicals in the sun’s ultraviolet rays and in heat, and its intimate contact with the skin makes it easy for these to be absorbed. And fabric-squeezed skin does not easily flush clean of toxins, since squeezing reduces circulation.

Moving upwards, there is the bra, a useless device that tortures women for fashion. This device is tight by design to alter breast shape, and this causes problems for the lymphatic system, once again. Lymph fluid cannot easily flow in tiny lymphatic vessels that are compressed or constricted by tight clothing. If a bra leaves marks or indentations in the skin, then it is too tight. If tight bras are worn daily for long hours, this results in fluid accumulation in the breasts, which women feel as breast pain. The fluid collects into pockets, forming cysts which doctors will repeatedly drain by needle aspiration. Over time, the cysts can become filled in with scar tissue, creating fibrocystic breast disease. The breast tissue becomes progressively toxified by impaired circulation from tight bras, and immune function is impaired as well, leading to decreased ability for the immune system to fight developing cancer cells in the breasts. The result is increased breast cancer incidence. In fact, bra-free women have about the same risk of breast cancer as men, while the longer and tighter the bra is worn the higher the risk rises, to over 100 times higher for a 24/7 bra user compared to a bra-free woman. 

Bras also heat the breasts, irritate the breast skin, compress and invert nipples, impair lactation leading to mastitis, and causes the breasts to become droopy due to fluid retention and reliance on the bra for support. (Natural suspensory ligaments in the breasts atrophy and weaken from non use when using bras.) Bras also have been shown to affect the autonomic nervous system, resulting in slower digestion and longer menstrual cycles. It also reduces the ability for the chest to fully expand when breathing, affecting respiration. 

Medicine, however, ignores the impact of underwear and bras. They consider the breasts of a woman who daily wears a tight push-up bra for 18 hours as the equivalent to a bra-free woman. And they ignore the cumulative impact of these tight garments over decades of daily usage, sometimes 24/7. 

Of course, the doctor can see the bra when the patient removes her blouse. The doctor may tell her to remove her bra for the mammogram, since any metal clasps or underwires may interfere with the x-ray. The doctor may then see deep grooves in the shoulders from the weight of the bra strap bearing down, or deep marks from the bra encircling the torso. They may see nipples smashed down, and skin abrasion or irritation from the bra material rubbing against the skin. The doctor may even see a rash from chemicals leaching from the bra, or skin depigmentation. 

But the doctor will not really take notice these things. They are so normal that they are invisible. The doctor becomes oblivious to the obvious, and the impact of the bra is ignored altogether. After the x-ray, the woman will be told to put her bra back on. To the doctor, the bra is not a medical issue, despite research showing that it is. 

Neckties were shown by research to increase head pressure when worn too tightly, due to compression of the neck veins. The backed-up blood increases brain and head pressure, and can even cause glaucoma. But doctors will never ask patients about their neckties. Many doctors are themselves wearing neckties. Many doctors are also wearing bras, underwear, and tight shoes and socks. This makes them even more blinded to the impact of these common garments. 

This is one of the reasons why clothing gets a pass from medicine. When everyone does something, there is nobody available for comparison. Likewise, if everyone smoked, then the hazards of smoking would be overlooked, as it was until about 50 years ago. 

Another reason why clothing gets ignored by medicine is because its effect is mechanical, not chemical. Pharmaceutical-focused medicine wants biochemical answers, not biomechanical answers. The constriction of circulation from external forces, like tight clothing, is something medicine is simply blinded to, despite recent studies into the biomechanics of the lymphatics and bras. 

This blindness is also defensive, due to the need to defend current research and practice that ignores the effect of clothing. When you consider that tight clothing can have profound impacts on the body, it follows that medical research should be considering clothing tightness, frequency of wear, and chemical composition when focusing on clothing-associated parts of the body, such as the breasts, groin, feet, brain, eyes, etc. All skin research, including skin cancer, must consider constriction from clothing and the leaching of chemical toxins into the skin from synthetics garments and cleansing agents. Tight clothing both delivers these toxins by skin contact, and impairs their effective elimination through constricted or compressed lymphatics. This also impairs immune function within the constricted tissue or organ. Clearly, this is nothing to ignore if you care about understanding the physiology and pathophysiology of the human, clothing-clad body. How can medicine face up to this massive oversight that puts into question their entire approach to disease treatment and research design? 

How will the medical industry tell women, for example, that their bras may be causing breast disease and cancer, after years of ignoring, and actually ridiculing, this issue? The American Cancer Society even sells mastectomy bras, which is ironic as well as moronic. It’s like selling patients cigarettes after lung cancer treatment.

Interestingly, while medicine treats tight clothing like it doesn’t matter, the medical industry enjoys telling people to use compression bandages for lymphedema management. The theory is that damaged tissue filled with lymph fluid can be decongested of fluid by squeezing the tissue with an elastic bandage. Amazingly, despite the extensive use of compression bandages, the scientific evidence of their safety and efficacy is limited, and it never solves the problem. Lymphedema is currently incurable, and keeping constant pressure on the swelling area may reduce stagnant lymph fluid, but it will also reduce replacement with new fluid. As a result, these compression bandages need to be removed frequently to allow blood to return to the area, at which point the tissue swells again and more compression is used. 

Again, this does not cure lymphedema, and over time the compression of any organ will result in reduced circulation and progressive deterioration. But the medical industry can’t think of another way to reduce lymphedema without compression. They are currently looking into the biochemistry of the lymphatics to find a drug that can improve flow for people with lymphedema, but a mechanical impairment due to clothing will not be resolved until the clothing is not longer tight. Mechanics trumps chemicals when it comes to circulation. 

And yet, while medicine uses compression garments for lymphedema management, they never consider the impact of tight clothing in people who do not yet have lymphedema. They see that compression garments affects circulation and health, but refuse to consider that tight clothing can have a physiological impact by impairing circulation.

Until removing a bra or cutting off someone’s underwear becomes a billable surgical procedure, medicine will continue to seek drug solutions to mechanical problems caused by tight clothing. People will continue to make themselves sick by their clothing choices, while medicine insists that clothing has no impact on health or disease, except for compression garments prescribed by a doctor. 

Medicine clearly has a clothing problem. Perhaps their stethoscopes are too tight around their necks, cutting off circulation to their brains. 

References:

Comparative study of breast cancer risk factors at Kenyatta National Hospital and the Nairobi Hospital     J. Afr. Cancer (2015) 7:41-46.  

Wearing a Tight Bra for Many Hours a Day is Associated with Increased Risk of Breast Cancer     Adv Oncol Res Treat (2016) 1: 105. 

Brassiere wearing and breast cancer risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis  World J Meta-Anal. Aug 26, 2015; 3(4): 193-205 

Wearing Brassiere – A Less Well Known Factor Associated with Breast Cancer in Women Nurs Midwifery J 2019, 16(12) 891-901.

Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, Second Edition

Clothing and Disease: Are You Dressed to Kill?

The Biomechanics of Bras and Lymphatics and the Link to Breast Cancer 

How Tight, Toxic Shoes Cause Skin Cancer on the Feet

Tight Clothing Affects Tumor Microenvironment

How Bras Cause Lymph Stasis and Breast Cancer

How Bras Cause Breast Cancer by Impairing the Extracellular Matrix

Bras Cause More than Breast Cancer: Preliminary Results of the International Bra-Free Study

Wearing a Tie Could Mess with the Blood Supply to Your Brain

Plagued by Indigestion? It Could be Your Clothing and Not Food Poisoning

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