Although most of us agree that clothes are a good thing, it is sometimes easy to overlook some of their negative aspects. Changing the way we dress can affect our health and overall sense of well-being.
Clothing can limit or even defeat many of the natural purposes of skin, such as repelling moisture, drying quickly, breathing, protecting without impeding performance, and especially sensing one's environment. Clothing can harbor disease- and odor-causing bacteria, and yeast (especially underclothing and athletic clothing). The idea that clothing is necessary for support of the genitals or breasts is often unwarranted. For example, research shows that the choice of wearing a bra or not has no bearing on the tendency of a woman's breasts to "droop" as she ages.
Moderate exposure to the sun promotes general health. Research suggests that solar exposure triggers the body's synthesis of Vitamin D, vital for (among other things) calcium absorption and a strong immune system. Research has suggested an inverse relationship between solar exposure and osteoporosis, colon cancer, breast cancer, and even the most deadly form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma.
Tight clothing may cause health problems by restricting the natural flow of blood and lymphatic fluid. Research by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer demonstrated that women who wear bras more than twelve hours per day, but not to bed, are 21 times more likely to get breast cancer than those who wear bras less than twelve hours per day. Those who wear bras even to bed were found to be 125 times more likely to get breast cancer than those who don't wear bras at all. Similarly, testicular cancer has been linked to tight briefs. The theory is that tight clothing impedes the lymph system, which removes cancer-causing toxins from the body.
Sydney Singer and Soma Grismaijer (authors of Dressed to Kill, Avery Press, 1995) suggest that some 80% of bra-wearers who experience lumps, cysts or tenderness will see those symptoms vanish, "within a month of getting rid of the bra."
Upon discovering a lump, Soma began regular breast massage, going bra-less for all occasions, bicycle riding, vitamin and herbal supplementation, and drinking only purified water. Two months later, her lump disappeared. "At the first frightening sign of a lump," Singer says, "women should take their bras off before they take their breasts off."
To prevent chaffing, some people also find it helpful to avoid tight-fitting undergarments.
Clothing is an area many people overlook. Loosely-fitting clothes allow the body to breathe better than tight clothes. The perspiration escapes and doesn't become a breeding ground for bacteria. The type of fabric is also very important. Synthetic fabrics for shoes and clothes don't allow the body to breathe, so use all-natural fabrics. Wash your clothes often.
Wear loose-fitting clothes to help reduce sweating, and avoid rough-textured clothing. Wash clothing with mild soaps only and rinse thoroughly.
Clothing should be made of a lightweight, breathable material so that sweat can evaporate. 100% cotton is a poor choice on hot days, since cotton holds large amounts of sweat, not allowing it to evaporate. The color of clothing is another consideration: white- or light-colored clothing is best because things that are white reflect all wavelengths of light (and associated heat) i.e. heat radiated from the sun.
Highly regarded studies, including one at Harvard, have shown that women who wear bras for extended periods are at much higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who do not. There is strong evidence that this is as a result of impaired lymphatic flow. Wearing a bra, especially a constricting one with underwires and/or tight straps, and especially to bed, prevents normal lymphatic flow and would likely lead to anoxia (lower than normal oxygen content), which has been related to fibrosis, which has been linked to increased cancer risk.
The logical conclusion is that bras should be used as little as possible, if at all. Women evolved under conditions where there was breast movement with every step that they took when they walked or ran. Scientific literature about lymphatic flow indicates that this may be as important as the constriction factor. Every subtle bounce of the breast while moving, walking, running, etc. gently massages the breast and increases lymphatic flow and thus cleans the breast of toxins and wastes that arise from cellular metabolism.
Of course, there may be other mechanisms for the damage that bras apparently cause. One such mechanism could be temperature. Breasts are external organs and have a naturally lower temperature, but this rises when a bra is worn. Cancers can be temperature-dependent; breast cancer is hormone-dependent; temperature can alter hormone function.
All these facts are well-established in medical literature. By whatever mechanism, someone will eventually explain why Singer and Grismaijer found a 125-fold difference in cancer rates between bra-free breasts and those constricted by 24-hour-per-day bra-wearing. They have written a book that is well worth reading, Dressed to Kill, Avery Press, 1995.
Singer and Grismaijer suggest that you simply stop wearing one for two weeks and see how you feel. "Don't sleep in your bra!", pleads Singer. "Women who want to avoid breast cancer should wear a bra for the shortest period of time possible – certainly for less than 12 hours daily."
Push-up and sports bras are much worse than loose-fitting cotton bras. You should be able to slip two fingers under the shoulder-straps and side-panels. The higher the side-panels, the more severe the restriction of major lymph nodes. Take your bra off at home. Massage your breasts every time you remove your bra.
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