Sucking In Your Stomach Can Lead to Pelvic Floor Issues.

Almost everyone has experienced sucking in their stomach, either to fit into a tight pair of pants or to contort their stomach to appear smaller. The truth is that there is nothing wrong with having any shape of stomach, but when it comes to chronically sucking your tum in, it turns out that your body isn't really into it. 

"Chronically sucking in your tummy means constantly activating your upper abdominal muscles to make your stomach look flatter," explains Chelsea Waldkirch, PT, DPT, a pelvic floor therapist at Renew Physical Therapy in New Jersey. "Squeezing or gripping your upper ab muscles alters the function of your core, pelvic floor, and breathing strategies." 

In short, while societal pressure may lead you to believe that a sucked-in stomach looks better, the action can have an impact on how your pelvic floor muscles elongate and contract. The pelvic floor is a hammock-like group of muscles that rests laterally in your pelvic cavity, beneath your core and abdominal organs. They are necessary for supporting your organs from the inside, controlling how and when you pee and poop, and even for sexual pleasure. 

How can sucking in your stomach contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction? 

The Pelvic Floor Muscles

According to Quiara Smith, MOT, OTR/L holistic and integrative paediatric pelvic health and occupational therapist and owner of Aloha Integrative Therapy, holding your stomach in can affect how the pelvic floor muscles elongate and contract. Some muscles in your body must relax in order for others to function properly. For example, your torso must relax in order for you to throw something, and different leg muscles must relax at different times in order for you to walk. According to Carly Cano, DPT, a physical therapist at the pelvic floor therapy practise FusionWellnessPT in Los Angeles, the same rules apply to the abdominal muscles for a variety of movements, including breathing, moving, digestion, sexual pleasure, and going to the bathroom. "Humans frequently 'suck in,' or hold their tension, in their tummies. It can become a habit, and eventually a chronic state of tension, over time" According to Dr. Cano. 

Chronic tension. 

chronic tension can put undue strain on your core muscles and pelvic floor

According to Dr. Cano, chronic tension can put undue strain on your core muscles and pelvic floor. "Consider squeezing a full tube of toothpaste in the centre. As a result, the toothpaste will move above and below where you squeeze "Smith explains. When you suck your stomach, something similar happens. Sucking in puts a lot of pressure on the centre of your core, which, she explains, weighs on your pelvic floor. According to Waldkirch, this can weaken the pelvic floor over time, resulting in conditions such as general dysfunction, stress incontinence, painful sex, and even pelvic organ prolapse. 

Impact on your breath. 

Impact on breathing

Furthermore, holding your stomach has an effect on your breathing. "When you inhale deeply, your lungs expand and your diaphragm drops. To account for the change in pressure inside your body, your belly must be able to expand. It will be impossible to take deep breaths using your diaphragm if your stomach is sucked in "Waldkirch explains. Proper breathing technique is critical for reducing anxiety, lowering cortisol, supporting your immune system, and supplying oxygen to your muscles. When you sucking your tummy, you may be preventing your body from taking a full breath. Shallow breathing will not help feelings of distress if you are in an anxiety-inducing situation where you might be tempted to suck in your stomach. 

What else can you do? 

Woman trying to squeeze into tight pants

If you find yourself holding in your stomach a lot, try to remind yourself that your body's shape is not something to be ashamed of. It's fine if your stomach protrudes. There's no need to tense your muscles in order to make your body look a certain way. It makes sense to struggle with society's extremely strict and almost unavoidable pressures on how one's body should look. Take a deep breath and observe how your tummy rounds—remembering that this is the most human thing you can do. As a result, it is one of the most human-like ways for a belly to appear. Also, avoid wearing clothes that make you look like an Italian salami. What is the best way to deal with ill-fitting pants? Getting pants that comfortably fit. If you have to suck in your stomach to get your pants to fit comfortably, that's a clear sign they're too tight, according to Waldkirch. 

Strengthen your belly the healthy way. 

There are many effective ways to flatten your stomach and reduce belly fat. Here is a recent article where a medical doctor explains some of the best strategies for reducing belly fat fast. 

Intermittent Fasting Plans have been proven in studies to be one of the most effective ways to lose body fat in general and belly fat in particular. The popularity of this diet approach stems from a shift in focus from what you are eating to when you are eating it. Intermittent fasting works best when you make healthier food choices, but it’s also effective when there are no food restrictions of any kind. You can read more about the benefits of intermittent fasting for women here

The Benefits of a strong core. 

If you are new to working out, or its been years since you last trained, starting an exercise program geared towards general strength conditioning will help build a strong core foundation. Activating your core during exercise will help you develop not just a naturally flat stomach, but will also empower you with a strong core - improving your posture, agility, range of motion and functional ability to move and lift. There are so many benefits for building a strong core, and you can read about those benefits here

If you are looking to start exercising again, but it's been years, or even decades since you last purposely trained, we have a program called the Beginner Bootcamp that takes just 10-15 minutes per day, and was designed specifically for people at a that require a beginner level of pace and intensity. You can try the first class absolutely free by clicking here or on the image below. 

BodyRock Beginner Bootcamp
Trying to unlearn society's beliefs about how a stomach should look can be difficult, and it may require more than simply learning that sucking in your tummy is bad for your health. If this is a difficult habit to break, there's nothing wrong with discussing body image concerns with a loved one or a trusted mental health professional.



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