Constantly holding your stomach can be harmful to health

We read in De Telegraaf that “holding in your stomach is bad for your health”. Whoever does it constantly can really get complaints, but pulling your stomach in now and then won’t hurt. We classify the statement as true.

This fact check has been made based on the information available at the date of publication. Read more about how we work here.

in The telegraph We read that “You shouldn’t hold your stomach.” For example, many people do this when taking a photo, or even all the time, without noticing it, so it seems. This would harm your health. One is indicated condition in a newspaper New York Post In it, American physician Robert Glatter explains that it can cause ineffective breathing and a weak pelvic floor. The latter can even lead to enuresis.

According to pelvic floor physiotherapist Hedwig Neels (UZA and University of Antwerp), this is true. Although we must immediately differentiate the nuance: Pulling your abs every now and then cannot hurt, of course. Also, training your abdominal muscles, making them stronger, is also a good idea. One thing that can have negative consequences is when you get stuck in a stubborn pattern of constantly — often unconsciously — pulling your stomach hard. In this way you can actually increase the load on the pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to loss of urine, but also, for example, pain during sexual relations. We see these problems mainly in women, but men also have complaints. premature ejaculation, for example. “

If you tense your abdominal muscles for a long time, your pelvic floor may become overloaded.

Magali Surmont (UZ Brussels)

Nils explains that your pelvic floor muscles should work like a trampoline. Under downward pressure—when you cough or sneeze, for example—they tighten so that they properly support all of your abdominal organs. But other times they need to relax. If they are constantly tense, they will not have enough reserves to step in when necessary. They become fatigued, as they are, and that can lead to loss of urine while coughing or laughing, for example.

There’s the added effect of constantly tense abdominal muscles, says Nils. They ensure that the diaphragm cannot adequately perform its function, which disrupts breathing. This can lead to pain in the shoulders and neck and even headaches. It’s not dangerous, but if you’re in such a rigid pattern, it’s important to learn how to break it. You should be able to properly tense your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, but you should also be able to relax them.

Gastroenterologist Magali Surmont (UZ Brussel) also points out that prolonged abdominal cramping can have negative effects. “When you pull your stomach in, you’re actually contracting your abdominal muscles. This increases pressure in your abdomen and on your pelvic floor. In response, a healthy pelvic floor will tighten, so everything is well supported. But if you tighten your abs for too long, it may The pelvic floor becomes overburdened. We see this, for example, in gymnasts who jump a lot and hold their breath. They may have to deal with complaints such as loss of urine. Exhale properly – the diaphragm lifts – lowers the pressure. You have to train for that. Sure Holding your stomach every now and then doesn’t do any harm, but if you do it constantly, it can have side effects.

Is this correct?

Those who constantly hold their stomach can develop health problems. But doing it once in a while certainly won’t hurt. We classify the statement as Somewhat true.


In the article you will find links to all the sources used.

Additionally, the following people have been contacted to verify this news:

– Phone calls and email traffic with Hedwig Niels (UZA and University of Antwerp), 7-9 August 2023

– Phone calls and email traffic with Magali Surmont (UZ Brussels), August 7-9, 2023

All sources were last consulted on August 9, 2023.

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