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Gastroenterology and Health

Belching, stomach distension or heartburn

The Tight Pants Syndrome!

By Dr. W. Gifford Jones

Are you a middle-aged man complaining of vague abdominal discomfort? Do you feel that your abdomen is often distended? Or have you noticed occasional skipped heart beats? And are you concerned you may have a serious intestinal or cardiac problem? If so, you may simply be suffering from the "Tight Pants Syndrome".

It's rare that at one time or another a healthy person doesn't suffer from belching, stomach distension or heartburn.

Dr. Octavio Bessa, a U.S. internist in Stamford, Connecticut, has reassuring advice for men. He reports in the Archives of Internal medicine that these ailments are often self-induced and occasionally due to snug wardrobes.

His research reveals that there may be a discrepancy of as much as three inches between men's actual waistlines and the waistbands of their pants!

Dr. Bessa claims that tight pants interfere with the motility of the bowel. This causes abdominal pain two to three hours after a meal.

But why do men wear pants that are three inches too small? Dr. Bessa's explanation should make every self-respecting male sit up and take notice before all is lost.

He claims they're often purchased by the man's wife or girlfriend. It appears that women are not only wearing the pants these days, but also buying them. Males have certainly slipped a notch or two in recent years!

His obvious solution? Men should buy their own loose-fitting pants and hold them up with suspenders.

Dr. Bessa's findings reminded me of a Harvard Medical School story. A 55 year old man suffered from headaches, blurred vision and a tingling sensation in his right ear. But none of the distinguished professors at Harvard could diagnose his problem.

The patients symptoms became worse and in desperation he consulted doctors at the Mayo Clinic and leading diagnosticians of London, England's, famed Harley Street. But none could determine the cause of his malady.

Several years later he attended a convention in Atlantic City. He discovered he hadn't packed enough shirts and walked into an unremarkable men's store and asked for a Size 15 shirt.

After a glance the young salesman suggested emphatically he needed a Size 16 shirt.

Irritated, the businessman replied, "Look here, young man, I've been buying shirts since long before you were in knee pants. I don't need you to tell me the size of my shirt".

The young man replied, "That's fine with me, sir, if you want to suffer from headaches , blurred vision and a tingling sensation in your right ear!"

A report from Cornell University indicates this man should have accepted the salesman's advice.

Several years ago Dr. Susan Watkins, Associate Professor at Cornell, studied 94 males. She found that 67 per cent were buying shirts with a neck size smaller than the circumference of their necks. And that their ties were too tight.

But does a tight shirt merely cause discomfort? Dr. Watkins reported that tight neckwear can also trigger visual problems.

Males in the study were asked to tell researchers when a light flickering at increased speeds appeared to become constant. The tight collar wearers were found to have the poorest visual discrimination.

Dr. Walkins suggests that tight neckwear constricts the arteries and decreases the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and sensory organs of the head.

I'm sure that neither Dr Bessa's or Dr. Watkins' research will win the Nobel Prize in Medicine. But I hope these researchers will continue to explore the effects of tightness. We've all seen males whose shirts are so tight they have red faces and eyes that seem to be protruding from their heads.

It's food for thought if such constriction causes more than visual defects. Maybe constant pressure around the neck should be studied for possible injury to the carotid arteries. This may set the stage for atherosclerosis, and subsequent blood clot and stroke. Or does the decreased oxygen supply trigger Alzheimer's Disease? Maybe it even causes that tingling sensation in the right ear!

I for one am eternally grateful to Dr. Watkins. I'm often asked if I've lost weight and should see a doctor even though I haven't changed an ounce in 20 years. It's because I've also hated tight shirts. Now I tell critics to read Dr. Watkins' research!

I think us males should loosen up. Toss out the constricting collar and increase the amount of blood flowing to our brain. This might improve our intelligence. We might even start wearing the pants again. Hmm, but I guess that is asking too much!

W. Gifford-Jones M.D Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of Harvard. Dr. Walker's website is:
Dr. Walker can be reached at

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