Breast Implant Illness as Cell Danger Response
The cell danger response (CDR) research was pioneered by a brilliant doctor and researcher named Robert Naviaux, MD, PhD. I am certainly not the first person to talk about the cell danger response, but I believe I am the first to consider it as a potential explanation for breast implant illness. Lets discuss this connection further.
When faced with a stressor our cells respond in order to protect themselves and to help get rid of the stressor. This could be an infection, toxicity, or tissue damage, etc. This is called the Cell Danger Response and is a normal physiological response. The problem arises when we get stuck in a cell danger response because the stressor doesn’t get resolved. When we get stuck in this situation, it can cause all sorts of problems and the survival mechanism of the cell can really be our demise.
If you damage the cell, the cell dies. If you damage enough cells, you damage the tissue. If you damage enough tissue, you damage the organs. If you damage enough organs you die. So the body responds to protect itself from dying. Sometimes this response can hurt us if we get stuck in this cell danger response.
We have survival mechanisms that take place inside the cell in response to different traumas. Even emotional trauma affects our cells, although the CDR mainly happens in response to physical trauma, biological trauma, or chemical trauma.
With physical trauma, like an injury, the protective mechanism takes place in order to prevent more cell death and more cell damage. Biological trauma would be an infection of some kind that creates biotoxins. A chemical trauma is an exposure to some type of toxin, like heavy metals or environmental toxins (and in our case, toxins and heavy metals from breast implants).
This protective mechanism is happening all the time in the body. BUT constant exposure to heavy metals and toxins from breast implants or the body’s inability to detox causes this cell danger response that is supposed to take place over a matter of minutes or days, to turn into a much more constant, chronic response that’s taking place on a cellular level and that’s what causes problems. It becomes a chronic condition that changes the way the cells function and it can lead to so many different chronic illness symptoms.
Once the danger/stressor is eradicated or removed, the CDR is turned off, the body returns to homeostatis and we have a balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic systems in the body. When the cell danger response persists abnormally, whole body metabolism and the gut microbiome are disrupted, the collective performance of multiple organ systems is impaired, behavior is changed, and chronic disease results.
A central part of the CDR involves robbing cells of ATP and moving it into the extracellular space. This results in a significant change in how cells function and behave. Short-term exposure to a stressor results in an increase in metabolic activity, which is good. Chronic exposure to the same stressor results in a downshift in metabolic activity such as altered redox and nutrient availability, reduction in oxygen consumption by the mitochondria and a rise in intracellular oxygen and ROS’s (reactive oxygen species).
ATP has two roles. Within the cell it produces energy. Outside the cell, it signals that there is a threat, and signals to start the cell danger response and trigger inflammation within the body. The extracellular ATP becomes a key signaling molecule that alerts neighboring cells to the threat, as well as functions to recruit immune cells and cytokines to sustain the CDR. This protective response makes the mitochondria the canary in the coal mine for the cell.
The picture below illustrates these changes in cell function. In the center of this picture from left to right you can see there’s mitos(mitochondria), oxygen, ATP(energy production), cysteine/sulfur, Vitamin D, Folate/B12, SAMe, Ornithine, Histidine, Artinine, Heme, and Phosphlipids. Lets discuss a few of these metabolic activities.
Illustration by Dr. Keven Conners
In a healthy situation, oxygen is the fuel for your brain, necessary for cellular function, and ultimately it’s excreted as water. In the cell danger response, you get increased INTRA-cellular oxygen, which causes excess hydrogen peroxide formation, which eventually leads to oxygen free radicals and oxynitrate formation, which is damaging to your cells and leads to chronic illness.
ATP is cellular energy produced by the mitochondria. It enables the cells to do their jobs. If you don’t have enough energy inside the cells, they can’t function. In the case of CDR, when our cells encounter a threat that exceeds the cells capacity for homeostasis the mitochondria release ATP from the cell. The extra-cellular ATP binds to receptors on the surface of cells and initiates the cell danger response, and amplifies inflammation.
When the ATP is released outside the cell, we have increased uric acid production and increased inflammation. If ATP is getting robbed outside of the cell because we’re trying to fight a stressor, the cell is going to suffer. In the case of a heart cell, it’s going to results in chronic fatigue, especially on exertion. For other types of cells, this translates to muscle fatigue, brain fog, and so forth.
Cysteine and sulfur production happens through the transulfuration pathway, which contributes to glutathione production. In a normal functioning cell you’re producing enough glutathione, which is your body’s master antioxidant that gets rid of free radicals inside the cell. In the case of chronic CDR, glutathione is used for excretion of hydrogen sulfide, which is good temporarily, but not long-term. Chronically stealing glutathione for this purpose can actually cause cancer. So this is why balance is everything.
Histidine is the precursor for histamine. Histamine is made in the mast cells through histidine. If you’re body is functioning normally, histidine functions to inhibit NF-kB (NF-kB is a protein complex that is the single most important factor in causing inflammation in the body), and functions as an anti-inflammatory chemical. But in the cell danger response, histidine forms histamine. In the setting of CDR, when we’re exposed to an allergen or antigen, histidine will produce histamine, capillary dilation(rashes and skin conditions and gut inflammation), increased tissue oxygenation, and overall systemic inflammation. Chronic activation of NF-κB has been linked to cancer, inflammatory conditions, and autoimmune diseases.
When you add defects in your HNMT gene (the gene that makes the enzymes that degrade histamine), then you’re in a world of hurt. Now you’re producing excess histamine because you’re stuck in a cell danger response, resulting in excess systemic (body-wide) tissue inflammation. The cell danger response is ramping up histamine systemically and decreasing the inhibition of NF-kB, so you have an increased risk of chronic illness, including cancer, and you can’t get rid of the histamine.
So what do you do? Well, you have to identify and get rid of the causes. If you don’t get rid of the danger that is stimulating the inflammatory response in the first place, you’re never going to win the battle. If you have gotten rid of the danger, and still haven’t healed, likely it’s because you have more than one missing piece of the puzzle that just hasn’t been addressed.
According to Robert Naviaux, MD, who pioneered this research, there are 4 phases in the cell danger response.
Cell Danger Response – Phase 1
After the danger/stressor has been eliminated, a choreographed sequence of anti-inflammatory and regenerative pathways is activated to reverse the cell danger response. A good example of this process is when you get a cold or the flu. Rest allows your body to prioritize attacking the virus. After the virus is attacked you no longer need to rest and you can get on with life. The best thing you can do here is to reduce toxins and threats. This includes en bloc explant and a detoxification protocol.
Cell Danger Response – Phase 2
The cell danger response was not designed to handle continual exposure to sources of threats and stress. When threats persist, the body makes metabolic changes, designed to prioritize survival. When the toxic load persists a cascade of changes is initiated which can mimic many diagnoses including:
- Methylation problems
- Mast cell activation
- Histamine intolerance
- Adrenal problems
- Gut dysbiosis
That is, these are part of the cascade, switched on by the cell danger response, that may also be switched off once homeostasis is restored, and not a diagnosis necessarily of themselves.
Cell Danger Response – Phase 3
When stress continues for some time and becomes chronic, the mitochondria itself begins to lose their ability to adapt, and nutritional resources become depleted. DNA can also become damaged, leading to disease processes. Perhaps the best indication of this phase is where moderate physical exertion results in a prolonged energy deficit. This is not just the need to rest but the inability to recover energy quickly.
Cell Danger Response – Phase 4
The cell danger response in certain situations becomes stuck and does not reverse after a threat is resolved. This depends on a number of factors including age, genotype (toxins can lead to DNA damage), and the severity of toxic exposure.
How to address Breast Implant Illness from the perspective of the Cell Danger Response
Testing can reveal what stage of CDR you are in. Additional testing is also required to identify hidden stressors that need to be addressed after explant. I use functional lab testing to identify what is stressing the body in addition to breast implants. Then we work on addressing those hidden stressors. I find this strategy to be highly effective. This is the most important step, and in my experience, the most overlooked.
Any good health restoration program after explant should include optimizing nutrition (including removing food intolerances), stabilizing blood sugar, reducing toxic exposures, addressing additional hidden stressors, some exercise as tolerated, rest, and supplementation (including detox supplements). Until all threats/stressors are removed, homeostasis will not be restored.
Emotional trauma and stress can be a major blocking factor to healing and needs to be addressed concurrently with any holistic healing and detoxification protocol. I believe everyone who is chronically sick should include emotional detox as part of their heavy metal detoxification protocol.
It is not possible to avoid all toxic exposures. Breast implants are a huge one and need to be removed. The aim post-explant, however, is to reduce daily toxic exposures so that the body achieves homeostasis and to implement a detoxification strategy long-term.
Exercise is one of the few ways to increase new mitochondria production. Yet, many with mitochondrial issues, find themselves in a catch 22. The ATP that produces the energy to exercise is being diverted to fight toxins. Yet exercise requires energy to create new mitochondria. Practically, this requires a fine balancing act. The body needs a little exertion, to kick in the mitochondrial regeneration processes, but not so much that it shuts down. Also during times of stress (such as high stress, trauma, surgery, illness, fever, temperature or altitude extremes), this exercise needs to be dialed back. The body has other priorities.
The detox program I used for myself and now use with my clients, True Cellular Detox, contains a product to not only boost ATP production, but increase the number of mitochondria in the body as well so you can produce even more ATP. See my post: Detox: You’re Doing It Wrong to learn more about detox.
The True Cellular Detox Diet has been specifically designed to support healing by:
- A customized diet to stabilize blood sugar
- Increase good fat intake (whilst removing toxic vegetable oils and trans-fats)
- Nutrient-dense meals (rich in phytonutrients and plant foods)
- Tailored fasting and ketosis (to shift from carbohydrate to fat-burning)
- High fiber/prebiotic diet (for microbiome support).
This diet is included in my detox program and includes a 90 day menu with recipes and shopping guides.
Finally, supplements should never be self-prescribed. In this case, you’re likely taking the advice of someone who said it worked for them or perhaps you read somewhere that if you have “this” symptoms or condition, take “that” supplement. Know this: you are a biologically unique individual with a unique situation. Supplement recommendations should be treated as such. What worked for me isn’t necessarily what you need. One thing is for sure: you’ll more than likely need at least some supplementation in the short term post-explant to help your body heal and achieve homeostasis.
Mitochondrial issues underly so many chronic illnesses, including chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, and autoimmune diseases, just to name a few.
Breast implants contain a wide range of toxins and heavy metals that bleed into the body from day one. They are a foreign body stimulating the immune system and damaging the surrounding tissues. Due to their toxic contents, they lead to leaky gut and overgrowth of pathogenic organisms in the body. By way of leaky gut and inhibition of NF-kB, they also lead to autoimmunity and food intolerances. Pathogens use heavy metals to create biofilm around themselves in order to protect themselves. Pathogens also feed on heavy metals found in breast implants. Damage of the gut leads to bacterial lipopolysaccharides (antigens) leaking through, causing an immune reaction and toxic overload. And we know that toxins, pathogenic infections, and tissue damage, if chronic, can all lead to the Cell Danger Response. Given what we know about breast implants and their effects on the body, it makes sense that the development of breast implant illness can, at least partially, be explain
*If you would like more information on how I can help you detox and heal after explant, please feel free to contact me below.
Sarah has a passion for health that has taken her along a path from RN, to fitness enthusiast, to becoming a certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner and True Cellular Detox™ Practitioner. She has a passion for breast implant illness and teaching her clients about restoring health through nutrition, lifestyle, and detox, and guiding them through the sea of mis-information in hopes of finding their path to vibrant health.
Sarah’s belief is that we should settle for nothing less than vibrant health! And with breast implant illness, detoxing after en bloc explant is a foundation for that. She focuses on healing the body naturally at the cellular level with whole(real) foods, lifestyle changes, detoxing, and addressing the downstream conditions caused by breast implants. She believes that alternative therapies can be just as effective, if not more so, than conventional medical treatments because we are seeking to heal the body rather than merely mute a symptom with a pill. Sarah is an advocate for natural living and doing what she can to keep toxins out of the home and environment. She is also very passionate about eating real foods as she feels it’s the key to keeping our health and the future health of our children. The thought of explant surgery and healing the body can be overwhelming, so she is here to guide you through the process. Sarah is super passionate about this work, as she truly believes there is a reason for her own struggles that is bigger than her. Sarah will show you how to reverse breast implant illness, take back your health, and live vibrantly!