How Breast Implants Affect Hormones
How the body responds to breast implants:
Stress comes in all kinds of different forms. Breast implants, for instance, are considered an internal stress on the body. This is true not only because they are a foreign object stimulating the immune system, but also because they contain heavy metals and toxins that are slowly leaked into the body creating inflammation and toxic overload. Let’s talk about stress and hormones in a little more detail.
First we have the STRESS RESPONSE. The stress response is initiated when the brain perceives something as a potential threat. The body releases epinephrine and norepinephrine, which triggers the “fight or flight” response (increases heart rate, blood flow, blood pressure, blood sugar, and alertness, and provides the body with greater strength and speed to fight the threat or run away from the threat). This response also triggers the body to release cortisol, which limits the cell mediator response to the threat. Once the threat has been eliminated, the body should return to a state of “allostasis”. This response was designed to help us cope with short-term stress, like running away from a bear so as to not get eaten.
Long-term stress, on the other hand, is continual activation of these two systems over the long-term and it can damage the body and lead to disease. In today’s high-paced modern world, where we are under chronic stress on a daily basis, our fight or flight response is constantly being activated, even though these stressors do not pose a danger to our physical survival. The same is true in the case of breast implants. As a foreign body they are continuously activating norepinephrine/epinephrine and the fight or flight response. Since cortisol is a very potent steroid hormone, the body buffers and modulates its effects on different target tissues in order to prevent harm:
- Converts the hormone from its active form (cortisol) to its inactive form (cortisone).
- Produces DHEA, which functions as an anabolic counter-regulatory hormone to the catabolic effects of cortisol. During stress, as cortisol increases, DHEA should also increase.
- You may have heard of the term “Adrenal Fatigue” and/or seen the “3-stage model” show below. Stage 1 is called the acute stage (when there is high cortisol output and low DHEA); stage 2 is called the compensatory phase (normal cortisol output with low DHEA); and stage 3 is called the exhaustion phase (low cortisol output and low DHEA).
Term “Adrenal Fatigue” and the “3-stage” model are helpful, but oversimplified. This model is based on adrenal output of cortisol and DHEA, but hormone output and free hormone levels may not be the same. It is possible to have low free cortisol levels in the body but high cortisol production by the adrenals. Both cortisol production and availability must be measured to assess the function of the HPA-axis. So a better term for this would be HPA-axis dysfunction (which stands for Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal-Axis) rather than adrenal “fatigue”, but that still doesn’t quite explain it. The adrenals aren’t “fatigued” or “dysfunctional”. The body is choosing to produce less cortisol to protect the tissues from prolonged elevated cortisol because of the prolonged stress exposure. The HPA-axis is being downregulated. This prevents the body from being in a chronic catabolic state.
The body wasn’t designed to handle continual exposure to sources of stress that constantly activate the HPA Axis. ALLOSTATIC LOAD is the price the body pays for being forced to adapt to adverse psychosocial or physical stressors (breast implants). It depletes the metabolic reserve in nearly every tissue in the body. The body reallocates resources and changes metabolic function to allow for the best chance of survival in the immediate future. The body chooses the immediate need for survival over long-term health and wellness.
How breast implants affect the ability of hormones to do their jobs:
Cortisol is a stress hormone that has a direct impact on the entire hormonal system.
Cortisol has multiple functions in the body:
- Helps us manage stress
- Highly anti-inflammatory
- Helps regulate blood sugar
- Aides in digestion by stimulating gastric acid secretion in the stomach
- Assists in metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrates
- Regulates blood pressure
-When cortisol levels are constantly high, they affect the production of sex hormones, slow down thyroid function, and cause blood sugar dysregulation. They also make it hard for your body to produce those “feel good” hormones like serotonin. Hormone imbalances may stem from adrenals, thyroid, GI tract, liver, diet, or lifestyle, but also breast implants. Chronic fight or flight response activation will shut down the endocrine system, immune system, and digestive system. The body is thinking of survival rather than reproduction.
You can do all the right things:
- You can have the perfect healthy diet
- You can exercise daily
- You can give up processed food
- You can get good sleep
- You can have a good mindset
- You can drink lots of water to stay hydrated……..
But you can still have hormone dysregulation in the body as a result of having breast implants. Why? INFLAMMATION caused by:
- Chronic activation of the fight or flight response.
- Chronic activation of the immune system.
- Heavy metals and toxins slowly bleeding into the body causing toxic overload, especially for those with gene mutations affecting detoxification pathways.
- Eventually pathogens (bacteria, fungus, mold, lyme pathogens, and parasites) are allowed to overgrow unchecked by the immune system.
Classic symptoms of HAP-axis dysfunction and hormone dysregulation:
Breast implants will not only cause hormone imbalances, they will also contribute to a congested liver due to the release of toxins. This is problematic no matter what your genetics, but can be particularly so with those of us who have one or two copies of any of the MTHFR gene mutations. I like to use the analogy of a 2 lane highway when thinking about MTHFR and breast implants. You can have lots of backed up traffic on a 2 lane highway creating congestion or you can have very little traffic and smooth sailing. The same goes for a 4 lane highway. So you see, it’s really the traffic that poses a problem rather than the number of lanes. And we have a lot of “traffic” with breast implants.
Breast implants can also really “dirty up” our genes. They put us at a disadvantage by turning “on” our gene mutations. Our genes are not our destiny, but until we’ve “cleaned them up”, they can affect us quite negatively. This is where testing can prove useful. You can see this reflected in the DUTCH hormone test. Most functional hormone tests use saliva, but saliva has it’s disadvantages. It can’t give us all of the hormone metabolites, this we can’t see how each hormone is being broken down in the body, which provides incredible insight. I’ll show you how momentarily. Saliva also doesn’t show us how much total cortisol the body is able to produce and metabolize in a 24 hour period. If we can see how hormones and cortisol are being metabolized by the body then we can get a snap shot of how our detoxification pathways are functioning. Let’s take a look at an example down below (with permission from this post-explant client, of course):
THE DUTCH HORMONE TEST:
From the first page, we can see cortisol production at 4 different points during the day (waking, morning, afternoon, and night), total estrogen, total progesterone, total testosterone, total DHEA, and 24 hour free cortisol. This is what you get in a standard saliva test. In the DUTCH you also get metabolized cortisol, which represents the total cortisol production for the day. We can see from these results that the total estrogen is in the reference range and below the midpoint, which is fine. Progesterone is in the reference range and above the midpoint, which is also good. Testosterone is at the bottom of the reference range. 24 hour free cortisol is pointing to the left of midline and metabolized cortisol is pointing even lower than that. This all looks fine at first glance. What this page is telling me right off the bat is that this person is not breaking down cortisol quite as fast as she is making it, which is a sign of liver congestion. The arrows should be pointing to the same point on the chart. This isn’t too bad though; I’ve seen much worse.
Let’s take a look at page 3 (there are many pages to this test, but for our purposes, i’m only showing you these two):
This page is where all if the “action” is, or lack thereof. There is a lot of information on this page, but what I want to focus on is the estrogens (estrone, estradiol, and estriol), their metaboloites (2-OH-E1, 4-OH-E1, and 16-OH-E1), and their methylation.
The main thing to understand here is that the estrogens are broken down by stage 1 and 2 detoxification. Stage 1 is hydroxylation, in which a toxin is inactivated. Estrogens can be metabolized down 3 different pathways. The 2-OH is considered the protective pathway because it doesn’t stimulate cell growth. The 4-OH pathway is the most problematic because it stimulates cell growth. It is considered carcinogenic because if not detoxified, it becomes a very dangerous estrogen quinone, which damages DNA, contributing to cancer. 16-OH is considered a bit more neutral because it can has protective benefits (like preventing osteoporosis and osteopenia), but also can be pro-carcinogenic if it is present in excessive amounts. These metabolites should be present in certain ratios as you can see by the pie charts.
The bottom left corner shows us methylation status (which is phase 2 detoxification). These hydroxylated metabolites of estrogen need to be further detoxified so they can be excreted by the body. There is a certain ratio of 2-OH-E1 : 2-methoxy-E1 that we want we want to see to be reassured that there is adequate methylation activity. The methylation status on this test is quite low and would definitely need some support. The ability to methylate is extremely important for neutralizing those 4-OH cancer-causing free radicals!
So, to summarize, things that we see on these results that we wouldn’t find on a standard saliva hormone panel:
- Metabolized cortisol is lower than 24 hour free cortisol, showing possibly a bit of liver congestion.
- Estrone and Estradiol are actually quite high even though total estrogen on the first page was low normal. Why might that be? A question for another time.
- Hydroxylation (phase 1 detoxification) looks adequate.
- Methylation (phase 2 detoxification) is severely inhibited, indicating need for quite a bit of detoxification and antioxidant support.
Again, there is a lot more information on this test than what I am going over today, but you can see how doing a simple blood or saliva hormone test really misses the mark on most accounts. If we had just used blood or saliva, we would have never seen the difference between 24 hour and metabolized cortisol or the low methylation activity. The DUTCH provides a lot of clues about our genes, our ability to detoxify, what might be contributing to hormones taking particular pathways, and how we can support our bodies. Even after explant, our bodies need a tremendous amount of support, especially with detoxification, and it shows up in our hormone imbalances too.
HOW CAN WE RESTORE BALANCE TO OUR HORMONES?
The first step is en bloc explant with complete capsulectomy with a surgeon that is highly skilled in this technique. Then after healing from surgery, the second step is to detox from all of the heavy metals and toxins you were exposed to while your implants were inside your body. Heavy metals get stored mostly in the fat, which can create the problem of weight loss resistance as your body tries to protect you from further toxic exposures as fat is mobilized. Heavy metals also get stored in the body’s organs, bones, and the brain (the brain is 60% fat). These toxins create inflammation which not only contributes to hormone imbalances, but also makes it difficult for hormones to get inside the body’s cells where they perform their job. So, you see, even if you have good hormone levels on testing you can still have symptoms of low or imbalanced hormones because they can’t get inside the cells due to cellular inflammation. This is why it’s so important to detox after explant. Properly detoxing removes these heavy metals and other toxic compounds from the body by chelating them out at the cellular level, even in the brain!
If you’d like to have a discussion about our comprehensive BII healing program that also includes detox as part of the work, please schedule your Breakthrough call HERE.
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!