What Is Breast Implant Illness?
There are millions of women who receive breast implants for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, many are simply unaware of the dangers associated with them. With more than 300,000 breast augmentation procedures being performed in the United States each year for both reconstructive and cosmetic purposes, Breast Implant Illness is an issue that is impacting a significant number of women. It is becoming an epidemic in the breast implant world and has been referred to as a ticking time bomb. It’s not a matter of IF it will affect you, but WHEN.
Breast Implant Illness is a process by which vague and chronic symptoms develop following breast augmentation with silicone or saline implants. It can happen at any point: within days of augmentation or more than a decade later. It is characterized by the following symptoms:
Partially adapted from “The Naked Truth About Breast Implants”
- Hair loss
- Weight Gain
- Dry Skin
- Low basal body temperature
- Cold hands and feet
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Excessive thirst
- Shocks from static electricity
- Frequent urination
- Low blood pressure
- Chronic fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Orthostatic hypotension
- Feeling as if you are dying
- Anxiety/panic attacks
- Irregular or lack of menses
- PMS, mood swings, emotional instability
- Hormonal imbalance
- Low sex drive
- Depression, suicidal thoughts
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Memory loss
- Difficulty with concentration
- Brain fog
- Abnormal brain MRI
- Blurred vision
- Sensory loss
- Burning pain of extremities
- Muscle weakness
- Balance disturbance
- Burning pain of the chest wall, breast, or axilla
- Headaches or migraines
- Muscle twitches
- Sharp pains
- Mouth ulcers
- Herpes Simplex
- Mouth ulcers
- Oral thrush (white tongue)
- Shortness of breath
- Fungal rashes
- Chronic yeast infections
- Chronic urinary tract infections
- Low grade fever
- Night sweats
- Gastrointestinal/digestive issues
- Periodontal disease
Autoimmune Disease (intracellular bacteria):
- Joint aches and swelling
- Symptoms or diagnosis of any autoimmune disease
- Dry eyes
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty swallowing, cough, or throat clearing
- Abnormal blood clotting
- Mal-absorption syndrome
- Food allergies/sensitivities
- IBS symptoms (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain after eating) or diagnosis
- GERD, heartburn
- IBD (crohn’s or colitis) symptoms or diagnosis
- Gut dysbiosis
- Leaky gut
- SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)
- Parasites, candida or pathogenic bacteria overgrowth
- Lymph node enlargement
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Foul body odor
- Premature aging
- Liver or kidney dysfunction
- Chemical sensitivity
- Chronic inflammation
- Muscle aches
- Inability to lose weight or gain weight easily
- Blood sugar disregulation
- Increased thirst and/or urination
- Restrictive lung disease
- New onset asthma
- Ringing in the ears
- Symptoms or diagnosis of fibromyalgia
- Symptoms or diagnosis of Chronic Lyme Disease
Symptoms of Breast Implant Illness will vary from person to person as will timing of the onset of symptoms depending on a number of factors including: health status prior to implants, expression of inherent genetic weaknesses (such as MTHFR, HLA-B27, HLA-DR52, and HLA-DR53 gene mutations), overall toxic exposures, internal stressors at the time of implant, type of implants, and trauma to the implants. Breastimplantillness.com has noted the most common and earliest symptoms reported tend to be fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, joint pain, muscle aches, GI disturbances, thyroid symptoms, adrenal symptoms, and recurring infections.
This is a multifaceted chronic illness and symptoms are generally vague and widespread throughout the body. It can be incredibly frustrating for the patient, who typically ends up going from one practitioner to the next in search of an answer, and ultimately help, only to acquire multiple misdiagnoses and prescription drugs to mask symptoms. The root cause is never addressed and often times, ladies are told that this is all in their head and are recommended to seek counseling.
So Why Does Breast Implant Illness Happen?
Any time you put a foreign material into your body, there is a potential for problems to arise and breast implants are no exception. Issues can develop from both silicone and saline implants either due to chemicals and heavy metals in the implants and shells, bacterial or fungal growth, or to their ability to impair the body’s immune, endocrine, and detoxification systems.
Breast implants as a foreign body continuously activate the immune system, eventually resulting in immune dysregulation as they overstimulate the system. This leads to a muted immune system and thus an inability to fight off pathogens, resulting in the overgrowth of opportunistic organisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) which grow unchecked by the immune system as well as reactivation of once dormant pathogens such as Epstein-Barr or those pathogens that cause Lyme disease. You will often times see depressed Secretory IgA on stool analysis, which is the gut’s main immunogblobulin and first line of defense in protecting the intestinal epithelium from enteric toxins and pathogenic organisms. With depressed SIgA, the gut is left defenseless against pathogens.
How Do Implants Cause Autoimmunity?
In the setting of immune dysregulation and overgrowth of pathogenic organisms, we are left vulnerable to autoimmunity by way of leaky gut. These pathogens produce biotoxins that not only cause an inflammatory cascade and overload our detoxification pathways, but damage our gut lining allowing bacterial proteins and undigested food proteins to pass through. Normally our gut keeps the bad things out and the good things in, but through chronic exposure to chemicals and heavy metals from breast implants and biotoxins from pathogens, the tight junctions that normally keep the bad things out become damaged and loosen, allowing these things to leak through. The problem with this is that the body sees these antigens, biotoxins, food proteins, etc that leak through as “foreign” and will attack them. The body commits these things to memory by making antibodies to these proteins or antigens and sometimes gets confused when another protein in the body that is “self” is structurally similar to one of the “foreign” proteins. This is called molecular mimicry and is how autoimmunity develops. The body will then begin to attack this “self” protein, which results in an attack against entire tissues or glands or organs in the body. Many ladies end up with at least one autoimmune diagnosis such as lupus, fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves disease, Crohn’s disease, or interstitial cystitis, just to name a few.
Last, but perhaps most importantly, breast implants might as well be called chemical soup, because they are full of cytotoxic, neurotoxic, and carcinogenic chemicals and heavy metals that are highly inflammatory to our cells, tissues and organs. The presence of these toxic implants in the body contributes to oxidative stress, fuels chronic inflammation, and overloads our detoxification pathways due to the fact that they are semi-permeable and begin to bleed their toxins into the body upon implantation. The effects of silicone toxicity and the chemical soup of breast implants are widespread throughout the body including immune dysregulation, endocrine dysfunction, neurological impairments, gastrointestinal effects, and metabolic chaos. This causes a cascading effect of systemic dysregulation resulting in the development of chronic, debilitating illness.
Silicone and many of the chemicals in breast implants are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects. This may result in effects such as decreased fertility, increased incidence of endometriosis and some cancers among other things. Additionally, research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming. Not only is every chemical and heavy metal used to make silicone breast implants toxic to the body, but these metals also feed pathogenic bacteria, yeast, and parasites in the gut and are used in the process of creating biofilm as a way for pathogens to protect themselves making them harder to kill. Below is a list of known heavy and light metals, minerals and chemicals used in the manufacture of silicone breast implants and in the shell of saline breast implants:
- Methyl ethyl ketone (neurotoxin)
- Cyclohexanone (neurotoxin)
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Denatured alcohol
- Acetone (neurotoxin)
- Polyvinyl chloride (neurotoxin)
- Toluene (neurotoxin/carcinogen)
- Dichloromethane (carcinogen)
- Ethyl acetate (neurotoxin)
- Sodium fluoride
- Lead-based solder
- Talcum powder
- Oakite (cleaning solvent)
- Methyl 2-cyanoacrylates
- Ethylene oxide (carcinogen)
- Xylene (neurotoxin)
- Stearic acid
- Zinc oxide
- Naptha (rubber solvent)
- Phenol (neurotoxin)
- Benzene (carcinogen/neurotoxin)
- Lacquer thinner]
- Epoxy resin
- Epoxy hardener 10 and 11
- Printing ink
- Metal cleaning acid
- Color pigments as release agent
*This data come straight from “The Summary of Safety and Effectiveness Data” of each type of implant on the FDA’s web page.
Saline implants are made with the same shell as silicone implants, which contains silicone and many of the chemicals listed above. Saline implants have a valve that allows the surgeon to fill them after being implanted. The problem with this is that if the valve used to fill the implant is damaged during some kind of trauma like a mammogram or a car accident, it can lead to serious problems if mold and bacteria get past the damaged valve. The valves are semipermeable and allow fluid to flow inside the implant, which also presents an opportunity for microorganisms to enter the implant. Many ladies who have explanted their saline breast implants have discovered their implants to be riddled with mold, which produces biotoxins that act as neurotoxins.
At present time there is no test to diagnose breast implant illness, therefore a pattern of symptoms should be used to recognize the characteristics associated with chronic illness caused by breast implants. Often times patients look well on the outside while feeling terrible on the inside. It is an invisible chronic illness that often goes undetected for many years or is misdiagnosed. Silicone, chemical and heavy metal toxicity, and biotoxicity are underlying factors. Unfortunately, most plastic surgeons and medical doctors will not be able to help with breast implant illness as much of the conventional medical community denies that it even exists. I often tell my clients to write a narrative of their life, detailing when symptoms started to appear. There is typically a pattern that ensues after receiving breast implants. You have to listen to your intuition. If I had gone with my gut instinct, I would have saved myself a few years of misery and a lot of time and money searching for answers. The answer was literally inside me.
The health consequences of having breast implants, whether silicone or saline, can be detrimental, but the good news is that most of the time breast implant illness can be reversed with the right holistic approach, and the first step is en block explant surgery with complete capsulectomy. I will discuss how I approach restoring health after explant in my next blog post.
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!