Could Your Breast Implants Be Causing Your Symptoms?
Breast Augmentation surgeries have been one of the most popular elective procedures to date. In fact, in 2018, 313,735 Breast Augmentation surgeries were performed in the US alone. While typically considered a minimal risk procedure by the FDA, not all women respond the same way.
Some women, unfortunately, develop a wide variety of adverse health effects months to years after breast augmentation procedures have been performed, leading us to question if breast implants are really safe for everyone.
Although not currently recognized by conventional medicine, Breast Implant Illness (BII) has been the term used to refer to a variety of symptoms and illnesses reported by women after breast implant procedures were completed.
Possible Symptoms of Breast Implant Illness
Difficulty with Concentration
Fever and Chills
Sensitivity to light and/or sound
Chronic Sinus Infections
Ringing in Ears
Development of Food Intolerance
Shortness of Breath
Pain in Breast
Breast Implants and Autoimmune Disease
Breast implants, whether saline or silicone, are considered foreign objects to the body. Shortly after breast implants have been placed, the body creates a defense mechanism to shield itself from the foreign implants. This is why the body will create a capsule out of tissue to surround the implant and separate the implants from the rest of the body. This is a normal response the body makes to the foreign implants.
The problem lies when the body continues to defend itself against the said implants. In a 2008 study, women with silicone breast implants were seen to have higher IgE (antibodies produced by the immune system) than women without silicone breast implants. This pointed to the fact that breast implants may trigger the body’s immune system to respond to a perceived threat, leading to the release of immunoglobulin E (IgE). Elevated IgE markers are also commonly seen in a variety of other conditions including infections, inflammatory diseases, thyroid disease, autoimmune conditions and some cancers.
Further studies revealed that women with extracapsular silicone (silicone that had traveled outside of the fibrous scar capsule) were more likely to reports developing fibromyalgia.
Breast Implants and Heavy Metals
Whether silicone or saline implants are used, patients are still exposed to some form of silicone as the shell surrounding the implant is made of, you guessed it, silicone. The shells are also made using other heavy metals which can interfere, block, replace, deplete or stimulate enzyme reactions throughout the body interfering with our bodies hormone, gut, and immune systems.
Common Metals Found in Breast Implants:
Are Breast Implants Really “Impermeable”
Previous school of thought believed that the ingredients used in breast implants would never leak into the body because implant shells were said to be “impermeable” by manufacturers. Impermeable means that implants would not allow the passage of fluid from the implant into the body. This however, has been questioned when renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Jae Chun, MD, revealed his suspicion about implants being impermeable after performing hundreds of breast explanations (removal of breast implants). During his examination, he noted a change in the implant color and questioned how an unknown substance could have developed within the implant.
Lifespan of Breast Implants
The other concern with breast implants is their life expectancy. Although patients are told that most breast implants have a life expectancy of about 10 years, many patients ignore the recommendation to replace their breast implants after 10 years. Many will note that they don’t want to undergo another invasive procedure or don’t want to pay the cost of implant exchange surgery. The problem with leaving breast implants in the body longer than recommended by manufacturers s that we have no idea what “old implants” will do to the body and whether the implant will degrade over time.
Testing for Breast Implant Illness
Unfortunately, at this time there is no formal testing to determine whether your particular symptoms are associated with Breast Implant Illness (BII), however, if you are experiencing symptoms that developed shortly after implantation and all other testing and evaluations were negative, there is an increased risk that your implants, which again are foreign objects, may be causing additional stress to your immune system and may need to be removed.
What if I want my implants removed?
If you are concerned that your breast implants may be the trigger for your symptoms, the first thing that you will need to consider is explantation. Explantation is the process of removing your breast implant. It is important to make sure that you are specifically working with a plastic surgeon who supports breast implant illness as well as completes an en bloc capsulectomy during explantation. An en bloc capsulectomy is extremely important in patients with suspected BII because it involves the complete removal of not only the breast implants but the capsule your immune system created surrounding the implants. Without a capsulectomy, some patients will continue to experience BII symptoms.
Many patients will ask if they can work on their breast implant illness, including completing a detox, without explantation. The short answer is, no. As a naturopathic doctor, I believe in getting to the root cause of your symptoms and if your symptoms are likely triggered by your immune system’s response to breast implants, explantation will need take place.
Treatment For Breast Implant Illness (BII)
Eliminate the Cause
Once explantation has been completed, it’s time to support the immune system and restore balance. One of my favorite ways to do this is with nutrient IV therapy. Part of the explantation process is understanding the importance of supporting your body’s natural healing process. On average, physical recovery from explantation is roughly 6-8 weeks. During this time, I include nutrient IV therapy, as well as specialized lymphatic massage to help reduce inflammation and stimulate proper healing.
Once you have fully recovered from the physical strain of undergoing surgery and you have been cleared by your plastic surgeon from any complications including bleeding, hematoma, infection, changes in nipple/ breast sensation, or poor scaring, detoxification can begin for most patients.
Detoxification involves eliminating heavy metals from the body and supporting organs of detoxification including liver, kidney, gut and skin. Many of my patients will undergo heavy metal analysis prior to detoxification to determine toxin load and targeted therapy. Some patients will have high toxin burdens which will require the addition of chelation. Chelation is the process in which specific chelating agents (DMSA and EDTA) are used to remove heavy metals and other toxins from the body. Chelating agents are used to stimulate detoxification because heavy metals can reside in tissues, organs as well as the bones. Lead, for example, can remain within the bones for up to 20 years.
We also include diet modifications as well as the use of Infrasauna therapy to promote gentle detoxification of the gut and skin. With our skin being the largest organ of our body as well as a major organ of detoxification, it is important to address the skin when dealing with breast implant illness. Gut health, on the other hand, is vital in restoring your immune system and reducing autoimmunity.
The process of detoxification can take anywhere from 3 months to 1 year to complete depending on severity of symptoms as well as toxin load. Remember that healing takes time and honoring that time will help you heal faster!
Interested in learning more about how to become a new patient and treating your breast implant illness today? Schedule a free 15 minute e-consult with Dr. Zen to see how she can help optimize your health today!