There’s a tricky thing about Breast Implant Illness: you can’t really know you have it until you’re on the healing side of it. You can certainly “know” you have it in the sense that you feel it in your gut, and you’ve ruled virtually everything else out… but you can’t know-know, until you, well, do.
I think that’s why some women wait so long to explant. We obviously got implants for a reason, so the last thing we want to do is go through an expensive and invasive surgery to get them out and alter our appearance, all to no avail. It can be really tough to make that leap and schedule the explant.
But me, once I got it in my head that BII could be the culprit of my health issues, once I went down the “BII rabbit hole” as I call it, I couldn’t think about anything else. Part of me wanted to cling for dear life to my 4 1/2 year old security blankets (or bags, as it were), while the other part of me couldn’t get them out fast enough.
Ultimately, when it came down to it (and I think this is true for most everyone suffering from BII), I decided my health far outweighed my vanity. BUT, I had to be okay with explanting and it not working. So after a while of thinking and praying and researching, I got to this mindset: If I got the implants out and felt better, I would know for sure that they were making me sick and the explant would be totally worth it. And if not, at least I’d know that BII was off the table now and forevermore. Those things could never hurt me, I’d be freeing my body of a foreign invader and potential toxin, and I could move onward to finding a resolution to my ailments. And that would be worth it too.
As I write this, I’m 3 weeks post-op. Some of my symptoms have disappeared, others haven’t yet. But I’m being patient, and I’m very hopeful that everything will eventually resolve. I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned, both from my own experience as well as what I’ve heard from others.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or scientist or chemist or whatever. These are my opinions only.
6 Things I’ve Learned about Breast Implant Illness
1. You will have an immune response to implants.
That’s how the body is designed to work. I wish all women considering breast implants knew this. It doesn’t mean that your implants are destined to make you sick – obviously some women report no negative effects of having implants. But it does mean that from the moment those suckers are put in, your body’s army of fighters are expending energy trying to protect you from them.
Case in point: Every woman with implants has a capsule inside their body that has formed around the implants. If you’ve been introduced to the BII community, you’ve likely seen images and videos of these capsules. They vary in thickness, depending on how long the implants have been in and how the body has responded to them. But that is the body at work, building a protective wall between you and the objects it sees as foreign invaders.
Silicone has the ability to modulate immune, endocrinological, and neurotransmitter functions. It is an adjuvant that internally acts as a strong irritant of the immune system where it can cause inflammation, production of antibodies, and other immune responses.
2. If you have allergies, food intolerances, or autoimmune disorders, you may be more at risk for BII.
This is another thing I wish women were informed of before getting implants. For these gals, their immune systems are already compromised, so the addition of more foreign objects to the body can be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I say may though, because plenty of women without any health issues have developed BII. I’ve always struggled a bit with gut health – not anything major though – and I do have Raynaud’s Disease (which some consider an autoimmune condition – at the very least it tends to run alongside other autoimmune conditions). So even if you’re the picture of health, don’t be too confident that BII won’t get ya.
3. It doesn’t matter whether you have silicone or saline implants.
Silicone implants are laden with toxic chemicals. And saline implants are encased in a silicone shell, which also contains toxic chemicals. (see image below)
Here’s that list again:
- 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-cyanoacryltes
- 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 agents
- Heavy metals such as aluminum, tin, lead, and platinum
One could try to make the case that saline is a “healthier” option because if it ruptures, no toxic silicone is leaching into the body. However, I have read that the valves in saline implants can become defective, introducing harmful bacteria and even mold into the body.
As you can see from the image, heavy metals, neurotoxins, and carcinogens are present in breast implants. (Did anyone tell you that before you got your implants? All I was told was that they’re “perfectly safe”.) And implants are semi-permeable: as you may have seen, many women show implants that, once removed, are yellow, brown, or even contain flecks of stuff on the inside. So, if stuff can get in, it can surely get out!
Intact implants have semi-permeable shells that leak gel bleed of silicone and heavy metals, and may also include chemicals from shell degradation. Silicone can migrate outside the capsules and into local axillary lymph nodes where it can then spread via the lymphatic system throughout the body and accumulate in various tissues (see article on silicone dispersion). However, it has a tendency to particularly affect connective tissue, such as the joints. It can also bind to endocrine receptors and cause a disruption in the production and functioning of your hormones – which fundamentally control the processes in the body. One of the mechanisms for silicone to act as an endocrine disruptor is through molecular mimicry. It is very difficult to detox silicone from the body, it is like removing glue.
4. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve had your implants one year or 20 years.
My implants were 4.5 years old. They were in perfect condition – no ruptures, no capsular contracture. They were soft, squishy, and moved around well. I had both an ultrasound and a thermography scan done, which showed no inflammation around my breasts. They looked perfectly healthy. (I did not have a mammogram or MRI of the breasts, but my guess is they would have come back negative as well.)
5. After explant, the body goes through a detoxification process.
Go here for some super detailed info about the detoxification process: https://www.breastimplantillness.com/detoxification/.
Here’s a snippet:
Breast implants can expose the body to harmful chemicals, heavy metals, silicones, free radicals (oxidative stress), and biotoxins. Eventually they overwhelm the body with a toxic overload. An overburden of toxicity manifests itself in impaired detoxification, inflammation, and other health issues. Toxins are often stored in fat, various tissues, bone, and more. Their removal, or detoxification, is a process the body undertakes on its own but can be sped up or slowed down depending on food, supplements, medications, exercise, heat, inflammation, emotional or physical stress, pathogens (viral, bacterial, or parasites), sun, pH balance, radiation, and more. A clean and nutrient rich diet plays a key role in supporting the detoxification pathways. The most important organs for detoxification are the skin, lymphatic system, digestive system, liver and the kidneys.
As stated above, the body will start a detox process on its own, but you can either help or hinder it by your lifestyle. That includes water intake, diet, gut health, exercise, and more. I’m 3 weeks post-op so I haven’t started exercising (other than light walking) yet, but I look forward to gradually adding that back into my life. My exercise of choice is hot yoga, so hopefully I’ll be able to sweat out a good amount of toxins.
To be honest, I haven’t been diligent with a clean diet (it’s fall and I want comfort foods, then I’m PMS-ing and I want chocolate, I see a friend and want a glass of wine – you get the gist. Always an excuse). Nevertheless, I’m being patient with myself and giving myself some grace, while at the same time recognizing I don’t want to drag this process out any longer than I have to.
The detoxification article referenced above lists some supplements that can aid in the detoxification process, so my plan is to try some of those.
Here’s what I’m looking at right now:
- daily probiotic – I take this one and I read it’s the best for BII: https://microbiomelabs.com/home/products/megasporebiotic/
- daily celery juice – great liver detoxifier
- eat a healthy, balanced diet
- possibly a magnesium infusion (I had planned to do this pre-explant due to daily headaches and may reschedule)
- reduce sugar/alcohol intake
- increase daily water intake (I’m horrible at drinking water)
I only drink decaf coffee, and while I’ve dabbled in certain diets, I mostly just try to maintain a balanced diet. I don’t eat a ton of dairy or gluten, but I don’t avoid them completely either. And I get my meat from ButcherBox, so I know it’s coming from a good source.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress with my detox process. I will say that without any real effort, in 3 weeks my brain fog, fatigue, and burning eyes are GONE. My goal is to be headache-free and stop shedding so much hair.
6. Everyone heals at their own rate.
Probably like you, I’ve read countless stories of other women’s journeys with BII, so I know that everyone’s experience is different. Some symptoms may disappear immediately following explant, while others can take weeks, months, or even years to resolve. The most important thing is to be patient, and be kind to yourself during your body’s time of healing. If you haven’t explanted yet, or are newly explanted, my wish for you is to see some symptoms improving soon; for me, seeing any amount of progress, even slight, has lifted my spirits and kept me hopeful for a full recovery.