Breast Implant Illness
When I became a dietitian, I had no idea the profound effect food could have on the body. It wasn’t until I started to get more into the functional/integrative side of nutrition that I realized the powerful impact of the combination of food and supplements.
I have been focusing on the gut microbiome for over 5 years in my practice, but over 10 years in continuing education. I see clients with a variety of gastrointestinal and autoimmune issues. This summer I received a phone call from a client that was sick from her breast implants. I always thought there was potential since it is a foreign object in someone’s body, but I did not know there was a name for it (breast implant illness-BII). About a month ago I listened to a three-day summit on this subject ranging from medical doctors to chiropractors treating those with BII and some doing research on it.
The summit was eye opening, extremely informative, a bit stomach churning and honestly scary. I had no idea so many women were sick from their breast implants. I also gathered from this summit that many women do not know that it is their implants making them sick. Why? According to some of the practitioners, for some symptoms can show up within weeks, while others it may be years, so not connecting the dots that the implants may be the cause or contribution to the symptoms.
I am going to go in some detail about what I learned in this summit and what I can do as a practitioner to help someone out once they have an explant. First, I am going to put a personal story that my client wrote from her experience with her breast implants.
Here is her personal story:
I had my breast implants for 13 years, since 2007 when I was 39 years old.
In 2008, I started having menopause symptoms and stopped having my period.
In 2010, I started feeling that I had something in my throat. I had an MRI done and an endoscopy and the doctors couldn’t find anything.
In 2012, my doctor gave me YAZ, as a hormone replacement, and I started spitting up blood as I became very sensitive to any sort of medication.
Between 2007 and 2019, I had multiple vertigo crises and extreme lower back pain which caused me to either have prescription-strength medication injected into the pained area in my lower back or take cortisone, a prescription-strength anti-inflammatory.
In 2015, I started doing hot yoga and this was the trigger that caused my health to roll downhill- and fast. After that, I started having daily dizziness and a drunk-like feeling started.
In October of 2019, my blood pressure and heart beat dropped to extremely low levels. I was taken to the ER and put into the ICU. Doctors performed tests which all came back normal. No one could figure out a reason for my symptoms.
In November of 2019, a friend of mine told me about Breast Implant Illness (BII), then everything made sense.
Finally, after all of the suffering I endured for such a long time, I could finally put a name to my illness.
From 2015 to 2019 I saw: 2 family doctors, 4 cardiologists, 4 neurologists, and 3 ENT. Not one person was able to figure out what was causing me all of this suffering and pain.
I had all kinds of tests and blood work done; everything was normal but I felt like I was dying inside:
Heart palpitation, sensitive to light, low libido, anxiety, memory loss, inflammation, insomnia, sharp pain in my breasts, difficulty swallowing, ringing in ears, irritable bowel, food intolerance, cystic acne, back pain, pressure in my head, dizziness, drunk feeling, white spots (vitiligo), brain fog, sensitivity to medication, visual disturbance, hair loss, weak/broken nails.
I explanted in March of 2020. It took two months post-operation for me to start seeing an improvement to my symptoms. I still have bad detox waves but I’m getting better. Today, from all the symptoms I experienced which are listed above, I just have five. I’m still dealing with dizziness, drunk-like feeling, ringing in my ears, hair loss, and sensitivity to certain foods (sugar, dairy, red meat, and chocolate).
Immediately when an implant is placed, the body forms a defense barrier called a capsule around the implant. This capsule is actually a defense against the intruder, which is the implant itself. This is the very first defense the body puts up to this foreign invader. T-cells are activated when the implants are placed. Mast cells are activated as well and soon after the inflammatory cells are recruited.
So big deal….right? There are other foreign objects put in our bodies, such as mesh, pacemakers, etc.
Some women opt for saline over silicone as it is said to be safer, but is it?
The breast implant themselves are made of silicone and contain heavy metals. The shell (no matter what it contains) degrades over time. These heavy metals can cause immune activation.
I learned why one choses saline or silicone, but most opt for silicone for the way it looks. Breast implants can rupture or bleed. Silicone can leak into the bloodstream into the lymphatic system (lymph nodes). A small amount of silicone can leak every day.
How and when do individuals get sick? It can vary. Some can have effects right away and others it can take years. Some of these symptoms may seem subtle, so one doesn’t associate them with the implants. Even something as simple as developing food sensitivities can be from the implants compromising gut health.
Breast implant illness commonly affects the following systems:
- Metabolic (fatigue)
- Neurological (cognitive dysfunction)
- Endocrine (thyroid, adrenal, sex hormones, antidiuretic hormone)
- Immune (viral, fungal, bacterial infections)
- Digestive and Gastrointestinal (dysbiosis, leaky gut, malabsorption, food intolerances)
I knew almost nothing about BII before I met my client. She made me aware of a Facebook group that has over 100,000 women sick from their breast implants. Many of these women recover once they are explanted, but others have lingering symptoms.
What can a dietitian do for a client that has symptoms from their breast implants?
- Diet-we focus on a very clean, whole foods diet. This can vary from one individual to another, but our focus is on whole foods (not processed), little to no sugar and majority of the time no gluten. We may also focus on more of a paleo type diet long term or just for a certain amount of time, but this depends on the individual.
- Supplements-I will evaluate what one is meeting with their diet and make recommendations from there. I will also recommend supplements that can help with the detox process.
- Detox-detoxing is important on a daily basis. This can be as simple as making sure you have a bowel movement every day to doing something specific. I recommend ways to detox to my clients to help with symptoms that may still linger.
- Heavy Metal Testing-this tests hair to see if there are still heavy metals in one’s body from the implants themself.
- Other testing-sometimes we will add in a stool test to see the overall microbiome, such as ratios of good vs bad bacteria.
Takeaways I got from the summit:
-If you have any autoimmune issues or allergies, it is recommended not to get breast implants.
-Many individuals feel much better once they are explanted. Some need to put in extra work, such as diet, supplements, etc. to help decrease symptoms.
-Women are not warned about the possible health implications of getting any type of breast implant. When I asked my client what warnings she got, she said none.
The woman that puts the Breast Implant Health Summit together was sick from her implants. She has since been explanted. She went through this experience and has come out on the other end with a goal. She wants to teach others about the possible health implications of having breast implants. She is not doing this in a mean way, but taking research and real-life stories from practitioners all over the world to share their experience. She is also there as a practitioner to help others heal from their implants.
I found the summit fascinating and at times it made squeamish. The pictures they posted of explanted implants was very scary. I will never look at a breast implant the same again.
This was information I received from the Breast Implant Health Summit. The information in this blog is from physicians and other healthcare providers presenting at the summit.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist - CDN, RDN
My name is Valerie Polley. I am a Indianapolis-based registered dietitian and owner of Blue Tree Nutrition. I consult with clients both local and far away.
I have a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Purdue University and I have been practicing for 20 years.
I thoroughly enjoy helping clients through their gut health journey. I see a range of GI issues including, but not limited to celiac disease, IBS and SIBO. I also specialize in the FODMAP elimination diet.
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Thank you for this article. I have had my implants for 25 years (21 yrs old when I received them). At 46, i’ve spent the last 4 years feeling as tho I’m falling apart, but as I have looked back I realize my first symptoms started within 3 years. The recent increase in symptoms: anxiety, depression, thyroid issues, lack of libido, fatigue, weight gain, food intolerances, and severe IBS. It’s just within the past month that all the puzzle pieces fell into place when I learned of BII. The FB group I found are my people….I cried as I read post after post of other women describing ME. I’m 100% convinced that my implants have altered my health over the past 2 1/2 decades. I have a consult on March 11th, and I will be scheduling an explant as quickly as possible. I’m hopeful to see the diminishment of some symptoms and will be working hard to detox as well.
I am sorry you had to go through all of it. Many are like you where they don’t put the pieces together that it is their breast implants until they are very sick. Explant is the first step in getting better, then you can work on it through diet and detox. I wish there was more warnings for women before they got their implants. I wish you all the best! If you ever have any questions please reach out.
This is so educational. I wish I had known this 3 years ago when I asked my doctor about this decision and she said it would be fine. I was dealing with celiac, hashimotos already. Now I am sensiive to so many things and my day depends on what and when I eat. I have a family and can’t make meals like I have for years. I told my surgeon after year 1 something wasn’t right. He dismissed me. I don’t know how to find a local explant surgeon. In Leawood, KS. I will ask my surgeon and see….. So thankful my education is in wellness genre so I can stay on top of my symptoms. But I am exhausted. Been most of my life unsure why.
I am glad you found it educational. I have learned a lot and continue to learn, but there is so much we don’t know. It was presented at the BII Summit that if someone already has an autoimmune issue it is not a good idea to get implants. I do wish this had to be discussed. If you need help finding a surgeon let me know. I can get you in touch with someone that is well versed in this as she went through it herself. If you need any help in any other way let me know. There is a BII Facebook page that my clients find very helpful.