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Wellness

Breast Implant Illness

 

By: Emily Oberg

 

The hashtag #breastimplantillness has over 50,000 tagged posts on Instagram. Before recently, I had never even heard of it, or had any idea that implants caused any type of illness for that matter. After all, breast augmentation is the second most popular cosmetic surgery in the United States, with over 300,000 procedures done each year, and that’s just in America. I figured that because implants were so popular they had to be safe, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong. 


I’m going to preface the rest of this article by saying that if you want to get implants, that is 100% up to you and only you. I’m in no way judging anyone who feels the need. Personally, I would love bigger boobs, but I’m just not comfortable with the associated risks that come with having them.


The procedure, which only takes an hour or two to perform, is usually done using silicone or saline implants, both of which are approved by the FDA. While they might be deemed “safe”, those who undergo the procedure are still at risk for the potential side effects which are listed on the FDA’s website. These include: Additional surgeries, breast implant associated-anaplastic large cell lymphoma (cancer of the immune system), systemic symptoms, commonly referred to as Breast Implant Illness (BII), capsular contracture (scar tissue that squeezes the implant), breast pain, rupture (tears or holes in the shell) of saline and silicone gel-filled implants, deflation (with visible change to breast size), silent (without symptoms) rupture of silicone gel-filled implants, infection.


If you visit a plastic surgeon for a breast consultation, you’ll likely be told that these symptoms “rarely” happen and shouldn’t be a cause of concern. But when you consider that a good boob job can cost as much as $20k, it’s no wonder why they’d want to downplay the risks. 


A quick google search will reveal endless articles written by women who have experienced BII which typically include any of the following symptoms: joint and muscle pain, chronic fatigue, memory and concentration problems, breathing problems, weight loss & gain, insomnia, hypo/hyperthyroidism, liver and kidney problems, rashes, acne, vision loss, anxiety, depression, headaches, fever, hair loss and GI problems. These problems occur when the body stimulates an inflammatory response to a foreign object. It is explained further on breastimplantillness.com.


“Breast implants (1) stimulate a chronic foreign body inflammatory response, (2) they have a slow leakage of silicone/heavy metals/chemicals termed as “gel bleed,” (3) commonly develop biofilm/bacteria on their surfaces, and (4) as polymeric biomaterials they oxidize in the body and contribute to degradative oxidative stress. With saline there is also the added element that many of the saline valves are permeable and allow body fluid/tissue in and allow colonization of microorganisms inside the implant. These microorganisms produce metabolites which are toxic to us known as biotoxins.

Breast implants are large foreign bodies that interfere and weaken the immune system, triggering immune dysfunction and often auto-immune symptoms. The weakened immune system then allows opportunistic pathogens to take a foothold. The body is left vulnerable to viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and other invaders that it would normally be able to defend against, causing serious infections and reactivating dormant viruses. Additionally, the implants are made out of a concoction of neurotoxic and carcinogenic chemicals and heavy metals that slowly breakdown and accumulate in the body, causing an overload of toxicity. All implant shells are made out of silicone and are semi-permeable. Upon implantation they release heavy metals, silicone, and chemicals that can migrate and be stored throughout the body. Silicone is an adjuvant and an endocrine disruptor. It is an internal irritant that has the ability to modulate immune, endocrinological, and neurotransmitter functions. The silicone that leaks out of breast implants is in the low molecular form which is very toxic to the body. Its widespread effects induce silicone toxicity and can impair many functions. The exposure to toxic chemicals causes immune disruption (autoimmunity, allergies, recurring infections), accelerated aging, neurological symptoms, and more.
Overall, the chronic stress of the foreign body reaction, silicone toxicity, heavy metal exposure, and gel bleed result in a weakened immune system, buildup of implant toxins, free radicals inducing oxidative stress, and vulnerability to opportunistic pathogens (bacteria, fungi, parasites). Immune dysfunction allows opportunistic pathogens to grow out of control (ex. candida) and for dormant viruses to reactivate (Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, etc). A cascade of systemic dysregulation eventually develops. In addition, saline implants can have faulty valves and cultivate mold and microorganisms. Detoxification can be increasingly impaired as the liver, kidneys, and other excretory organs struggle to remove toxins. The body goes into a systemic state of chronic inflammation. All of this adds up to a slowly developing chronic debilitating illness affecting many organ systems of the body.”

These concerns are typically overlooked by plastic surgeons and doctors who are skeptical that BII even exists. Because there is no way to prove the connection between implants and people’s illness, BII is not yet recognized as an official medical diagnosis. But when you search the hashtag  #breastimplantillnessawareness on Instagram, you will find thousands of images of women who have taken photos of themselves before and after their explant (implant removal) surgeries and the results are astonishing to say the least. Women who previously had large bags under their eyes, pale skin, acne, rashes and swollen faces, have completely transformed into healthy looking individuals, not to mention all of their previous internal health concerns nearly vanished once their implants were removed. One of the women that came up under the hashtag was a holistic health coach named Chelsie Brooke. On her page, she documented her grueling explant process, discussing how her breast implants ruined her health and nearly killed her.



A safer alternative to implants is a fat transfer, which has gained more and more popularity because you aren’t inserting a foreign, toxic object into your body. Instead, fat is grafted from another part of your body and injected into your breasts. There are still some health risks involved with this procedure, so if you do consider it, make sure you do your research and speak to an experienced doctor beforehand. 


We all need to be educated about the potential risks that elective surgeries and procedures may have on our bodies, especially when the people who we’re supposed to be able to trust the most don’t warn us about them. As always, we encourage you to take your health into your own hands and be aware, do your research, and be extremely cautious when it comes to risky procedures that could potentially cost you your life. 

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