You’ve not heard about this part of my journey yet, but I believe that each chapter of my life has led up to or is part of my healing story… Healing from Biotoxin and Breast Implant Illness
So here it goes. In my mid twenties, I made a lot of decisions that may or may not have been my finest choices; one being getting breast implants. I’m not going to explain or defend why I made that choice, as it was mine to make, but I am here to openly share the commencement of events as well as some symptoms and recovery aids from both breast implants as well as mold toxicity. If you’ve been in the Lyme/Mold/Biotoxin/Implant/Autoimmune/Toxicity circle for more than 5 minutes, you know that all of these illnesses are intimately related and share a lot of crossover in symptoms as well as treatment modalities.
I also have MTHFR (homozygous 677t) as well as Shoemaker’s “Dreaded Genome.” So yes, recovery for me is multifaceted, ongoing and complicated. I also have made great strides in addition to experiencing setbacks. This does not make my recovery any less of a victory, but it does make it my reality and the truth of what recoveries often look like (ie ups and downs).
So I was implanted at age 25. Kept them in with no health issues right away, but after a stressful job, taking hormonal birth control short term, meeting my husband and moving overseas to Germany all within a year, I began having panic attacks. Was it the implants? Was it the stressful job and move? Maybe synthetic hormones? Perhaps the perfect storm. I had panic attacks, low blood sugar symptoms, was unable to eat much, dropped a lot of weight, and generally felt horrible for 6 months. At that time I went on an SSRI because honestly, at the time, I needed to break the cycle of panic and be functioning enough to move transatlantically. I was finally able to eat again, and while I didn’t feel fantastic, I was able to work full time in Germany and go back to receive my Master’s degree.
We moved back from Germany when I was 29 and pregnant with my first child. His pregnancy and birth were uneventful and I “found myself” pregnant when he was 3 months old. Yes, that sh!t happens and yes I know how it all works. It was a surprise, but not a bad one and less than a year after our son was born, we brought home our first daughter from the hospital.
When our second baby was 5 months old, I started feeling pretty awful. I had a very short fuse, felt like I never really slept (beyond having two babies of course), was dizzy, lightheaded, had hot flashes, and generally felt terrible. Coincidentally my husband was leaving for a 5 month deployment, leaving me with a 5 month old and a 17 month old. Was I experiencing post-partum issues? The onset of Hashimotos? Breast implant illness triggered by childbirth twice in one year? Stress from single parenting for 5 months? Again, there are plenty of contributing factors here and I don’t necessarily weigh one more than the others.
But when my daughter (baby #2) was a year old and my husband was back in town, I made the decision, after my official diagnosis with autoimmune thyroid disease, Hashimotos, to have my implants removed. My thinking was: if there is any possibility that my implants are contributing to my illness, then I want them out. I joined support boards and researched doctors. There were very few at the time who explanted the right way, but my parents lived in Houston so I decided on a doctor in Houston who was fit for the job so I could recover at my parents’ house. He removed both the implant and the capsule, leaving behind little if any scar tissue. Of interest, I kept the implants afterwards. Guess what they grew OUTSIDE my body? Mold. Guess what they were also probably growing inside my body…you guessed it.
(I didn’t mention that my childhood home ended up having toxic mold in it because I had mostly moved out I think by the time it became a problem, but nevertheless it is probably worth noting here that there was likely an exposure early on. I was not symptomatic of biotoxin illness or mold poisoning growing up, but my mom was)
A lot of questions of course remain as to what role my implants played in my illness, if any; and what damage they may have left in their wake as I continued down my health journey. I truly believe there is so much overlap between symptom-inducing toxins, exposures, and opportunistic and/or childhood infections that I do not think you can always nail down a singular cause of illness.
I will say that after I healed from my surgery, symptoms did seem to stabilize from 2008 until 2011 generally speaking. In 2009 we moved from Little Rock to Illinois and my husband traveled (while I was at home with my 2 and 3 year olds) 200 days of the year. We hold steady and I was stable on my thyroid meds and gluten free diet. After my 3rd baby was born in 2011, I became sick again while on a househunting trip for yet another military move from Illinois to DC. My milk dried up, I became hyperthyroid, and generally felt awful. I got through the move to DC and that’s when I had my biggest health crisis.
I had frequent bouts of brain swelling, heart palpitations, weakness, migraines, dizziness, vertigo, anxiety (not panic), and overall malaise. I would frequently wake up from sleep feeling “infected” and toxic – and had difficulty finding the words to explain how horrible I felt. After visiting several integrative doctors in the area, I was diagnosed with a plethora of different infections and afflictions including “possible” Lyme, Bart, Babs, Mycoplasma, HHV6, chronic EBV, Coxsackie, biotoxin illness (mold), poor methylation, and on and on and on…
What began in Illinois (coincidentally in a house that flooded when the sump pump went out while we were househunting in DC; which we had to live in for months after the insufficient clean up) and after a whooping cough vaccine, a nasty run in with influenza, and postpartum hormones that jumped all over the map, ended up with a laundry list of diagnoses and more questions than answers. I saw Lyme literate practitioners, took painfully large doses of rx antibiotics, anti-malarials, supplements, acupuncture, energy healing, and almost every alternative modality you can dream. They didn’t help, in fact, I believe I got worse over time, even with dietary and gut support. It wasn’t a “herx”, it was the addition of MORE toxicity to a toxic body in my opinion.
During this same time, we also discovered mold in our home from a slow leak after a shotty bathroom remodel that occurred prior to our purchase of the home. When they opened up the ceiling above the dining room table, black mold was abundant. Was this contributing to my illness? Was biotoxin illness actually more impactful than the infections? I still wonder about this since I was not nearly as ill prior to living in that home.
As mentioned before, I wholeheartedly believe that there is not a single cause for complicated chronic illness. Often when one domino falls, they all do. And I also have adopted the Gerson belief that “You can’t keep one disease and heal two others. When the body heals, it heals everything.” I also believe that when you have suffered chronic illness for many years, there is a component of healing that has absolutely nothing to do with killing bugs, detoxing, eating clean, or popping supplements. But I’ll save that for another post. In the meantime, while my story is complex, frustrating, and time consuming, like many of yours are, this does not mean we cannot be healed entirely. And as we peel back the layers of the onion, the biotoxin and/or implant component is certainly worth identifying, discussing, and treating.
If you are curious about explanting your breast implants, here are some questions to ask your potential surgeon. Remember, just because plastic surgeons put them in, does not mean they are educated about the proper way to take them out. Take these questions to your consult after you research online.
- Ask if he/she is familiar with ‘the en bloc procedure’ for removing implants. Ask how many procedures of this nature he/she has performed, and when the last one was performed.
- Have the plastic surgeon explain, step-by-step, how the procedure will take place. Begin with how you will be “prepped.” for surgery.
- Ask if it would be possible for you to view some “before and after” photos of explantation surgeries he/she has performed.
- If the plastic surgeon did not mention drains in the explanation of how the procedure will be done, ask if he/she will use drains to prevent accumulation of fluid and infection.
- Ask how long the surgery will take and what type of anesthesia will be administered and will it be administered by an M.D.
- Ask if you will need a lift, and if so what kind do they recommend? Discuss the different types of lifts and what would be best for you.
- Ask how long initial recovery will take. Ask the length of time it will be until you are able to function independently at home. Find out how long you will need someone to stay with you after surgery. It is advisable that someone stay with you for the first 24 hours and possibly a little longer. depending upon your recovery progress.
- Ask how long it will be before you can resume normal activity. Everybody recovers at different rates, but most women are ‘out-of-commission’ for about two weeks, and cannot raise their arms above their heads for a month or longer. Find out how long you are not to lift anything heavier than three pounds, how long you should not drive, and how long should you wait to participate in any strenuous activities such as jogging, sex, exercising…etc. .
- Ask what size he/she expects you to be after the surgery.
- Ask if he/she will prescribes antibiotics after surgery to prevent the complication of infection. Discuss all post-op medications he will use and what their purposes are. Ask if it would be possible to fill them the day before surgery to provide the convenience of them being available directly following surgery.
- Ask if he/she will film the surgery on video if you desire. If so, request a copy for yourself. Ask whether or not you need to supply a blank tape. If this is not possible, ask if you may provide a camera to have the surgery photographed.
- Ask what type of bandage he/she will use and how long it is to remain on.
- Ask when you will need to start wearing the sports bra.
- Ask for the phone numbers you will need to get in touch with him/her after-hours.
- Request that any cysts or other suspicious tissue be sent to the pathologist for examination and report. Tell him/her that you would like to have any removed suspicious tissue and cysts returned to you with your implants. You may wish to have another pathologist examine them at a later date.
- Explain that you wish to have your implants returned to you. Ask which pathology service he/she uses and ask for their contact information. Ask him/her the proper procedure to use to ensure that your implants are returned to you. They are yours and belong to YOU.
- Explain that you would like to request copies of the Operative Report and the Pathology Report from this surgery. Ask about proper procedure to ensure that you receive these copies.
Onto the million dollar question….
WHAT HELPS WITH BIOTOXIN AND BREAST IMPLANT ILLNESS recovery?
First, let’s look at these ideas:
- Some people will never get sick upon exposure to toxic mold strains
- Some people will never get sick from breast implants
- Some people will get sick even from non-toxic mold strains because of immune suppression or compromised immune function
- Some people will have localized illness from breast implants
- Some people will have an autoimmune response to breast implants
- Some people will have breast implant illness that is as result of the exposure to the breast implant materials themselves and/or leakage
- Some people will react to internal mold as a result of breast implants
- Some people will have a combination of any of the above as well as other infections, exposures, emotional/physical stressors
- Some people will heal easily from leaving a moldy living situation
- Some people will heal easily from having their implants removed
- SOME PEOPLE WILL HAVE A LONG AND COMPLICATED ROAD AHEAD, BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU CANNOT HEAL
It is tricky to compare situations with others because while we often take comfort in knowing we are not alone in our suffering, a chess match of comparing stories and symptoms does not always provide more clarity for our own healing.
But for me personally, here is what helped me:
- Takesumi Supreme – this is a binder made of carbonized bamboo, which helps to immobilize and pull toxins out of the body. I have mentioned it often in the form of Black Lemonade, a recipe I developed to help with detox. If you are exposed to toxic mold, are actively killing infections, including candida, or have heavy metal toxicity, most responsible practitioners will recommend taking a binder to help promote successful detox. Many of us who do become very ill are unable to detox on our own (because of MTHFR or HLA issues), so detox aids are crucial. You can find the loose powder HERE. You can also buy it in capsules HERE.
- Milk Thistle – since your liver takes on a big job when it comes to filtering and detoxing your toxic load, people often find they need extra liver support. I personally have used milk thistle on and off for years, have no side effects and I have had a few readers reverse fatty liver with it, with labs to prove it. One contraindication is an allergy to ragweed. Otherwise it seems to be very well tolerated and helpful to the liver in many ways.
- Magnesium – Whether you prefer to sweat it out in an epsom salt bath or like to use a magnesium oil or cream, this mineral is responsible for over 300 processes in the body but also becomes deficient in chronic illness. Orally it can cause loose stools, depending on the form, so I have found the cream to be the easiest form to supplement. I use it after my nightly bath when my pores are open.
- Sweat, Pee, and Poop – Yes you read that right. Your body gets rid of the bad stuff 3 ways. If you are not drinking enough water, you are constipated, or not sweating, you are likely not moving toxins out efficiently. Add those 3 to the fact that many of us have detox pathways jammed up anyway, and that’s a recipe for toxic disaster. Proper hydration, sauna or epsom salt baths, as well as fiber and magnesium to help you poop regularly are key.
- Folate + B Vitamins – like magnesium, folate and b vitamins play multifaceted roles in the body. If you have MTHFR or compromised detox ability, there is likely a need for an increase in these, both to address a deficiency that happens in chronic illness and to help the detox pathways stay mobile and properly functioning. Depending on your other methylation SNPs, methylated Bs and methylfolate or 5-MTFH can really help. I like a few products including THIS CREAM and this ORAL TABLET. I tend to go for liquids, chewables and topicals because I find they absorb best especially in the case of compromised gut health.
- Liposomal Vitamin C – because mold and exposure to toxins and chronic infections can contribute to oxidative stress, Vitamin C can be helpful in both supporting the immune system and decreasing the effects of oxidative stress. I use a liposomal form of Vitamin C because it does not pass through the body as quickly and therefore is more bioavailable. THIS ONE is non-GMO and is in a sunflower base, which I tolerate well and find easy to take.
- Liposomal Glutatione – Glutathione is the master antioxidant and also becomes deficient or inadequate with exposure to mold, toxins, and chronic infections. Because glutathione is needed for detox, and many of us become deficient, supplementing it can be helpful. Like Vitamin C, I prefer a liposomal delivery to optimize the benefits of glutatione which you can find HERE. There is also a topical form HERE.
- Lauricidin – If you’ve hung around here for awhile, you know that Lauricidin may be my #1 all time favorite supplements. Pure monolaurin that is considered safe and non-toxic for entire families, this supplement has been shown to be anti-fungal as well as anti-microbial and good for gut health in general. If there is one supplement I feel like casts quite an expansive net, this is it. You can find it HERE.
- Garlic – garlic is known to be anti-microbial, anti-fungal and generally good for “all the things” including candida and mold. I take this tincture which I find to be an easy and effective way to absorb it. I have also used it for recurring strep infections that did not respond to antibiotics as well as for my dog’s yeasty smelling ear infection. It has been a godsend in so many ways and is a cheap and effective tool to keep around. Be cautious if you need to avoid FODMAPS.
- Probiotics – there is so much information about probiotics out there and I couldn’t even begin to dig into the pros, cons, and in betweens. So I’ll leave it at this: they’ve helped me tremendously with gut health with crowding out and killing off the bad stuff. I will continue to use and rotate them along the way. I do not have SIBO, I do not have histamine intolerance, or any other contraindications so I’m a fan. I use THIS one and THIS one regularly.
I could go on and on about all the products there are out there to take internally, as there are many binders like activated charcoal and bentonite clay which apparently tend to hit different mycotoxins/molds. In addition to treating the body internally, the following steps may be necessary to move forward with healing:
- Removing toxic breast implants. There are several doctors in the country who have mastered the proper technique of removing the implant (without draining it) as well as removing the capsule (scar tissue) around the implant. Some doctors prefer to remove them “en bloc” without disrupting the capsule. If silicone has leaked, surgery to extract the migrated silicone may be necessary as well.
- Moving away from mold. This is tricky. Many people cannot afford to move outside their infected home, nor do they have a landlord who will correct the situation properly. Ideally, if you have a home with a bad mold problem, it may be necessary to rehome.
- Disposing of moldy items. Sometimes personal belongings must be tossed. This is not always required but depending on the extent of the damage it is a possibility.
- Remediating mold. This is tricky because if done incorrectly, removing mold from a home can actually exacerbate symptoms. It is important for a company to remediate the correct way, closing vents, using HEPA filters, air scrubbers, enclosing the area being worked on, disposing properly of moldy parts cut out, wearing proper clothing that they put on/take off as to not spread the spores, as well as cleaning air vents and other places that may have been contaminated. Scrubbing with bleach does not kill mold so please research the proper way to remediate before jumping in.
I hope this very lengthy yet thorough post is helpful. Happy to answer any other questions you have!