This is the million dollar question. The one that all us ladies whom have been and still are going through illnesses because of their breast implants would love the answer too.
There have been some fabulous research studies on this topic, like this one by Dr Mark Clemens, that help us to try and piece the puzzle together, as to why we have become so ill.
During my years of healing (currently at 3.5 years since explant), I have tried many different diets and detox’s, had more blood tests than I can shake a stick at and tested my gut, adrenals and even my hair to help me navigate such a tricky and uncertain healing path.
When I started to study anatomy and physiology and how our body’s function on a daily basis, it was fascinating to learn just how a small amount of stress can upset the homeostasis (balance) of the internal workings of our amazing machine. I found it quite a good place to start to try and find some answers.
Are you ready? I have made this as simple as I possibly can without going into loads of depth and technical terms…
When breast implants enter the body a sequence of events occurs in the surrounding tissue and eventually ends in the formation of foreign body giant cells where the tissue/implant meet (1).
A foreign-body giant cell is a collection of fused macrophages (a type of white blood cell of the immune system, that engulfs and digests anything it feels is a danger to healthy body cells) which are generated in response to the presence of any large foreign body. This is particularly evident with implants that cause the body chronic inflammation and foreign body response (2).
When a macrophage is exposed to inflammatory stimuli and attempts to break down the foreign object, they will secrete a wide range of small cell signalling proteins called cytokines. There are many different types of these cytokines called interleukins and they are separated with a number, such as IL-1, IL-2 and TNF-a. This secretion of cytokines then signals an inflammatory and wound healing response (1/4).
According to research by A.J. Dunn, cytokines are the major chemical messengers within the immune system, and specific cytokines IL-1, IL-6 and TNF-a, activate the Hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis (3).
Are you still with me? Fabulous, I’ll continue…
The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis is a group of hormone secreting glands from the endocrine system. Its role is to regulate the internal environment of the human body. Once the HPA axis is activated, it sets yet another chain of events off within the body, signalling the anterior pituitary gland which in turns signals the adrenal glands. The adrenal cortex then releases cortisol (5). Cortisol affects many different functions in the body. It controls blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation and controls blood pressure. The adrenal medulla releases two hormones called epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones are the ones that contribute to the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. The results of this stimulation dilates the airways, increases the heart rate, blood pressure and blood levels of glucose and fatty acids, which allow the body to handle any potential stressors. When the cortisol levels get too high in the bloodstream, they hypothalamus kicks in again and switches off the stress response and stops releasing its original set of hormones. This is all in hope that the stressor has been dealt with, balance and calm have been resumed (6).
HOWEVER – there are some instances when this HPA cycle falters due to the ongoing stressor. When levels of cortisol secretion result in the body being unable to return back to its normal homeostatic equilibrium, it causes chronic stress and starts suppressing the immune system. This can lead to many stress related disorders and diseases when it dysfunctions (8) including; mental health issues from depression, anxiety (9); the failure of the pancreatic B-Cells causing irregularities in insulin production, which can lead to diabetes; gastrointesinal issues, including ulcerative colitis and IBS; depressed immune regulations causing more persistent viral infections and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and adrenal gland disorders (5).
So this is how an invader to our system, can have such an impact on the internal workings of the body. But then we need to take into account how other stressors creep into our lives too and add to Stress Mountain…
When we start to get sick and the results from the doctors are all normal and we feel like we are loosing our minds and the illnesses affect our daily lives. WE GET STRESSED. This time on a mental level. This type of stress also has detrimental effects on our internal workings.
Psychoneuroimmunology or PNI as they like to call it in the medical biz, is the study of interactions between the nervous, endocrine and immune systems and the communication pathway between them all. In a nutshell, a group of experts have also found that stressors arising from psychological or psychosocial situations activate a stress response within the HPA axis. Continual stressors, which are also known as chronic stress, suppress both cellular and humoral (blood or bodily fluids) immunity. This compromises the immune system and increases the chances of illness, infections and diseases (6).
So put all of this together from a foreign body response and our psychological stress response, that is a lot of stressors attacking our homeostatic balance. Once it starts to falter and other illnesses or infections or even worse case diseases join in… it simply adds to the heavy strain our bodies are already under, trying to regain that balance and harmony. If our bodies are going through this every day for years and years because of our implants, you can see why our little walnut shaped adrenals get burnt out by dishing out the cortisol 24/7 with no rest bite.
Now just to make you aware, ‘adrenal fatigue’ is not an accepted medical diagnosis. BUT when you look at the signs and symptoms of ‘adrenal insufficiency’ they do match many of our symptoms with BII, such as fatigue, body aches, weight loss, low blood pressure, light headedness, loss of body hair (11), difficulty getting to sleep, sugar cravings, brain fog and lack of motivation. There is a fabulous doctor who truly believes in adrenal fatigue and his name is Dr James Wilson. He has a great webpage, where you can learn loads about it and how to help nurture the little walnuts back to health again.
So is this it?
Nope, unfortunately not. This stress situation really likes to really get its claws into everything. Are you ready for the next round? Okay here goes…
Next on the hit list is our gut. Yes stress has a detrimental impact on our microbiome too. So here are some fun facts about how cortisol effects the gut:
- it diverts blood away from the gut to our muscles ( to help us fight or run from said stressor, which obviously we can’t as we have had it sewn into our chests – yay!) .
- it slows down the production of saliva in the mouth, which means the enzymes we need to break down food is reduced, thus impairing our digestion.
- it decreases prostaglandins, which are a compound that protect our stomachs from acid. So you may find you have a more sensitive tummy.
- it slows down digestion or can cause sudden diarrhoea, this means that the nutrients we need aren’t getting absorbed because they are being evacuated out at high speed.
- it compromises the immune system with chronic stress and with 70% of our immune system found in our guts…need I say anymore. (12)
Stress can also make the intestinal barrier weaker, allowing gut bacteria to enter the body. Our immune system can normally take care of these little invaders (13), unless it’s not functioning as well as it should be due to the chronic stress within the body that is already affecting our immune system!!
To wrap up on the gut, prolongued stress can alter your microbiome. These alterations can cause the bad gut bacteria to monopolise and multiply, which can again impair the immune system thus causing health issues. Not like we haven’t heard this old chestnut before.
So when you now look at everything we have just learnt as a whole, we have a hell of a lot of stress coming from many angles. No wonder our bodies are exhausted trying to cope. No wonder we have symptoms and illnesses that come and go, leaving us baffled as to what is wrong with us. No wonder we feel like crap.
In my non medical opinion – once explantation has occurred the following should definitely be looked into to help you along your healing path.
You can get your adrenals tested through a nutritionist to see what their function is. If they are exhausted, start slowly rebuilding them back up to cope with normal day to day life. Diet can also help adrenals too.
There are many gut tests out there. I would recommend again using a nutritionist or naturopath to really help you understand the results and be put on the right path to get your microbiome back to being full of the good guys and not the bad ones. I used a great probiotic called Symprove (not affiliated or an ad) that worked wonders for me. You can also see my gut test here and I would really recommend Giulia Enders book aptly called The Gut, if you want to learn more about our microbiome, really easy read too.
Learn the art of not allowing external stress to affect you.
I did this through a wonderful breathing technique which not only helps to de-stress, it also is a great way to get the lymphatic system working at optimal level, help the body to detox, as well as creating a relaxed state, reducing stress and anxiety. In fact there are so many benefits to the breathworks that I have written all about it here for you to read.
Having had all these specific tests done for my gut and adrenals, I found it so beneficial for my mental health during this tricky time, purely because I had a set of results to work from. When I then re-tested a year later to gauge how my body was functioning and could see the changes in the results, it made such a difference to me knowing I was on the right healing path.
This journey back to health is not an easy one. It isn’t a fast one either. Patience is needed, as well as being kind to yourself. That means don’t beat yourself up about having implants, it is done, it is in the past and you can’t change that. So don’t be adding any more to Stress Mountain! Allow space to stop, rest, sleep and nurture yourself when you are feeling at your lowest ebb.
I hope this post has helped you understand why your body has thrown its toys out the pram, and to work out the best plan for your personal healing path.
Once you’ve explanted you may feel on top of the world but after a few weeks you may suffer the crash and feel utterly rotten again. This is all really common for us ladies. Just hang on in there.
Remember every body is different, what may take a week for one, may take months or even years for another.
You got this…
Disclaimer- I am not medically trained and nothing on this website constitutes medical advice .
(1) Anderson, J.M. (2007) Foreign Body reaction TO biomaterials. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2327202/ [Accessed: 11.11.19]
(2) Foreign-body giant cell: [online] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign-body_giant_cell [accessed 11.11.19]
(3) Dunn, A.J. (2008) The HPA Axis and the Immune System: A Perspective [online]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/223634973_The_HPA_Axis_and_the_Immune_System_A_Perspective [Accessed 11.11.19]
(5) Longstaff, A. (2011) Bios Instant Notes in Neuroscience. 3rd ed. New York and Abingdon: Garland Science, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC : Tortora, G. J. and Derrickson, B. (2011) Principles of Anatomy & Physiology. 13th ed. New York: Wiley
(6) Tortora, G. J. and Derrickson, B. (2011) Principles of Anatomy & Physiology. 13th ed. New York: Wiley
(7) Longstaff, A. (2011) Bios Instant Notes in Neuroscience. 3rd ed. New York and Abingdon: Garland Science, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
(8) Rhodes, M.E. McKlveen, J.M. Ripepi, D.R. and Gentile, N.E. (2009) Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal Cortical Axis. Hormones, Brain and Behaviour. 2nd ed. 5 (73) p.2319-2314. (Online). Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780080887838000735 (Accessed: 30 December 2017)
(9) Hambsch, B. Landgraf, R. Czibere, L. and Touma, C. (2009) Genetic Transmission of Behavior and Its Neuroendocrine Correlates. Hormones, Brain and Behaviour. 2nd ed. 5 (84) p. 2633-2673. (Online). Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978008088783800084X (Accessed: 30 December 2017)
(10) McLeod, S. (2010) Stress, Illness and the Immune System. Simply Psychology. (Online). Available at: https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html (Accessed: 5 January 2018)
(12) The Gut Stuff – Instagram @thegutstuff [Accessed:6th November 2019]