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. Many toxins are stored in fat, various tissues, bone, etc. Their removal, or detoxification, is a very important subject to touch on and is recommended after explant. The detoxification process is induced or slowed 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.
How are the implants’ toxins (silicone, chemicals, and heavy metals) processed by the body?
Toxins usually start with absorption and distribution. Then the human body may handle them through either storage, metabolism, or excretion (or a combination).
“The toxicity of a substance depends on three factors: its chemical structure, the extent to which the substance is absorbed by the body, and the body’s ability to detoxify the substance (change it into less toxic substances) and eliminate it from the body.” – Department of Public Health
Through degradation and natural diffusion, toxins slowly leach out of the implants and into the body where they are then absorbed and distributed. They travel through the lymphatic system and bloodstream. Next, they are either stored, metabolized, excreted, or a combination.
Toxins are usually concentrated in different tissue systems to varying extents – they are not distributed evenly throughout the body – the level of a toxin in one tissue may be hugely different from another.
Many toxic compounds are lipophilic (fat-loving). This means they are fat soluble and incorporate themselves in fatty parts of the body, such as: brain and other nervous tissue, liver, endocrine (hormonal) glands, and adipose tissue (fat and connective tissue). These are common sites for fat soluble toxins (heavy metals, environmental pollutants, pesticides, plastics, preservatives, food additives and other environmental chemicals) to accumulate. They dissolve in fat and are difficult to metabolize and excrete. They may be stored for years, if not for a lifetime, being released through heat, exercise, perspiration and other means.
Heavy Metal Storage –
Heavy metals accumulate, get stored, and displace vital nutrients. Lead, strontium, and fluoride concentrate in the bone and displace calcium. Cadmium concentrates in the kidney, etc. If there are nutrient deficiencies, heavy metals can substitute them – if the body is deficient in zinc it may grab nickel or cadmium, if there is a selenium deficiency the body may instead bind to mercury or aluminum, etc.4 There are hundreds of metabolic processes in the body where enzymes use either minerals or essential metals as cofactors to do their job and what heavy metals do is they displace the good metals and minerals, and in doing so the enzymes do not work.
Therefore whatever metabolic process you are doing – whether energy production, sugar metabolism, getting rid of toxins, etc. – the heavy metals can interfere with it. Additionally, many heavy metals and silicones also bind to hormone receptors and are endocrine disruptors. In particular, breast implant heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury have high affinity for estrogen receptors, binding to them and disrupting hormones.1 The accumulation of heavy metals disrupts metabolic and endocrine activity, supports the development of fungal, bacterial, and viral infections (particularly fungal), upsets digestion, and can damage organs such as the liver and kidneys. The binding and displacement of heavy metals and chemicals onto bone and organs may be due to the mechanism of molecular mimicry, where structural similarities allow these toxins to bind like a hand in a glove to our proteins and receptors.
Silicone Storage –
Silicone in the form of gel bleed or ruptures, can migrate outside the implants and capsules and into local axillary lymph nodes where they can then spread via the lymphatic system throughout the body and accumulate in various tissues (see article on silicone dispersion). Migrated silicone from ruptured implants has even been later found in the sinus cavity. Silicone exposure has the ability to modulate immune, hormonal, endocrinological, and neurotransmitter functions. Silicone also causes oxidants to be produced that directly damage cell walls, DNA, and enzyme systems.5 The way silicone is metabolized and excreted is more biochemically complex, it is very difficult to breakdown. Silicone is hydrophobic and the silicones that are smaller (low molecular weight) are also lipophilic – meaning (1) being hydrophobic they can form stronger bonds, similar to oil, that are not easy to break down and detoxify, and (2) being lipophilic they can easily dissolve in fat. FDA manufacturer documents for silicone breast implants state that silicone gel bleed consists of D4, D5, and D6.6,7 This is of concern, as these are low molecular weight silicones that are highly lipophilic, meaning they can diffuse faster and enter a cell more readily than higher molecular weight compounds. Therefore they may be stored away in various tissues across the body. Also, as an implant ages, the stability of silicone deteriorates and low molecular silicones may be continuously released.8 Excreting silicone is fairly difficult, silicone is similar to having microscopic glue in the body. One may try inositol, infrared sauna, hyperbaric oxygen chamber, and Liquid Needle Soak.
2. Metabolism – the liver is the predominant metabolic detoxification organ
Fat soluble toxins need to be converted into water soluble forms in order to be eliminated. The liver fulfills many vital tasks. It is the body’s fundamental organ involved in breaking down and detoxifying fat soluble substances – toxins, hormones, medications and drugs, and by-products of metabolism (such as ammonia). It has a variety of enzymatic processes where toxins are metabolized and detoxified – through Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III detoxification pathways. Metabolism aims to solubilize toxins and make them less harmful through chemical and enzymatic reactions so that they can be excreted by the body via the kidneys (as urine) and the intestines (as stool).
The liver receives a dual blood supply from the intestines (about 75% of blood to the liver) and from the systemic circulation (about 25% of blood to the liver).9 Therefore many toxins are absorbed and detoxified by the gut – through metabolism by digestive enzymes, gut flora, and gut associated lymphatic tissue (GALT) – on the way to the liver. If the digestive system is not functioning optimally and if the lymphatics are congested, detoxification is hindered and toxins may be stored.
Liver Detoxification Pathways:
Phase I is the subtraction phase. It begins the detoxification process of using enzymes to break down fat soluble chemicals to convert them into less harmful substances (intermediate metabolites) for phase II. This is done through the cytochrome P450 enzymes and chemical reactions: oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis, hydration, and dehalogenation. In the process, free radicals (oxidative stress) are produced and toxic intermediates may also be produced, it is important that these do not build up. Required cofactors include B-complex vitamins, magnesium, iron, etc. and antioxidants are also very important to protect against the free radicals produced.
Phase II is the addition phase. It uses the toxin intermediate metabolites produced in Phase I and does conjugation reactions to make them water soluble and less toxic (ready for excretion via the kidneys and bile). In conjugation reactions enzymes and cofactors are used to add molecules to the intermediates from Phase I to make them more stable and functional for transport/excretion. Some substances enter Phase II directly. If Phase II is overloaded, harmful metabolites from Phase I may be produced faster than they can be metabolized. The major pathways are: glutathione conjugation, sulphation, glucuronidation, acetylation, amino acid conjugation (glutamine, glycine, taurine, cysteine, methionine, etc), and methylation. You need to supply the special conjugation substances via diet or else the process is halted.
Phase III is elimination through the bile and partly through the gut. Phase I and II convert the toxins into water-soluble molecules that can be removed from the body. Phase III uses transporters to move these substances out of the cells and into the bile for elimination. Diet and flora play a pivotal role. Fiber binds toxins and helps eliminate them from the GI tract. Water and alkalinity are also beneficial.
“If the liver’s detoxification pathways are excessively stimulated and overly utilized, they eventually become depleted or begin to respond poorly – being suppressed by toxic chemicals. Once breakdown of the main pathways occurs as a result of pollutant overload, toxins are shunted to lesser pathways, eventually overloading them, and disturbing orderly nutrient metabolism. Chemical sensitivity may then occur, followed by nutrient depletion and finally a ‘fixed-name disease.'”10
Liver & Other Detoxification Support:
Stop taking in more toxins – make sure your air is clean, water is pure, eat organic non-GMO foods (remove all processed foods and eliminate refined sugar, additives, sweeteners, artificial flavors, preservatives, caffeine, and alcohol), and review your cleaning, beauty, personal hygiene, and cooking products. Stay away from anti-perspirants/deodorants with aluminum, take a break from nail polish, lotions, hair products and any other synthetics that you rub into your skin or apply to your scalp and that get absorbed into the body. Opt for natural alternatives.
Go slowly with stimulating detoxification. Before starting it is good to recuperate the various systems (digestion, bowels, kidneys, thyroid and adrenals) and get them running smoothly so the body can have the energy and the right environment to handle detox (see the healing page). Start by mastering a good diet to create a foundation for your body to derive the cofactors and nutrients necessary for the liver detoxification pathways and other processes to function properly. Meanwhile also support the kidneys with good hydration and electrolytes, and support the bowels with good fiber so you have the binding agents to help smooth elimination. Second, heal the gut, many times with chronic illnesses the gut develops imbalances (such as with leaky gut, IBS, candida, etc.) and the lining of the gut needs to be repaired. Third, another important consideration is addressing your thyroid and adrenals to make sure the metabolism is working. Fourth, you can start liver and other detoxification, listed below. Add detoxifying nutrients such as Vitamin C, lipoic acid, NAC to help generate glutathione and mobilize toxins. Do not take chelators (NAC, lipoic acid, chlorella, clays, DMSA) if you still have mercury fillings. Exercise to the point of sweating to help clear accumulated waste. Sauna helps mobilize and sweat out toxins, but should be done a few months after explant (not right away), or it can further adrenal fatigue and be too stressful on an already weak body. Maintain normal bowl function and water exccretion to assure evacuation of wastes. Oxygen therapies can help clear waste at the cellular level.
Glutathione (GSH) is a crucial antioxidant, immune booster, and anti-cancer agent. It is found in every cell of the body but has significantly higher concentrations in the liver, playing an important role in the liver detoxification pathways. It binds to toxins to help eliminate them, binds to free radicals and repairs the DNA damage they cause, supports regulation of enzymes and supports your immune system by increasing production of killer T cells. It is a “master antioxidant” that is normally created and recycled in the body however in an overload of toxins it is depleted. There is debate on the poor oral absorbability of supplemental glutathione. Increasing glutathione is more efficient via incorporating its precursors.
Glutathione is made from three amino acids (protein building blocks): cysteine, glutamine, and glycine. Cysteine is the most crucial of the three because it is a sulfur containing amino acid. Sulfur is a sticky substance, it binds to and traps toxins and free radicals. Cysteine therefore contributes the sulfhydryl group “SH” to glutathione (GSH). This is important because cysteine is the foundation of glutathione generation, it is the rate limiting factor that affects how fast and how much glutathione you can make.
Dr. Andrew Cutler, who has a PhD in chemistry, suggests increasing glutathione by taking “4 parts NAC to 2 parts glutamine to 1 part glycine between meals” and to couple this with a B-complex vitamin.11,12 SAMe increases glutathione, especially with people who have compromised livers, and is a natural remedy that is effective against depression.13 It is best taken in the morning on an empty stomach. MSM is a key source of sulfur and can also boost glutathione (as well it helps with joints/arthritis, skin and hair, gut, and more). Eating sulfur rich and cruciferous raw vegetables as well as antioxidants and milk thistle also promote glutathione production. One of the best sources of the glutathione precursors is high quality whey protein – organic, grass fed, non-GMO, cold processed/non-denatured, and no artificial sweeteners. People who have problems with dairy, are lactose intolerant, or have a casein allergy can avoid whey protein; but otherwise it is very nutritious. Essentially 38% of solid matter in milk is made out of protein, 80% is casein and about 20% is whey (which is more quickly digested and absorbed, and contains exceptional amounts of cysteine rich proteins). Finally, exercise also boosts glutathione and thereby also your immune system.
NAC (N-Acetyl L-Cysteine) is a precursor to glutathione and also very important for its antioxidant and other effects. It provides cysteine in a form that is easy to utilize and convert to glutathione, particularly in the presence of vitamins C and E. In hospitals it is used as IV treatment to quickly spike glutathione levels in patients who have acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose. Additionally, it is also used to break up mucus in the lungs and is an active part of inhalers. See here for more information on the benefits of NAC.
Antioxidants are essential to protect against the damaging free radicals generated in the presence of toxins, injury, trauma and as byproducts of the liver detoxification pathways. There are three main types: vitamins, enzymes, and phytochemicals from plants. They include – Vitamins: C and E (vitamin C is water soluble; vitamin E is fat soluble), CoQ10 (fat soluble; good for the heart and brain; comes in two forms: 1. conventional CoQ10 is in the Ubiquinone form and 2. the active and more absorbable form is Ubiquinol – as you get older, the body has a harder time converting Ubiquinone into Ubiquinol and therefore the active form is more efficient; it’s also important for energy production and is an essential cofactor in the mitochondria for energy production, this is important because the liver has a high energy demand), and alpha-lipoic (both water and fat soluble, crosses cellular and blood-brain barriers; is a heavy metal chelator that needs to be used carefully or else it can redistribute metals in the body; helps regenerate other antioxidants, such as Vitamins C and E, and glutathione).14,15 Fat soluble antioxidants are important because most toxins are lipophilic and therefore they are stored in fat. Additionally, some fat soluble antioxidants can cross the highly selective blood-brain barrier. Enzyme: superoxide dismutase (SOD) is another major antioxidant. Similar to glutathione its supplemental absorbability is debated due to it being destroyed in the stomach before it can reach the blood. Phytochemicals: flavonoids, polyphenols, carotenoids, allyl sulfide, etc. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but just a sample of the antioxidants important for the liver. See here for more information on antioxidants.
Cofactors and Nutrients for the liver detoxification pathways and for antioxidants to function properly: B Vitamins – including riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), methylfolate (B9), methylcobalmin (B12) – vitamin C, vitamin E/omega 3’s, selenium, zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, amino acids (glutamine, glycine, taurine, cysteine, etc), MSM, inositol/choline/methionine/betaine (lipotropic-help break fat down), Glutathione-S-transferase (GST), molybdenum, Acetyl-CoA, SAMe
Other Supplements and Herbs: milk thistle, silymarin, turmeric, curcumin, methylated multivitamin, probiotics
Note On All Supplements:
1. Try to use supplements without silicon dioxide/silica and titanium dioxide. Natural silicon forms the backbone of synthetic silicone and many of us with breast implants become sensitive to it. In the scientific article “Immunologic stimulation of T lymphocytes by silica after use of silicone mammary implants,” by silicone immunology experts Dr. Shanklin and Dr. Smalley, it was found that “The data presented confirms the silicone implant patients respond immunologically to the silicon dioxide contained in mammary prosthesis.”
2. For best efficacy, use high quality supplements in their purest form with little to no additives (magnesium stearate, calcium carbonate, potassium sorbate, hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, etc.). Read more here. High quality supplements can be defined by absorbability, the form of vitamins or minerals used (such as B-12 in the active form methylcobalamin vs. the cheaper and less efficient cyanocobalmin form), where they are from, and what additives are used.
3. The 23 and Me analysis comes highly recommended to understand your genetic variants, so that you can customize your food and supplements to your body.
Foods: Sulphur foods (garlic, onions, eggs, radish, leeks), cruciferous vegetables (dark greens- kale, arugula, collard greens, broccoli, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, etc), high fiber foods (whole grains, chia seeds, flax seeds, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables), antioxidant rich foods (blueberries, goji berries, apples), artichokes, beets, green tea, protein (low protein diet can really slow detoxification), juicing. Limit exposure to medications and chemicals.
Treatments: hyperbaric oxygen chamber, massage and lymphatic drainage massage, lymphatic rebounding exercises, ionic foot baths, heat mobilizes toxins – exercise/sweating, far infrared sauna and mats, – clay packs, castor oil packs, coffee enemas and other enemas, colonic cleanses, cupping therapy, sun, dry brushing, epsom salt baths, magnetic clay baths, Liquid Needle Body Soak
The excretory systems and organs are: liver, urinary system (kidney, ureter, gallbladder, urinary bladder, urethra), gastrointestinal tract (small intestine, large intestine), skin, and lungs.
The liver turns fat soluble substances into water soluble, less harmful forms, next they either:
(a) Go through the gall bladder and intestines as bile, excreted as stool.
When the liver turns a substance into bile, the bile will be stored by the gallbladder underneath the liver and then be released via the bile ducts into the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum, and ileum). After the small intestine, it travels through the large intestine, ending at the rectum, and out the anus. As a major carrier of toxins, proper bile flow is critical for detoxification.
(b) Return to the bloodstream and then to the kidneys, excreted as urine.
When the liver makes a substance water soluble, the substance will return to the bloodstream and travel to the kidneys where it will be filtered. From there it exits the kidneys via the ureters, into the bladder, and then released through the urethra as urine. Kidney disease may reduce the body’s ability to excrete toxic agents.
(c) Or, the metabolized substances may be stored. See Storage.
Some toxins may be metabolized and then stored. Other toxins are neither metabolized nor excreted by the body, instead they are directly stored in their original state. They are attracted to certain sites, and by binding to proteins or dissolving in fats, they are stored.
Common with breast implants are illnesses to these organs, such as persistent cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), urinary tract infections, skin rashes, chronic bronchitis, and more. These may be from the implant toxins or from the chronic foreign body reaction, both which result in inflammation. For example interstitial cystitis in some circumstances is just another manifestation of too much toxic burden on the body. The toxins on the way out of the body have to go through the bladder in order to be excreted. If the bladder is affected, it causes inflammation in the bladder. When all the toxins are removed out of the diet and products, people tend to recover.
The lungs are also affected, when they are functioning normally they do not let wastes penetrate inside. However due to the constant irritation of pathogens and toxins, the alveoli in the lungs become porous and act as an “emergency exit” for toxins that the liver, kidneys, and intestinal tract did not succeed in eliminating.16 These toxins are transported via the bloodstream to the lungs and bronchi where they are then squeezed through the alveoli and are coughed up as phlegm – which may consist of pathogens and waste from insufficient digestion and excretion. Platinum catalysts used in the manufacturing breast implants may also impact the lungs. Especially after ruptures, platinum can become very toxic, creating persistent coughs, phlegm, and asthma.
The skin is a sensory organ and the largest organ of protection and defense. It plays an important role in the elimination of toxins and can assist the kidneys.17 Excessive sweating, foul body odor, and skin rashes are common with breast implants.
The lymphatic system also plays a crucial role in the detoxification and defense. Lymphocytes are your white blood cells. They are made in the bone marrow and some migrate to the lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus to mature. Lymph nodes can swell, get warm, and hurt when they are fighting toxins inside. When the body is overwhelmed by toxins, the lymphocytes are impaired and their filtering, degradation, and transport of toxins will be impeded. The body will increasingly accumulate more toxins. Also, the thymus is located at the upper part of your chest, and may be affected by the close proximity to the implants and their extracapsular leakage.
It is common for excretory pathways not to function efficiently, this may contribute to the toxicity, but it will result in excretory levels (urine, sweat, hair, feces) of toxins being misleadingly low. For example in one study it has been found that there is an inverse relationship between the severity of autism and the hair mercury level – the poorer the mercury excretion, the worse the autism. In these situations provocation testing may be more useful – giving one or more substances that will displace or mobilize the toxin from where it is residing, such as measuring urinary mercury before and after giving zinc, selenium and vitamin C, or a chelating agent such as DMSA.
What kind of testing can be done?
Due to toxins often being deposited in tissue, blood test levels may be best for acute, relatively high dose exposure, but are usually not so appropriate when exposure is chronic and low level. Heavy metal analyses may be done. Women in the breast implant illness groups tend to test high for heavy metals that are used in the implant manufacturing process (such as lead, aluminum, and cadmium among others). Fat biopsies, such as a fine needle aspirations, may be useful in testing for fat soluble toxins. Other toxins are more easily metabolized and can be analyzed in the urine, such as xylene, which is used in the manufacturing of implants. Please see the Tests page.
Where are chemical compounds most concentrated?
The liver and kidney concentrate more chemical compounds than all other organs combined.18
See the Healing page on how to heal and detox.
Disclaimer: Always work with your health care professional in discussing treatment. Changes in liver detoxification may interfere with the metabolism of certain medications. This information (and any accompanying material) is not intended to replace the attention or advice of a physician or other qualified health care professional.