Breast Implant Illness & Heavy Metals

Breast Implant Illness & Heavy Metals

By Dr. Alissia Zenhausern, NMD

Breast Implant Illness & Heavy Metals

Breast Implant Illness & Heavy Metals

With roughly 400,000 breast augmentation surgeries happening each and every year, there has been growing concerns among patients about the safety and long term effects of their breast implants. Some women may develop unexplained symptoms or worsening of their current symptoms, shortly after or even years, after their breast augmentation surgery was completed. Many will spend months to years trying to get answers to their unexplained symptoms with little to no concrete answers.

Many times, after visiting multiple specialists,and feeling completely hopeless, they will start to do their own research.  During their research, they may have discovered Breast Implant Illness, a condition, unfortunately, not currently recognized by the traditional medical community, however, is a real condition experienced by a growing number of women.

Many of these women will struggle with symptoms for months or even years before deciding to undergo an explantation.  They will spend weeks researching the best surgeons until finally, getting the explantation they have always wanted.

But what happens after an explantation and why do some women continue to struggle to recover from BII weeks to months after explantation? As a naturopathic doctor focusing on women’s health, I have helped hundreds of women through their battle with Breast Implant Illness and today, I wanted to share with you the importance of heavy metal testing to fast track your recovery post-explantation.

Why is Heavy Metal Testing Important?

When it comes to heavy metals, it is important to understand that we are ALL exposed to heavy metals in our daily environment. However, what is not discussed enough is that each individual’s sensitivity and susceptibility to heavy metals vary based on age, gender, pregnancy status, nutritional status and genetics. It’s also important to understand that many of the studies done on heavy metals and chemicals are often reviewed as a single isolated chemical and do not take into consideration the amount, and variety, of chemicals we are all too commonly exposed to. This is where heavy metal testing can play a pivotal role in helping us understand our own body burden or toxin exposure over time.

Why Are Heavy Metals A Concern?

Heavy metals can cause metabolic dysfunction either by up-regulating or down-regulating important metabolic pathways, as well as, they can accumulate and disrupt the function of vital organs, including our brain, bone, liver, heart and kidneys. Heavy metals have also been seen to deplete our body of nutrients, specifically glutathione. Glutathione, is not only a powerful antioxidant but, plays a pivotal role in our liver’s detoxification pathways. Not only can heavy metals accumulate in our body but, they can prevent the natural detoxification pathways of other substances in our body. Heavy Metals, specifically Lead, Cadium, Mercury and Arsenic, have been found to inhibit Phase I Detoxification, specifically inhibiting the enzyme Cytochome P450. Cytochrome P450 is involved in not only detoxification of toxins but is also an important enzyme involved in hormone production and metabolism.

Heavy Metals Can Also:

  • Increases Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Inhibiting Antioxidants/ Detoxification Enzymes
  • Depletes Glutathione by inhibiting GSH synthetase/reductase.

Unfortunately, heavy metals can accumulate in our bodies for not only months but YEARS. That’s right, traces of lead exposure have been found in bones up to 20-30 years later!

Why You Should Consider A Heavy Metal Test After Explanation

Although, we are naturally exposed to heavy metals from our daily environment, having breast implants can expose you to an additional exposure source. Not only can women with breast implants be more exposed but, each individual woman’s sensitivity and susceptibility to said metals can vary and, is one reason I believe some women develop BII, while others do not. The presence of such metals can interfere with a variety of metabolic pathways and may predispose women to secondary conditions, specifically, autoimmune conditions including Lupus, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Grave’s disease.

Common Heavy Metals Found In Breast Implants:

  • Arsenic
  • Barium
  • Beryllium
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Cobalt
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Molybdenum
  • Nickel
  • Silver
  • Thallium

Why Type of Testing Should I Ask For?

When it comes to heavy metals testing, there are a variety of testing options. However, from clinical experience, I have found urine testing, especially provoked urine testing, to be the most effective way to determine a patient’s heavy metal exposure over the course of their lifetime. Hair and blood testing only determine acute (short-term) exposure and do not provide an adequate understanding of long term exposure, which is commonly experienced by women with BII.

Provoked heavy meal urine testing is done in conjunction with a chelating agent (heavy metal binder). Some of the most common types of chelating agents used include DMSA and EDTA.  When completing a provoked heavy metal urine analysis, a patient will be given EDTA or DMSA via infusion (IV) or oral capsules. The patient will then begin to collect their urine for 6-24 hours. During this time, the chelating agent will help, not only bind to heavy metals present in the body but, will help transport those heavy metals out of the body. This is also a great way to eliminate lead and other metals that are often found in the bones.

Since the EDTA or DMSA must be prescribed by a physician, you must consult with your physician for testing. Consulting with your functional medicine or naturopathic medicine provider will be the best way to complete a provoked heavy metal urinalysis. To find a naturopathic or functional medicine provider in your area, you can visit the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians or visit the Institute of Functional Medicine database. Each database will provide you a list of providers available in your area.

Heavy Metal Chelation Therapy

Heavy metal testing results typically take between 7-10 business days. Once your doctor receives the results, they will review the results with you and determine your specific heavy metal levels and will determine the course of action that is most suited for you. For many patients, dietary, supplemental and lifestyle modifications will be enough.

However, for some patients, they will require more aggressive treatments, including heavy metal chelation. Chelation therapy works by binding heavy metals. Similarly to the provoked heavy metal urinalysis, chelating binders like EDTA or DMSA will be used, but this time over long periods of time. Chelation must be completed under the supervision of your doctor and can be given as an oral treatment or via IV infusion. Clinically, I have found oral chelation to be just as effective as IV infusion but, better tolerated by patients. Chelation is typically done 1-2 per week for 6-12 weeks, depending on your urinalysis.

Although chelation therapy is often well tolerated by most patients, some will experience side effects.

Some of the possible side effects that may occur with chelation include:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred Vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

When Should I Do A Heavy Metal Test? Can I Do It Before My Explant?

The best time to complete your heavy metal urinalysis is 6-8 weeks post- explantation. This will provide your body ample time to recover from surgery. Of course, always talk to your doctor for specific guidelines.

When it comes to testing, heavy metal testing can be done prior to an explantation, however, without undergoing an explantation, you are unable to eliminate all of your heavy metal exposure sources. Some of my patients will complete a heavy metal urinalysis before and after explantation, however, the majority will simply completing the test post-explanation. Patients who require more aggressive treatments, like chelation, will then be retested after chelation therapy to make sure treatment has effectively removed the heavy metals.

Title: Dr. Zen, NMD, Naturopathic Physician and Founder of NMD Wellness of Scottsdale

Scottsdale, Arizona

Dr. Zen is a licensed naturopathic physician specializing in Women's Health. Her local private practice is located in Scottsdale, Arizona, however, she works with patients around the world. Her goal is to educate, inspire and empower women to take control of their health naturally. She believes in providing integrative healthcare options that get to the root cause of your unique symptoms. She has been featured as an expert in a variety of publications including Shape, Elite Daily and Forbes.