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Like most of you, I was not born with an awareness of toxins and the necessity of avoiding them. I used to believe that manufacturers would not use anything harmful in their products – they just wouldn’t. As I learned more about toxins, I knew that one day I would have to confront my deepest fear. It was about my breast implants and their potentially detrimental health effects. In early 2017, I had no choice but to undergo breast implant removal surgery (aka explant surgery). It was a major step toward recovery from two autoimmune conditions I was diagnosed with after getting saline breast implants. I am excited to tell you that much to the disbelief of conventional doctors I have completely recovered from one of them! Read on to find out what other steps I have taken to defeat the autoimmune diseases.
Steps I Took To Recover From Autoimmune Conditions Before And After Explant Surgery
In 2010, I underwent an extensive medical checkup after a hit-and-run accident and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. It is an autoimmune condition that conventional medicine considers incurable. However, with the help of my functional doctor Myrto Ashe, MD, I recovered from it. Stay with me to find out what steps I took to accomplish that.
In 2015, shortly after the birth of my son, I developed really bad symptoms. Namely, they were extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, tanned skin, panic attacks, and even inability to retain body heat. Those turned out to be the symptoms of Addison’s, a rare autoimmune disease characterized by adrenal insufficiency. It is when adrenals stop producing cortisol, a hormone absolutely crucial for living. Currently, I am dependent on a synthetic cortisol hormone and must take medication several times a day to stay alive. But I am determined to recover from it, too.
To clarify, in autoimmune conditions, the immune system mistakenly attacks your body. Nowadays, there is an emerging consensus among functional medicine practitioners that one of the triggers of autoimmunity may be toxins.
I started becoming passionate about reducing exposure to toxins in everyday products when I was expecting my baby in 2012. Thus, I switched to glassware and safe cookware, bought an organic mattress, found non-toxic makeup, and chose the safest shampoo. Additionally, I took specific steps, including the explant surgery, toward immediate results in my health condition. Here is what I have done to recover from my autoimmune conditions.
I Turned To Functional Medicine Before The Breast Implant Removal Surgery.
I share only my experiences, not medical advice. Consult your doctor for treatments suitable for you.
To begin, functional medicine addresses the underlying root causes of an illness using a multi-faceted approach to healing the body. Rather than treating the symptoms, functional medicine uses recent scientific advances to tackle the reasons people get sick. In addition to getting traditional medical training, functional medicine doctors learn about the impact of nutrition, anti-inflammatory protocols, oxidative stress, nutrient deficiencies, and toxicity. They design a plan to optimize the system affected with illness, that resulted in the expression of symptoms.
For example, the symptoms of depression on which the diagnosis is based may have multiple underlying causes. Stress may play a role but also, perhaps, nutrient deficiencies, unsuitable foods, and other factors. Two people with similar symptoms can have entirely different underlying causes. Conversely, two people with the same underlying causes can have different symptoms. For instance, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause depression, or it can cause neurological symptoms.
I realize that functional medicine is not for everyone. Specifically, it is costly and not always covered by insurance. Also, some doctor recommendations can be hard to follow. Besides, it is a long-term treatment. So, when we are looking for immediate help, conventional medicine is often more appropriate.
During my first visit to Myrto Ashe, MD, she asked me to tell her my life story. Then, to see how well my body functioned as a whole, she recommended that I take the NutrEval test.
I Took Nutreval And GI Effects Tests.
Four years before my explant surgery, I took the NutrEval test by Genova Diagnostics which provided an insight into my overall biological profile. It addressed mineral and vitamin deficiencies, gut health, digestion, ongoing exposure to heavy metals, and my ability to convert food into energy. Additionally, it included a marker for oxidative DNA damage that can indicate a predisposition to cancer. It was high for me then, but I am happy to report it is back to normal after the treatment! I was very worried about it because my father died of metastatic cancer at 57.
NutrEval discovered my limited ability to detoxify; hence, I must be super careful around toxins. Also, it revealed exposure to an elevated level of mercury and inability to digest chicken and fish well. Above all, NutrEval showed that I was deficient in vitamins B and magnesium. Plus, unable to convert food fat into energy, my body relied on carbs for energy. No wonder I experienced fatigue when I tried a low-carb diet.
Furthermore, I took the GI Effects™ Comprehensive Profile by Genova Diagnostics that tested for beneficial gut flora, parasites, and harmful bacteria. It showed I had a good diversity of beneficial bacteria and had no parasites. At the same time, it discovered two strains of harmful bacteria associated with autoimmune conditions. Even after an extensive course of herbal supplements, the re-test showed I still had the harmful bacteria. In other words, the herbal supplements did not make an impression on them.
one step – be it an explant Surgery or supplements – is not a comprehensive approach to curing autoimmunity.
True, chronic deficiency in vitamins or minerals may prevent the body from healing. It may cause such bad symptoms as depression, hair loss, fatigue, and even promote the development of autoimmune conditions. Nevertheless, supplements are not the ultimate solution to vitamin and mineral deficiency or health improvement in general.
If you are considering supplements, consult with your doctor, and you might find it a good idea to take the NutrEval test first. I am told it shows what vitamins and minerals you are missing and how much you need to take.
Also, poor-quality supplements may be contaminated with heavy metals and may even harm you if you take them carelessly. You can read more about that in my Clean Protein Powder Guide. (By the way, to avoid heavy metals in makeup, consider Crunchi non-toxic makeup or – my second choice – Beautycounter).
Most importantly, health is not about taking supplements. My doctor and I had to look into the things to avoid and remove from my body and my environment. And you will read about that next. Especially when the illness is still in the process of leaving my body, it is crucial that I stay away from potentially toxic products. Indeed, while allergies may be the short-term effects of chemicals, long-term effects are hard to measure. Bottom line, my doctor and I did not focus on just one step, like taking supplements or having explant surgery. We agreed on the need to incorporate multiple steps to achieve optimal health.
I Also Took Tests For Hidden Allergies, Heavy Metals, And Mold Sensitivity.
First, functional medicine considers it important to diagnose food intolerances (some of them could be allergies) because they cause inflammation that can lead to numerous diseases. So, I took Cyrex Laboratories tests to determine whether I had intolerances to gluten, grains, yeast, seeds, potatoes, and dairy. As a result, I avoid gluten now and try to avoid tapioca when possible. I sure miss eating bread, but I have found a delicious substitute that is also healthy – AWG Bakery Gluten-Free Bread.
Second, there is evidence linking toxic heavy metals to autoimmune diseases (source and source). I had some work done on testing for and reduction of heavy metals. We achieved good results with reducing lead levels in my body and worked on reduction of current exposure to mercury.
Third, we looked for evidence that my body might be impacted by mycotoxins (toxins made by molds). Since some of my blood tests were concerning, we hired mold inspectors. Using ERMI testing, they determined that our house had a moderately high presence of harmful mold. In addition to installing a whole-house air filtration system, we took steps to prevent air from the crawlspace from coming into the house. Plus, I took supplements to reduce the mycotoxins in my body.
I Had My Breast Implants Removed.
By 2017, instead of two autoimmune conditions, I had just one, because I had already recovered from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Shortly after I started working with Dr. Myrto Ashe, MD, my thyroid antibodies, a sign of the thyroid gland being attacked, went down from 457 to 110. What did we do? We addressed my body’s vitamin and mineral deficiencies, inability to digest chicken and fish, toxic chemicals, and stress. I want to emphasize the importance of avoiding stress: the body cannot heal effectively in a state of chronic stress.
But there was still a significant part of my body to deal with – my saline breast implants. When I got them in 2006, I was so happy to wear a size B bra that nothing else mattered. Eventually, after being diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases in a row, I had to face my fear. By the way, during my consultation, the plastic surgeon said that saline breast implants have to be changed every 10 years or at the very least every 15 years to reduce the risk of death. In other words, I faced the decision of removal or replacement. Indeed, the research I did showed that implants could leak little by little and cause contamination, inflammation, and sickness. Thus, I was not going to let vanity take away my chance to cure from Addison’s.
What I did not know in 2017 is that in 2019, the FDA finally admitted the link between breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) that is a type of cancer that starts in scar tissue and fluid near the implant. In March 2023, the FDA listed many other risks associated with breast implants including other lymphomas, capsular contracture (scar tissue that squeezes the implant), breast pain, and breast implant illness symptoms. The FDA recommends discussing these potential side effects and pain medication with your plastic surgeon.
Two months after the breast implant removal surgery, I re-tested markers for mold illness, inflammation, and autoimmunity. The great news was that some of them went down, such as TGF b1 (Human Trans. Growth Factor) and MMP-9 (Matrix Metaloprot-9).
However, my breasts were not as they used to be before the saline implants, including scars on the inframammary fold areas. Read more about my post-op experience and my research on silicone implants in the Can Breast Implants Cause Autoimmune Diseases? post.
I Followed A Modified “Fast Mimicking Diet” During My Recovery After The Explant Surgery.
After the explant surgery, I kept working with my functional medicine practitioner Dr. Myrto Ashe, MD. As the next step toward recovery from Addison’s disease, she encouraged me to get on a modified fast inspired by Dr. Valter Longo’s “fast mimicking diet.” It is designed to improve overall health, prevent cancer, slow down aging, and even reverse autoimmunity, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
The theory behind a fast mimicking diet is as follows. For 5 days each month for 3 months, you eat a limited diet of a calculated amount of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. During these 5 days, the body begins to clear some damaged and unnecessary cells. Apparently, cancer cells weaken because they cannot adapt to the stress. When you return to your normal diet, your body makes new cells, and your organs regenerate in this manner. Then you are supposed to repeat the diet in six months.
At first, I experienced fatigue, grumpiness, and lightheadedness. However, they resulted not from hunger per se but from low blood sugar. Actually, in a healthy person, glucose should not be jumping high and low and should be fairly stable. After going on this diet several times, I observed some exciting results. Though the first days were hard, by the end of the diet I definitely felt more vibrant and energized. After 3 rounds of the diet, my blood glucose went down from 99 to 68, which was a remarkable achievement.
I Had A Drinking Water Filter Installed.
In my opinion, drinking filtered water is an absolute must for all people, especially for those with autoimmune conditions. Therefore, I devoted several years to studying water filtration technologies. For instance, after testing my tap water with a Tap Score home water testing kit, I discovered uranium in it. You can read more about it in my post What You Can Do about Uranium in Water.
Additionally, I have tried some water filters and tested my water before and after filtration to see the difference. Thus, I describe my experience with Aquasana Reverse Osmosis water filter in my post Best Water Filter System for You. In the same post, you can find out about Berkey, too.
As for me, after extensive research and testing, I settled on a Pure Effect water filtration system. I began feeling better both emotionally and physically after I started drinking water with calcium and magnesium, both beneficial minerals. The latter is especially important to me because I have had low magnesium in the past. (For instance, Aquasana adds potassium, but it is not a mineral I need to supplement with.) All in all, Pure Effect works well and keeps water pH under 8, which is what my doctor recommends.
I Had Mercury Amalgam Fillings Removed From My Teeth.
As I mentioned, one of the steps I took before the explant surgery was a challenge test for heavy metals. Besides lead, I had high levels of mercury. I was surprised to see that because if I ate fish, it was salmon and herring – low mercury fish. My research for other ways of exposure to mercury led me to my teeth, namely, to my amalgam fillings. Thus, an amalgam composite is 50% mercury, and I had had 8 amalgam fillings over a 15-year period. So, out they went.
And then in 2021, my dentist removed a tooth that had undergone a root canal. To clarify, in 1998 I had a root canal done. Then in 2013, my dentist discovered an infection and re-treated the canal. In 2021, it snapped and got infected again. So, this time, I was glad to get rid of it.
Allegedly, low-grade inflammation coming from the oral cavity is one of the factors that can trigger autoimmune diseases. In other words, the conditions created by harmful bacteria in root canals can be a trigger for autoimmune reactions.
Therefore, I am happy I have had my root canal removed because it brings me closer to full recovery.
Summary Of My Steps To Recovery Before And After The Explant Surgery
The steps I took are my experience, not medical advice. Consult your doctor regarding your health condition and treatment.
In sum, my journey toward recovery from Hashimoto’s and Addison’s autoimmune conditions started with turning to a functional medicine practitioner. As of today, I have recovered from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and am on my way to recovery from Addison’s.
I took multiple tests to determine the root causes of my ailments and underwent detox and chelation therapies. Based on the test results, my doctor prescribed me supplements to strategically provide my body with minerals and vitamins.
I have also had explant surgery, have been doing a diet, and learning how to manage stress. (If switching to a healthier lifestyle causes you stress, it is counterproductive. Contact me if you need help with managing your stress.)
Additionally, I had my amalgam fillings and an infected tooth removed. Plus, I installed a Pure Effect water filtration system to have access to clean and healthy drinking water at home. Also, I continue minimizing my exposure to potentially toxic chemicals in products I use on my body and at home.
Bottom line, I believe it is crucial to avoid toxic chemicals and heavy metals. But it is important to do it in a balanced, non-stressful, and, therefore, non-counterproductive way.
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