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Breast Implant Illness with Alysha Habgood

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Breast Implant Illness with Alysha Habgood

Are your breast implants making you sick?
 

This niggling little question arises for many women (and men) months, even years after breast augmentation surgery. Despite being controversial and no clear link has yet been found, more and more women are connecting the dots with their long term, chronic inflammatory and immunological conditions that they have been suffering since undertaking implant surgery.

Today we are joined by Alysha Habgood, a naturopath with her own personal journey through breast implant illness (BII). Alysha's clinical practice now specialises in supporting those suffering with BII. Today she shares with us her clinical expertise and personal insights into BII and explant surgery. 

Covered in this episode

[01:12] Introducing Alysha Habgood
[02:01] What is breast implant illness (BII)?
[04:19] Known issues with breast implants
[06:12] Alysha's own journey with BII
[10:02] BII: an overlooked factor in ill-health
[12:39] Recognising Breast Implant Illness
[17:44] How do we assess these patients?
[22:48] Biofilms and rupture
[25:01] Where do we begin for treatment?
[30:45] Supporting psychological wellbeing factors
[36:03] Is there a safer alternative to breast implants?
[38:18] Where can women find support?
[40:11] Tracking treatment success
[43:24] Ask every patient if they have implanted devices
[44:55] Looking to the future


Andrew: This is FX Medicine, I'm Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Joining us on the line today is Alysha Habgood. Alysha is a Sydney-based naturopath and yoga teacher. Her interest lies in autoimmune disease, namely gut, thyroid, and rheumatoid arthritis. But her specific focus is on helping women overcome breast implant illness, BII. 

Alysha's treatment encompasses not just the unique physical aspects of the disease, but the underlying emotional and psychological impacts of breast implant illness. Alysha is passionate about raising global awareness of this growing issue, in both women and their practitioners. Welcome to FX Medicine, Alysha. How are you?

Alysha: Hi. Thanks for having me, Andrew. I'm really good.

Andrew: My pleasure. But we're talking about a bit of a political hot-potato here. Breast implant illness, what is it?

Alysha: Yeah. Look, breast implant illness, it's an unusual one. It's a new one I suppose to many practitioners. And breast implant illness, it can be described as or defined as a period of sickness affecting multiple systems within the body. And this is caused by a silicone or saline breast implants. And the illness varies greatly from person to person. So it can range from, you know, two or three symptoms to a list of 20 or so issues.

And so, how do women get breast implant illness? Or how do these implants cause illness, why do they cause illness? It can be a combination of things. And I see it as usually either a chemical toxicity, and heavy metals, and viral infections usually lying dormant, or we become more susceptible to catching these viral infections such as EBV and CMV. Or it can just be one or the other. So the heavy metals and chemicals or the viral infection.

And these implants, we see that they are endocrine disrupting. And they can cause immune dysregulations. They contain these silicone polymers that are called siloxane monomers, which mimic oestrogen. So ultimately, they're xenoestrogens. And the heavy metals are also endocrine disrupting. So… And then this is not just the silicone breast implant, this is the saline breast implants as well

Andrew: Yeah, yeah.

Alysha: So they're not excluded. Because the silicone and the saline, both the shells of these implants contain these siloxanes. But the saline implants are usually more likely to grow mould within the implants themselves, due to just faulty valves, or the shell of the implants. 

Andrew: Wow, yeah. 

Alysha: Yeah. And the silicone, we can see that they also can grow biofilm, which can be bacterial or fungal in nature. But both of these implants, they carry their own risks.

Andrew: Now, forgive my very old-man memory. But I remember, you know, the issue with DuPont Dow Corning, these implants. Can you take us through, like, who are the culprits here? Is it just those implants? And forgive me also, is it just the coating or the contents themselves, as well?

Alysha: So Dow Corning or DuPont Dow Corning, they were brands through the 1980s and 1990s that manufactured silicone breast implants. And they had a class-action lawsuit against them. People were claiming that Dow Corning's silicone implants cause systemic health problems. And these claims were first centred on breast cancer. But then they migrated for a range of autoimmune diseases, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and various neurological problems.

This led to numerous lawsuits between 1984, ending in 1998. So it's a multi-billion dollar class-action settlement. As a result, Dow Corning went into bankruptcy. And that ended in about 2004. So the contents and the coating, both of these things can be toxic, and they were toxic. So it wasn't just the coating. It wasn't just the internal filling of these implants. And we find that these women were having issues, regardless. 

But these Dow Corning implants were found to rupture easier than the other brands in the market at the time and that the silicone was implicated in causing these diseases. So it can be it can be both. It's not just one or the other. It's not just the silicone or the saline. It's not just the shell or the filling. So both of those materials are detrimental to our health.

Andrew: Right. And how did BII become a focus for you in clinical practice?

Alysha: Well, about six years ago, I myself had breast augmentation surgery. And prior to surgery, I was very healthy. I was always interested in maintaining my health. I ate balanced diets, I did exercise most days of the week. I had energy. No major health issues. You know, I felt good. 

Then four months post-surgery, I started to experience my first symptoms, which was chronic fatigue. Extreme fatigue at the time, that was most debilitating for me. And I had a whole host of other issues that ranged from weight gain, difficulty concentrating, so cognitive issues. I developed a post-nasal drip and sinusitis that didn't leave me the entire time I had breast implants. Lots of gut dysfunction, constipation, bloating. I developed chronic anaemia, developed hyperthyroidism…

Andrew: Wow. 

Alysha: I had inflamed lymph nodes, I had a lowered immunity. So I'd catch every cold that came my way. And multiple chemical sensitivity was a big one for me. I couldn't walk into a room that someone had sprayed perfume. It would just set my sinuses off, give me the worst migraine. And I had this extreme tightness in my thoracic and my scapular. All of the muscles just seized up around that area. And I was in constant pain. 

And so I had all had all these symptoms. And I really didn't understand where they were coming from and why. So I did the rounds. I went to numerous GPs, had copious amounts of blood testing done, MRI, CT scan. I was on medication, like corticosteroids.

Andrew: Oh, my God.

Alysha: Yeah. I did all the mainstream, you know. I did all the mainstream stuff. And obviously, that didn't work for me. Then I tried TCM, chiropractors, naturopath spiritual healers. You know, everything, I pretty much tried it. And the only thing that really gave me a moderate amount of relief was making a huge drastic extreme change in my diet. 

And at this point, I had to significantly reduce my hours at work. And I practically didn't have social life. So I was pretty desperate. I did my own research, came across the Gerson Therapy. And that's something that I followed for a number of weeks. And then I was a vegan for three years. And I did daily coffee enemas and infrared saunas. And so it was a pretty drastic lifestyle change. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Alysha: It was pretty big. It was quite debilitating really and limiting in the things that I could do with my life. And my energy did increase from that. And a few of my symptoms reduced. But I still felt like a shadow of the former healthy self, that I was, that I knew that I was before. 

So I started to listen to that little voice in my head that kept telling me that maybe it's my breast implants. So I did some research. I came across hundreds of other women online with similar symptoms. And that's when I started studying. And I found my passion to natural health and helping others. 

And it took me about 12 months to really come to terms with having to remove my breast implants. And, ultimately, it was a self-image fear, and an issue because why did I get them in the first place? Of course, to make myself feel better about my body that ultimately I didn't love. I wanted to change that, change my appearance. And how different I am now six years later. But that's all a good thing.

Andrew: Yeah. can I ask you, like, the medical axiom is common things happen commonly? Post-nasal drip, weight gain, thyroid issues, anaemia, they're all common things. It's no wonder to me that no clinician went “Oh, it’s your breast implants.” Because they're all sort of their own separate little entity. Indeed, you can get people who specialise in weight loss, specialise in thyroid, etc. 

“This little voice,” do you find that that's this common denominator for these women who go, "Could it be that?" Like, how do they eventually realise it's BII?

Alysha: That's the tricky part because these symptoms are so common. Like you said, they show up in so many other diseases. And that's the problem. Like you said, no wonder any other practitioner go, "Oh, no, it's this and it's that. And it's not, you know, your breast implants because there has been no research linking breast implants illness to all of these issues, all of these symptoms." So it does make it difficult.

And ultimately, I think a lot of women do figure it out themselves. Like you said, they have this voice, "Mmmm, okay. I was pretty good before. I didn't have any health issues or nothing major, you know, was coming up. And then now, three months, six months, two years later, I have a whole laundry list of issues." 

But that's the other difficult thing is because whilst I developed symptoms four months after, some people don't develop them for years.

Andrew: Right. 

Alysha: So that makes it even more difficult to put two and two together because they might think, "Well, I had these for years and I felt fine. So it can't be my implants." And then, you know, any mainstream medicine practitioner is going to tell you, "No, it's not your implants." 

So it does make it very difficult. So as a patient and even as a practitioner, you really have to listen to that little voice. I find intuition is a key to figuring it out.

Andrew: Yeah. And, you know, call me physically-based, but I like, you know, people name it as intuition. I wonder if you're picking up on other cues and things like that. Like, your memory this...we talk about the little voice, but some little subconscious cue that you might go, "Could it be that?" To me, it's more, like, the questioning mind. Really, what a good practitioner should be, is, you know, "Have I really honed into the correct diagnosis? Have I really honed into the correct treatment? Could there be something else that could help my patient?" These are the good practitioners that I find out there. And I'm so glad that you're one of them.

Alysha: Thank you. Yeah.

Andrew: So is BII a recognised illness?

Alysha: No, it's not. That's the problem. It's not.

Andrew: So we're in for another chronic fatigue syndrome.

Alysha: Yeah, that's exactly it. Yeah. Unfortunately, it's not recognised. And there is no definitive test that you can...that is currently on the market, in the present day, where you can go, "We've got this test. And we'll do this. And then we'll tell you if you have breast implant illness." It just does not exist. 

And that's a huge part of the problem too. Because it's not like we’ve got rheumatoid arthritis, you can go and have antibodies tested and, you know, rheumatoid factor will potentially show up. You know, there's no such thing. So that makes it difficult.

Andrew: Yeah. Well, what about these siloxane monomers though? Is there any way of checking to see if they're systemic throughout the body and maybe causing... You know, let's say for instance, somebody experiences pain, a weird pain, in a distal location in their body. Is there any way to test for these?

Alysha: Not as far as I'm aware. Not at this stage, no. And I've looked and I've checked. And at the moment, no. There just isn't testing available out there. Because I think mostly it's the lack of awareness, you know? That's the problem. I think once this becomes the forefront of people's mind when they're actually practising, when they've got their patient in front of them, and they tell them they have implants, and, you know, then people are going to become more aware. Then hopefully, these testings will be developed. And then we'll be able to find out these answers. But at the moment, those just don't exist.

Andrew: Got you. And do you find that the symptoms experienced by these various, hundreds of women online, do they fall into these common categories, the immune, the brain fog, the fatigue, that sort of thing?

Alysha: Often, yes. But again, it's vast and varied. That's another, you know, difficult issue we find with actually diagnosing or figuring out that it's the implants. Is because, you know, I've got a whole heap of symptoms I can rattle off to you. And they could be associated to anything. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Alysha: And, you know, but like you said, a lot of it is immune dysfunction. A lot of it is endocrine disruption. So the symptoms do relate back to those two issues.

Andrew: Got you. And so from your experience, what was the major things that you learned? I would imagine, not in a small way, would be psychological growth.

Alysha: On a personal level, I suppose the best thing that came out of my experience was actually finding my purpose and becoming a naturopath. And I'm very thankful for that. And ultimately, I'm actually really thankful that I developed all these issues because now, I can help other people, especially when it comes to breast implant illness. 

But I also learnt how important it is to listen to your own body. To tune into your instincts, and to that little voice, you know, that's telling you, "This is an issue." 

Because I really do believe a lot of the time, our patients will know what's wrong with them. They will tell you. And one of my issues when I was first experiencing the symptoms six years ago when I did see a naturopath, and I was treated by her, she was very experienced. And I remember I said to her one day, "Hey, I think it could be my implants. I'm not sure. And it's the only common denominator." And she did dismiss the idea at the time as she thought, "No, it's all stemming from gut, stemming from this, and all these other issues." And whilst she may have been acting from her experience and what she learned, and those are very valid things to draw on. I do feel in this instance, she sort of failed to truly listen to her patient. 

Andrew: Yep, yeah. 

Alysha: And that's a downfall for any issue, I suppose.

Andrew: Any practitioner.

Alysha: Yeah, any practitioner. And I think that that's what I've really learnt, is how important to listen to your patient, really listen. Rather than diverge onto a different path based on education and experience. And, you know, those things are important. But trying to combine all of those factors and staying open and present with your patient is really important and key, I believe.

Andrew: Such a great message. And, look, we all do it. I have failed in instances to really tune into what's happening with the patient in front of me. And yes, it's part of life, absolutely. 

But when you've got something that says common and systemic as this is, and then the problem is that we go down these common culprit treatment pathways. You know, things that we all feel confident about the gut, you know, that sort of thing. And we have failed the antecedent. We have failed to identify the actual cause, which is the whole premise of naturopathy really.

Alysha: Yeah. I'm definitely with you on that.

Andrew: So methods of assessing BII, given that it's not a recognised disease. How do you pick up the disease? How do you identify that it is that and not allergies or thyroid problems from stress, or something like that?

Alysha: That's the tricky part.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. I would imagine that the only real positive identification is to remove the breast implants and see if the patient recovers. But then, what if they don't?

Alysha: And some don't. Some that really do not recover. So I suppose when it comes to a practitioner assessing how can they find out if their patient has breast implant illness. Well, firstly, we see that there are a number of things that will predispose people to actually getting sick. Because, you know, why do some women feel completely fine, have no health issues, and they have breast implants, and then others, they have issues there? Why is that?

It does come down to certain genotypes are more susceptible. So HLA genotypes and certain polymorphisms. So people with, you know, the MTHFR variations, COMT, CBS, GSH, GSTP1, all these SNPs that we know impairs detoxification pathways. 

Andrew: Right. 

Alysha: And because of that, we know, you know, glutathione will metabolise heavy metals, harmful oestrogens, xenoestrogens, all those sorts of things. If our bodies are impaired and don't have that ability to detox and get rid of these things that, you know, could be contributing to this illness, then ultimately, we're going to get breast implant illness.

So, like I said, it is a combination usually of toxicity, and these, you know, patients having genetically-impaired detoxification pathways that are going to make them more susceptible. And the immune dysfunction, the immune dysregulation caused by the breast implants because of... You mentioned the word stress before, which just reminded me that those implants really are a stressor on the body.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely.

Alysha: So in themselves, just having this foreign object inside the body, can be a stressor in itself. And which is why we see patients coming up with positive test results for CMV or EBV is because the immune system is so impaired at trying to attack this breast implant or protect itself from this foreign object that you are far more susceptible to getting all of these viral infections. Or the dormant infections begin to take over.

Andrew: Okay. So now, we need to be able to test these people to see who is at risk. What sort of testing do you do?

Alysha: Well, there's a number of tests that I do. And it also depends on what that patient is presenting with.

Andrew: Yep. 

Alysha: But I often will test for CMV and an EBV to make sure that's been ruled out. I would do ANA, CRP, you know, all the inflammatory markers. I will test thyroids, anaemia, copper and zinc levels because I do find copper is often elevated in patients. 

The hair tissue mineral analysis is usually quite important, so we can assess if there’s overload of heavy metals in the body, or mineral imbalances. And the genetic testing is good if the patient wants to really find out what is impaired and exactly target if there is impairments with specific nutrients. 

Andrew: Got you. Okay. So can I ask, do you find any surprises? Like, for instance, somebody comes in rather sick. They do the genetic test and their detox SNPs are absolutely fine. Do you find that ever happening? Like, dare I call it the false negative? Is that what that would be?

Alysha: Yeah, I haven't come across it yet. Not yet, not to say that that wouldn't be the case. But no, not as far as I've seen. I have not seen a patient come back with perfect genetic pathways, you know, detoxification pathways. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Alysha: I just haven't seen it yet. But when it comes to false negatives and false positives, we do see that too.

So when a patient is presenting with these autoimmune disease-type symptoms and we get their antibodies tested, you know, the RA for rheumatoid arthritis. When we get these tests done, a lot of time we find that they'll come back negative. But they're presenting with all of the symptoms. And they're in excruciating pain. And they're no longer able to pick up, you know, their car keys, or they're no longer able to go to work anymore and do things they used to. So it's definitely an issue of a false negative and false positives, as well.

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. You mentioned biofilms before. This is really interesting. And, of course, this is a risk with any implantable device or object into the body. Hips, valves, whatever. It doesn't matter. How do you assess that?

Alysha: At the moment, there's no other way that I'm aware of that we can assess that until you have the implants removed. 

Andrew: Right. 

Alysha: So your surgeon, and hopefully, you, you know, have a surgeon that does somewhat...will believe in breast implant illness and will definitely take the time to take samples…

Andrew: Yep. 

Alysha: Of any fluid and seroma around the capsule. And then they'll have that analysed by a lab. So that is a way that we can test. But for those patients that want to know before taking their implants out, no. I haven't come across anything that will be able to do that.

Andrew: How common are seromas around these implants as a part of BII?

Alysha: I haven't seen them as overly-common. What I do see is mostly pain. Pain is quite common towards the end of, you know, say a five-year period and when women are explanting. I myself had quite a bit of pain that has completely disappeared.

Andrew: After the implants were removed.

Alysha: Once it's removed, yeah. Fluid, look, I don't have any statistics on that. But I have had a number of patients say, "Oh, there was seroma," and I have had many to say there wasn't. I didn't have anything like that. And my implants were completely intact, as well. So it wasn't a case of, "Oh, my implants are ruptured." 

Andrew: Yep. 

Alysha: Or, "My patient's implants are ruptured. And that's why they're sick." Because that's actually not always the case, you know, whilst the implants being ruptured, you know, they can cause their own whole host of issues themselves. And silicone travelling in the body and being in the lymph nodes. And also causing a rare form of cancer now. So it's called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma. That's a mouthful.

Andrew: Right. Yeah, yeah, so one of the lymphomas. Yeah. Okay. So treatment? I mean, I can just see this being a minefield. You've got to truly personalize this, correct?

Alysha: Very much so. That's what the practitioner has to do, really hone in on exactly what's happening in that individual person. Because you can treat two breast implant illness patients, and they could be completely different in their symptoms. 

So treating… I do find that always paying attention to detoxification, no matter what the patient is really experiencing, is important because we find that the impaired pathways is such a common denominator. So in order for patients to recover after explant removal, detoxification is key. And that also has to do with surgery, the general anesthetic, all of the drugs that we have to take for surgery and also for practitioners that want to support their patients before they have their implants removed. Again, supporting the detoxification pathways is what I focus on. And antioxidants are a really big one for oxidative stress.

So, when it comes to, also, nutrients are often depleted because of oxidative stress. So we find, you know, that zinc, B vitamins, selenium, magnesium, you know, those are often low and depleted in patients because their body is really trying to mitigate that oxidative stress, and all of these toxins, and heavy metals. So replacing those, I find, is really important. Anything to support the liver, N-acetyl cysteine, the herbs milk thistle, Schizandra, you know, the lipoic acid, taurine, those are really important.

And also lymphatic support. Lymphatic support is another big one, which I find a lot of my patients have issues with. And infrared saunas are one that I've had a lot of success with telling my patients to make sure that they're going to infrared saunas and sweating out the toxins. I find that they find symptomatic relief on that.

Andrew: I'm so glad you mentioned because that was actually going to be a specific question.

Alysha: Good, good.

Andrew: Way underutilized.

Alysha: Yeah, it really is. And my patients, every time they go to sauna, they go, "Oh, my joint pain is so much better," yeah. So definitely, infrared saunas should be recommended. 

Dry skin brushing, my patients do do that as well. Any of the lymphatic herbs; calendula, clivers, echinacea, and modulate the immune system if that, you know, is likely an issue as well. So, again, rhemania or echinacea, or any of those herbs that will do that. Of course, we want to repair the gut. That's always a key focus. So we know glutamine, zinc, probiotics. Or if the patient has any bacterial overgrowth or SIBO, any of those sorts of things that can be common too.

So I do always see patients will have gut issues with breasts implant illness. I have not come across anyone who hasn't yet. So we know gut is always key anyway. So treating the gut. And then there's the viral aspect. So if the patient is presenting with a viral infection, then the herbs that will assist with that. Any of the Thuja, Cat's Claw, licorice, Andrographis, astragalus, any of those sorts of immune herbs, antiviral herbs, are going to help there too. And obviously replacing any other lost vitamins and minerals that are depleted, that we've tested.

Andrew: Yep. 

Alysha: You know, magnesium, of course.

Andrew: What about biofilm? Like, is there anything you specifically do to help clear biofilms?

Alysha: Yeah. The biofilm is a difficult one. But it's not going to happen if the patient still has their breast implants. You just can't target that area. Because unfortunately, what happens is the body creates a capsule around these implants. And every single woman, whether they have breast implant illness symptoms or they don't, their body will create a capsule. So it’s this fibrous scar tissue that is created. And usually, the biofilm is inside of that. And there's nothing that's going to be penetrating that.

So, you know, antibiotics, they're not going to go and get inside of that. It's just not going to happen even. So when the implants are removed, then we can target the biofilm. But again, I find a lot of the supplements I already mentioned are useful. And I don't tend to specifically target the biofilm. I tend to just do a lot of the immune support and the detoxification. And I'd find that that clears.

Andrew: Yep. And what about, you know, the dumping, if you like, of toxins into the body without clearance? Is there anything that you do to ensure adequate clearance?

Alysha: Yeah, so because patients often do feel worse before they get better, and we know that's often the case, I do like to use something to bind the toxins that are being released. Zeolite clay or any kind of zeolite clay that's been purified to help eliminate those toxins from being reabsorbed and to leave the body through the bowels, through the skin, through urine, as we know. So I find binding the toxins does help my patients to reduce symptoms.

Andrew: And of course, there's the big elephant in the room, psychological support.

Alysha: Yes, that is a big one.

Andrew: What do you with this? This is going to be a huge one. Because the whole point of women doing it was to feel better about their bodies. Now, it has to be taken away. How you get women used to not having that reason if you like?

Alysha: Yeah. No matter how sick a person is or woman is with breast implant illness, it's always going to be a difficult transition. Like you said, no matter what. And, you know, ultimately women get the breast implants because have a, you know, a low self-esteem or they want to feel better about their bodies. And it is a huge psychological adjustment and often can come with depression or anxiety.

And I can tell you, I've experienced the anxiety part myself. I've experienced the post-operative depression state of, "Oh, wow, this is a huge shift," and trying to get myself out of that negative mindset, negative, you know, thinking of, "Oh, I'm not good enough now without these breast implants. I'm not pretty, or my partner won't like me, or I'm never going to get a partner," or any of those things, those beliefs, that I suppose a lot of our patients with breast implant illness are going to have and going to experience.

Andrew: Yep. 

Alysha: So look, psychology is always going to be helpful. People need to talk through it with a therapist. So I would refer on if that's the case. I mean, I'm a yoga teacher as well. So I'm a big believer in doing alternative therapies such as meditation and deep breathing. 

So I would teach my patients when they feel that anxiety and that fear that, you know, our breath is so important for changing our nervous system. The nervous system we’re in. So we can relax the nervous system and overcome that anxiety by taking some deep breaths and becoming present.

And journaling about our fears is also one that helps my patients too. And realising my health is really far more important than the way that my breasts look…

Andrew: Yeah. 

Alysha: At the end of the day because I can't function. But a lot of the time, women will have the surgery done because it just gets so bad, it gets to the point where they can't function. And they just go, "I don't care. I just have to do this." And the fear with women not having the surgery done is, "Well, what if it's not my implants?"

Andrew: Yes, of course. Yes.

Alysha: And that's a big thing because of all of these systems, because of all that, you know, our doctors telling us, "No, it's not your implants." And your surgeons will tell you the same thing. 

So it's a really big one where, again, that little voice in your head has to come in. And so encouraging your patients to really quieten the mind and listen to that internal voice, rather than the fear chatter that is happening in that moment.

Andrew: Yeah, it's a real check-in sort of time, isn't it? And notwithstanding that even people with partners and, you know, established relationships, established families, I guess in particularly established families, and particularly if women have breastfed before and, you know, they're going on through their life, their body's going to change anyway. Their breasts do change, even with implants.

And so I wonder about this. You know, it must be so hard for women to adapt to that change, if the original reason isn't dealt with. You know, right back? Like as you say, you've got to go right back to say, "Was this a breast implant giving me the issue?" You've also got to go right back further and say, "Why did I need the breast implants?"

Alysha: Yeah, exactly. That's the big thing. And it ultimately comes down, I find, to a lack of self-love. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Alysha: So, you know, on some level, that's what we unconsciously believe. You know, we're not good enough, you know? So honing in on that, and allowing our patients to heal that aspect of themselves, and move on from that. And noticing those thoughts come up with, "I'm not good enough," and, you know, "No one's going to like me," and whatever other thoughts that the patient has.

And for them to recognise those thoughts coming up and then to actively go, "No, I am. And this is a belief for whatever reason I've got from childhood or traumas that have happened in my life. And, no, I am good enough." And so you have to actively… you have to be present. Ultimately, it always comes down to being present. And not letting that talk take over, you know, because if you do, then that's when you're going to wind up in that depression state.

So it's really important giving your patients some tools in order to deal with that. And if that's not an area that you practice or, you know, or deal in, then refer to a psychologist or refer to a mind-body coach, or practitioner, or meditation, a teacher or something like that, whatever your patient resonates with, that is going to help them through that journey.

Andrew: But obviously, there's going to be some women that really have a grief issue. They have a real issue… a real reason for initially getting those implants. It was very important for them. Are there any alternatives that women can have instead of these breast implants?

Alysha: Yes. Fortunately, there is an alternative. And it's a pretty good alternative. It's fat grafting or fat transfer. So this procedure isn't without its own surgical risks. And I would encourage your patients to ultimately heal the underlying cause that they or why they felt they needed to enhance themselves in the first place. 

But if your patients do need something, and especially if they're a double mastectomy patient, and they may really need something in to replace the implants, then fat grafting is a really good alternative.

But it involves having liposuction. And then the surgeon very carefully handles the fats, and extracts it, and then injects it into the breasts. 

Andrew: Yep. 

Alysha: So I suppose for women that have initially had surgery because they breastfed, and their breasts are no longer looking the way they used to, and they are empty, then filling them up with a little bit of fat is a good option.

And like I said, it does come with its own surgical risks. And liposuction has its own risks as well. So I'm not advocating that people should go and get this procedure done. But it is an alternative and it is ‘reasonably safe,’ compared to getting breast implants. 

So it's not a foreign object. It's your own tissue. So your body's not going to have an immune response to their own tissue. And the only real risk of having this, not from a surgical point of view, but from a financial perspective is that unfortunately, breast implants, those are not going to be absorbed by the body. They're going to stay there, no matter how much weight you lose. This fat, it does have a percentage that will die off. So all of the fat that's injected, it won't necessarily stay. And just like natural breasts would, just like any other part of your body, if you lose weight, then your breasts will reduce, as well.

Andrew: Sure. Where can women get further support? I mean, obviously, you've learnt a lot from online forums. Are there dedicated forums that are sort of well-known, if you like?

Alysha: There are. There are a few. So there is a Australia and New Zealand Breast Implant Illness Support group. And they have over 3,000 members now. So that's the Australian one there. And I'm part of that group. And, you know, there's a lot of helpful information on there. In just regards to reputable surgeons to, you know, and all that kind of information. And, you know, again, support groups for helping people through hard times with the breast implant illness. 

And then there is a larger group with around 60,000 women. And it's a worldwide one. I think it run by...

Andrew: Wow.

Alysha: Yeah. It's a big group. Run by some ladies in America. And I've also recently started a group just to help women with the healing side. Because I found that there was constant questions on some of these groups of, "What do I do? How do I heal?" And sometimes women, you know, they've just spent $10,000 just getting their implants removed. And they're strapped financially. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Alysha: So helping, a bit of support with just the natural healing side. "Okay. What can I take? What can I do? And then hopefully, you know, after a little while, I can then see a practitioner to help me." So I also have a Healing Breast Implant Illness Naturally group that I've recently started and that I'm running and helping with specifically the healing side.

Andrew: Great. Well we can put those details up on the fxmedicine.com.au website for our overseas listeners, and indeed our Australian listeners as well.

Alysha: Great.

Andrew: I've got to ask, Alysha, how do you track treatment success?

Alysha: Again, another hard thing to answer. I'll give you a "this is how we do it" answer. Because it's so fast and varied. Tracking success really comes down to tracking the individual body systems that are affected. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Alysha: So if the patient is mostly experiencing gut issues, then, you know, you've got to have some testing done around that. And then you can retest, if they had SIBO or candida, you know, or overgrowth, or whatever the case is. That we become susceptible to all of these things as our immune system is no longer functioning correctly.

So the practitioner will really need to hone in on what it is, and then what that patient is experiencing, and then have the testing redone. So again, if it's the heavy metals or mineral imbalances, then having the HTMA testing done will be important. And then you can retest in three to six months' time, once the patient has had treatment.

And again, of course, always, we can track success on how the patient is feeling, ultimately. 

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. 

Alysha: At the end of the day, that's going to be the most important thing. It the patient's saying, "No, I feel pretty horrible still then," you know, there's something else that you haven't investigated or done. But if they're saying, "Oh, I'm feeling so much better..." And I can guarantee you, every single woman that has come to me that's had breast implant illness, I can tell you right now, I haven't had one woman say they haven't had some improvement in their symptoms. 

Andrew: Right. 

Alysha: I just haven't. And I myself have had so much improvement in my symptoms.

Andrew: Yep. 

Alysha: A huge difference. And some of them, I actually woke up the day after surgery and multiple things were gone. It was that quick. 

And I do find a lot of breast implant illness patients have the same experience. And this is obviously a chronic condition, so no one can expect to wake up the next day and feel 100%. That's not going to happen. But I can tell you, all my musculoskeletal pain in my upper body was completely gone the day after surgery.

Andrew: This is after surgery? And that the pain is gone?

Alysha: Yeah, after surgery. I'm sure the general anesthetic had something to do with it, and the Endone. I'm not going to lie there. But that remained the case once I was off the drugs.

Andrew: Wow.

Alysha: Yeah. Look, I do find women experience the same thing. Even just something like they had really bad brain fog and they couldn't concentrate, they couldn't retain anything, they couldn't remember where they put their phone, or their keys, or any...that they just had the worst memory ever. And they find they wake up from surgery, and that is completely gone. So everyone is different, you know?

So again, these symptoms are so vast and varied. And some people don't wake up and feel any difference until they start detoxing. Until they start treatment. 

Andrew: Yep. 

Alysha: So it is going to vary a lot. But I have not had one single woman with implants that have had them removed that have told me, "I don't feel any different."

Andrew: So the trick is to be the detective of change.

Alysha: Yeah. The important thing is really the practitioner asking, "Do you have breast implants or any other implanted devices?"

Andrew: Look, you know what? I think this is a question that needs to be included as a standard question. What is your height? What is your weight? What is your age? And do you have breast implants? Well, actually, you know? Like, we're concentrating on breast implants because this is your experience. But, you know, I mentioned buttock augmentation before. There's got to be other things, you know, penile extensions, things like that.

Alysha: Yeah. Anything, where is a medical implanted device, has the potential to cause harm and cause immune dysregulation or to cause, any of these things, you know? So definitely, I think it's a really, really important one that we often miss as a practitioner and we don't even think about. And so having that on even just on your initial consultation form I think is really, really important. 

And again, ask men too.

Andrew: Yeah.

Alysha: Because, with a rise in plastic surgery, men are getting pec implants. 

Andrew: Yes! Yes. 

Alysha: Men are getting all these different types of implants, you know? So, I mean, I know of one man that has all these symptoms. Same as women. And he has pec implants because he had a deformity. 

I know that men are out there too who's struggling with this. And whilst it's not as common of course because the rate of women versus men having implants is far higher with women. But men do have it too. So you can't just exclude men from this question too.

Andrew: Yeah. And the future. Is there attempts to systematise this symptom to clump them together and find out if there's any commonalities? Are the products available on the market now better than they were previously or do they still carry risks?

Alysha: The products, I can tell you, no matter what kind of device they are, you're always going to run the risk of having an issue. It's a foreign object in the body. I really don't believe that any foreign object is immune and safe to these complications. And so are they going to be safe in the future? I can't see it happening. I just can't. Does that mean that they, you know, that's not a possibility? No. But I just can't see that thing being the case.

And in regards to the symptoms, everyone is so individual that I just don't think that it's possible to clump them together and say, "This is what we've got. And, you know, this is breast implant illness." 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Alysha: So unfortunately, when it comes to this illness, you have to be a real detective.

Andrew: Yeah. And listen to the voice.

Alysha: Listen to the voice. Listen to your patient.

Andrew: Alysha Habgood, thank you so much for taking us through this. This is a really interesting topic. Obviously, one that's really just starting to become known, at least certainly for me. I had no idea. 

Thanks so much for taking us through what has obviously been a confrontation for yourself. But you've turned that around to now be of service to others. And you've really... You know, it's able to enlighten you to your career choice. I mean, that's a fantastic thing that's come of a really horrible thing that happened to you. Thanks so much for joining us on FX Medicine today.

Alysha: Thank you so much, Andrew. I really appreciate everything. And I had a great time chatting to you. And I'm so happy that I'm able to share my message, and get that out there, and help more women and practitioners.

Andrew: This is FX Medicine. I'm Andrew Whitfield-Cook.

Additional Resources

Alysha Habgood
Australia & New Zealand Breast Implant Illness Support Group (Facebook)
Breast Implant Illness and Healing Support Group (Facebook)


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The information provided on FX Medicine is for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice or care. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care professional in the event something you have read here raises questions or concerns regarding your health.

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FX Medicine Podcast
FX Medicine is at the forefront of ensuring functional and integrative medicine gains the recognition it deserves and ultimately establishes itself as an integral part of standard medical practice. Hosted by Andrew Whitfield-Cook, our podcasts are designed to promote research and evidence-based therapeutic practises, acting as a progressive force for change and improvement in patient health and wellbeing.