Dr. Ben: So on today’s episode of the Modern Vital Podcast, our topic is breast implant illness, also known as BII, and environmental factors, which might make it worse. And today’s very special guest is Ellie Vixie, a breast implant illness expert and survivor who is passionate about educating other women with and without implants about BII. She is also an energy healer and an intuitive wellness coach. And after 17 years with implants and making excuses for her chronic health issues, it took learning about BII to take a look at what the effects of having implants was doing to her body. She is dedicated to helping women heal and recover from the effects of BII so they can make the best decisions for themselves about explant or explantation and love their bodies after surgery. Welcome to the show, Ellie.
Ellie: Ah, thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here.
Dr. Ben: It’s great to have you. Yeah. So I’d love to hear a little bit about your journey. What led you to become an expert in BII?
Ellie: Well, it wasn’t intentional, I’ll tell you that. I did not know that breast implant illness even existed until 17 years into having my implants. I had had them checked. My doctor said, no, they’re great, they’re good. You can keep them in until they burst, basically. And I was, let’s see, two and a half years since my last child. So we were done having kids. I was past the infant stage, I was past the breastfeeding stage. I was past all of those chronic tired phases. And so I was like, okay, well, I’m still chronically tired. I am still not feeling good. What’s going on? This isn’t kids anymore. And I actually was introduced, I was told, about breast implant illness for my sister, actually. And as soon as I researched it, everything just clicked. I was like, that has got to be what it is. And all of my random symptoms that I just could not identify and I could not figure out what was wrong, they were all listed there. And it felt so good to finally have an answer.
Dr. Ben: So for those who don’t know, can you define what is breast implant illness or BII?
Ellie: Yeah, so what it is, well, it occurs with both saline and silicone implants, and it is just a whole lot of symptoms that relate to toxicity. We’re talking like immune and autoimmune kind of issues, any kind of neurological issues, and it can also create endocrine and metabolic dysfunction. And there’s all of these symptoms that kind of jump and bumble altogether. And unfortunately, it isn’t diagnosable at the moment. It is very hard to say 100% this is exactly BII, which is why I think it’s such an obtuse idea. Right.
Dr. Ben: So how did you then go about figuring out once and for all that you did indeed have some of the symptoms that were being caused by your breast implants?
Ellie: Oh, yeah, that’s a great question. So I actually found a community of women, and in this community of women, we were all thinking that we were all alone. We thought we are the only ones that feel this way. We’re the crazies that have all these symptoms, and nothing’s wrong with us. Our blood’s fine, our hormones are fine, our thyroids are fine, but we still feel like garbage. And so when we came together, it was almost like you could compare with other women and be like, oh, my gosh, you have that too, and you have implants, and you have the same implants. Or we’ve had them the same amount of time. And so it was really comparing with other women who could say, like, yes, I have these same symptoms. And we’re talking hundreds of thousands of women now that are all sharing their symptoms and sharing these things that are going on with them. And so for me, it was very much self diagnosed, but based on some of the other symptoms that women were experiencing as well, that we were all having these same symptoms. And that’s really how it came about.
Dr. Ben: Yeah. I’ve had a few patients in my practice with BII, and it seems like some of the classic symptoms we see are muscle pain, joint pain, sometimes palpitations, or some chest tightness, chest pain. There often appears to be hypothyroid symptoms like hair falling out, easy weight gain, and then lots of rashes and just fatigue, kind of autoimmune like symptom symptoms that are hard to pinpoint in terms of labs.
Ellie: Yes. My most bizarre symptom was that I could not sweat. I couldn’t break a sweat. And I went to a gym one time, and the trainer was like, we’re going to keep doing this until Ellie breaks a sweat. And I was like, you’re going to kill everyone, because I can’t, I can’t sweat. But what would happen is after an exercise or after even a sauna or a hot tub, I would either get flu like symptoms or I would break out in hives all over my body. And I’m thinking, oh, I’m allergic to my sweat, or I’m allergic to exercise. Actually, I thought that for a while, and it was just really bizarre for me. But then again, going into that group and other women being like, I can’t sweat either, and I break out in hives when I exercise. And I had dry eye was another really common one in the group, like crazy dry eye symptoms. But yeah, my hair was falling out. I was like, okay, I haven’t had kids in a couple of years. This isn’t post birth hair loss anymore. And I had my thyroid checked, and my thyroid levels were fine. I also had a lot of actual mental stuff too. I had a lot of depression. Depression like symptoms, had some anxiety, and then, yeah, weight gain was really a struggle and. So those are a lot of really common, bizarre symptoms, and those are the mild ones, actually. There can be some very severe symptoms as well.
Dr. Ben: Yeah, I was reading that over 400,000 women get breast augmentation and breast implants alone just in the US. And then I know it’s, I mean, I have no idea how many it is worldwide, but it’s obviously millions have had it. But I’d be curious to know how many out there are actually having these symptoms. It sounds to me like the communities you belong in, there’s tens of thousands that have these symptoms.
Ellie: Yeah. So I actually just checked this recently, and I think the latest study was done in 2018, so it’s not even very current. But anywhere from like, 35% to 85% of those women with implants will experience symptoms, four or more symptoms within sometimes just a couple of months of getting their implants. So it can come on pretty hard and fast.
Dr. Ben: That’s incredible. Wow.
Ellie: It is a wild.
Dr. Ben: So then if one suspects that they have BII, where do they go? Obviously, we go to Dr. Google, but would you recommend somebody join a group, like on Facebook or one of these groups online or talk to somebody like yourself to figure it out?
Ellie: Yeah, absolutely. So there are some very great resources available online. The one that I love the most is actually Healing Breast Implant illness. She’s got wonderful resources. There lots of lists and lots of stuff to dig into and research. There’s a Facebook group online, Healing Implant Illness, and lots of really great community of women there that you can find. And then, of course, yes, they can talk to me, and I can help people navigate that as well. But I think it’s really important to find a doctor that can sympathize with you. I’ve had really great luck with naturopaths such as yourself, especially doctors that are very in tune, more holistically, and are open to maybe something that might not be considered normal and might not be considered mainstream, because I think a lot of what we’re looking for is just validation. And yes, I understand that you’re not feeling well. Let me see how I can help you. And oh, your tests are normal, but you still don’t feel well, then there’s got to be something else. And so finding a doctor that is willing to do that patient work with you, really willing to dig in and look holistically at at all of the other aspects that could be going on, I think that’s very important.
Dr. Ben: Yeah, I’ll be curious to see when this actually becomes accepted because. It’s very clear to me that BII is a real thing. I mean, we see it a lot in our practice. You obviously see it, you experienced it. There sounds like hundreds of thousands of people who have had it. And then there’s these various names. Like AISA is another name for autoimmune, autoinflammatory syndrome induced by Adjuvants. But it’s like if we go look this up, like the Cleveland Clinic has a little page about it. There isn’t even really anything on UpToDate, which is like what doctors use to look up conditions. There’s not even a page on BII on UpToDate. I mean, they’ve got to get that together. But then I go to PubMed and I can find a few papers from well known journals talking about it, and there’s quite a few that conclude there’s enough evidence for us to actually have a diagnosis here.
Ellie: Yes, absolutely. And what’s really interesting is there is a group that advocates for breast implant illness. They’re advocating with the government. They’re going to the FDA. They’re going and asking them to do things. And so since 2021, the FDA actually did finally order, order a restriction of sales and distribution of breast implant illness. And they had to include a black box warning and checklist on them. So there are strides being made to help raise awareness for this because I didn’t know, I mean, I knew the issues behind the surgery. I know that the surgery could cause issues, or the surgery could cause malformations and things could go wrong, but I didn’t realize. I thought it was a lifetime device. I thought it was something that I could have forever, and I would never really have to think about it or worry about it again. And I think a lot of us do go into this, you know, go into implant surgery thinking that. So it’s nice to know that activism has made some steps to improvement there.
Dr. Ben: That’s really great. I’m curious if you could speak a little bit to the various ways that BII are caused by the silicone, or silicone, for example, because we know that we can have, like, an inflammatory reaction to it, and then we know there could be, like, a biofilm that maybe forms on it where there’s actually, like, a bacteria infection. And then you and I were talking about how I think you’d said a colleague of yours actually had mold that was found inside of the capsule of the breast implant.
Ellie: Yes, it is really interesting. So my surgeon was Dr. Chun in California, and he has a fascinating Instagram page, with all of his explants. Right. So you want to go down that route, you definitely can go down that rabbit hole. But yes, sometimes when these implants are coming out, there is mold and there are spores inside the, inside the implants as well. And the capsule that forms the scar tissue that forms around the implant can hold a lot of the toxins as well. It’s almost like our body is trying to localize the toxins and trying not to let it spread. So it creates this barrier, and then in some women, that barrier hardens and gets really tight, and it can squeeze and contract the implant itself, which can cause, oh, I can’t pronounce the word constrictures, and anyways, it can burst the implant. So if you do have a silicone implant, you risk that silicone spreading and causing all sorts of damage in the body. So the removal technique is really important there as well. But you did ask about those environmental impacts and the mold that can be present on the implants. And just there’s heavy metals, and there are things that are inside that, that are just being leeched into the body constantly. So our immune system goes on high alert, and then you’re more at risk for chronic illness and then chronic things, and then your immune system just gets worn down to where you’re just chronically ill.
Dr. Ben: I’d be so curious. I see so much autoimmune disease, so much Lyme disease and different things like that. And I’d be curious to see the overlap between like, for example, tick borne illness and BII, because I’m sure there are some people who have breast implants but also have Lyme disease, and that could be really tricky to figure out. How to figure out.
Ellie: Oh, I agree. I think it would be a fascinating study to figure out how many of these things overlap. Because for me, now, if I feel tired and now if I feel sick, I’m like, okay, what am I doing? Because I no longer have to think, could this potentially be my implants? So I have ruled that out. Now, where before I was like, okay, well, it could be this, it could be that, but it also could be my implants, and they’re still here. So until I actually got them removed, I had no idea. I was like, oh, it could be this and it could be that. And I just had nothing concrete. And I think, too, my immune system in my body couldn’t do the healing it needed to do. It couldn’t process the toxins I was being exposed to, so thankfully, I didn’t. But had I gotten a tick bite at the time, I don’t know that my immune system would have been able to handle it and been able to process it. And so I may have been more susceptible to a disease like that or an autoimmune condition coming in from that as well because I wasn’t full functioning. So right now you can absolutely follow me on Facebook. Just Ellie Vixie on Facebook, and I’m on Instagram as well as Ellie Vixie. Those are kind of my social channels. But you can always. Can I give my email address or is that weird? All right, so it’s very easy to contact me via Gmail. I’m Ellievixie@gmail.com, and then I also provide a free discovery session as well. So if you’re curious and just want to talk and want to see how this might be impacting you and how I could potentially help you go through it, it is Ellie Vixie as me. Free discovery session.
Dr. Ben: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Ellie. That concludes today’s episode of The Modern Vital Podcast. We would love to hear from you. We value your feedback. If you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and leave us a review. If you enjoyed this episode, we look forward to having you join us next week for another exciting episode of The Modern Vital Podcast.