I didn’t think I’d be writing another edition in this particular category so soon, but I received about a half a dozen emails from people asking me about to post about the breastfeeding claim from this Tuesday’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills episode, along with several various theories about Yolanda and CLD.
For the curious or new readers, please read from the beginning:
This is why critical thinking is so very necessary.
I teach social studies and sciences primarily and as I’ve pointed out on other blogs and emails exchanged with some readers that while I am not a doctor, I certainly employ critical thinking and skepticism. I link to Yolanda’s social media to show you exactly what she’s shown the world and to counter or try to understand her claims. Science education is certainly a struggle, but more so is scientific thinking and literacy. Not everyone can be an expert in every possible scientific field, but it is scientific thinking we should employ.
This past episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (called “Will Power”) was full of the usual omg-rich people what are you doing things, like Lisa holding the swan, trying to use a vending machine, and Anwar not knowing how to spread butter, but majority of Yolanda’s story line surrounded her “Chronic Lyme Disease”. The scene with her, Kyle, and newcomer Erica Jayne is where some people feel, as a reader wrote to me, “NOW I know this suspect.”
I don’t know where the producer’s are quite taking us because I certainly didn’t expect the “M-word” to be thrown out so soon. Along for the ride, I guess.
As mentioned before in previous parts, Yolanda claims Anwar and Bella, her two younger children, also have Chronic Lyme Disease. She’s posted their medication on social media and discussed it now on the show. It used to be more common in the 80s and 90s to tell women not to get breast implants until AFTER they were finished having children, simply because of the changes your breasts undergo from pregnancy, particularly because silicone implants were removed from the shelf, before coming back after greater research and understanding.
Breastfeeding is a very difficult issue for mothers to contend with. There is a lot of support for breast is best, so if you cannot or decide against breast feeding, it can be particularly trying, especially if you are new mother, dealing with a wealth of information for the first time. No one should make you feel guilty about your choices, as long as your child is cared for.
However, it is not helpful–perhaps maybe even despicable– to spread absolute lies about breastfeeding.
Yolanda claims that breastfeeding with silicone implants caused her children to have lower immune systems. The FDA notes that scientifically silicon level were not higher in breast milk from women with implants versus those without implants. There have also been studies about birth defects from children born to women with implants and no increased risk was found.
Additionally, this article explains specifically why breastfeeding with implants is not inherently risky.
- As Yolanda mentioned and the article does, the concern is silicon and silicone compounds.
- Silicone is “widely present in our environment”, like radioactivity, we all have some level of ingestion.
- The type of silica that causes known health hazards is NOT used in breast implants and never has been.
- In controlled tests, the testing levels were not statistically significant.
Additional studies completed since then have confirmed and reaffirmed those initial claims, which is why the FDA and NIH, as well as other federal health bodies around the world say if you have implants, you are okay to breastfeed.
Even if say your implant ruptured and began leaking, there is no support that silicone can even make it into breast milk. In order to do so, it has to travel across several cell membranes and it is, molecular-ly speaking, too large to do so. The bigger issue with breast implants and breastfeeding is that sometimes after receiving implants, there may be damage to milk ducts, rendering one unable to breastfeed.
So let’s also talk about breast implants.
I think it is also important to point out that Yolanda’s children were all born around a time when there was a scare around silicone implants. There were major lawsuits against breast implants manufacturers and the FDA even pulled them off the shelf for several years, demanding more and rigorous studies. This Frontline timeline breaks down the history of lawsuits and research studies, for those interested in further looking into implants.
But what about Yolanda’s specific breast implants? Some viewers were surprised on social media when she announced she was having implants removed. She never really mentioned having implants on the show before, so this was somewhat surprising. (Out of all the franchises, I believe OC might discuss the most about their plastic surgery pursuits.) But like others viewers, I had similar questions. Namely, why Cleveland?
- Why Cleveland?
Yolanda claims in the episode that doctors in Beverly Hills couldn’t perform this surgery and that this place in Cleveland is the best in the world. That raised some eyebrows. Really, no doctors in California, let alone Beverly Hills, which is an epicenter of plastic surgery, could perform the procedure? That seems a little suspect. Of course, if we had unlimited income (as sometimes it seems with these wives), I’d go wherever for the best care. But this isn’t an organ transplant, this is a fairly routine removal of breast implants.
- Where in Cleveland did she go?
The clinic Yolanda went to is called the Feng Clinic. I admit when Yolanda first mentioned going to Cleveland, I presumed she meant the Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic is a world renowned healthcare facility, which is why I, like many others, presumed she would be going there.
You are probably wondering how I found that out. A simple Google sleuth and the clinic itself links to the People Magazine about their treatment of Yolanda. (As my friends told me when I shared it with them, that’s some publicity if we’ve ever seen it.)
- Who is Dr. Lu-Jean Feng and what is the Feng Clinic?
Dr. Lu-Jean Feng owns and operates the Feng Clinic, a very pricey plastic surgery outpatient and alternative medicine clinic. There’s a mix of cosmetic surgeries, nonsurgical cosmetic procedures (like Botox), and non-evidence based measures like acupuncture offered at the Feng Clinic. Even in the reviews from patients and Glassdoor employee reviews remark just how expensive the clinic is. It seems Dr. Feng caters to a very specific clientele, one that wants to be surrounded by science based medicine, wrapped up in a warm blanket of pseudoscience. The place reminds me of a spa in Beverly Hills.
- Could implants really be causing these problems?
Leakage into lymph nodes is definitely something that can happen from a ruptured implant. I don’t doubt any of her claims she made about the physical symptoms she was experiencing or what they saw on the MRI.
What I question is: 1) for implants over 10 years, that would be a PRIMARY suspect for any unexplained illness i had-an implant is a foreign body, it should be investigated right away, (2) Yolanda’s claims of breastfeeding causing her children to be able to contract CLD more easily and (3) why would one go to Cleveland for removal, when there so many capable doctors of removing implants in, of all places, Beverly Hills area.
- How long do implants even last?
Implants have varied shelf lives, but the common wisdom seems to be a decade is about the expected length of time, though NHS notes 1 in 3 women will have an additional surgery related to implants. Plastic surgeons recommend every 10-15 years to replace implants because obviously, the longer they are in, the more complications are likely to occur and the FDA noted that they do not last forever.
After looking at timelines, treatments, and claims, a number of theories are emerging.
- Could she have Munchausen Syndrome?
Per webmd, MS is “a mental disorder in which a person repeatedly and deliberately acts as if he or she has a physical or mental illness when he or she is not really sick. Munchausen syndrome is considered a mental illness because it is associated with severe emotional difficulties.”
Lisa Rinna bought up on this season the question of Munchausen and Yolanda. The rate of Munchausen syndrome is not truly known because of dishonesty and ruling out all other medical claims. Another difficulty with Munchausen is that alternative medicine practitioners can feed pseudoscience ideas, deliver treatments, etc. that only seem to reinforce their issues.
Obviously, I don’t know if she does, but a lot of the symptoms definitely overlap with behaviors we’ve seen on the show and combined with social media, perhaps. It isn’t out of the realm for stars to do these things, perhaps it makes them even more likely.
- What about Munchausen Syndrome by proxy?
Per webmd, MS by proxy is a bit more insidious. MS by proxy is “a psychological disorder marked by attention-seeking behavior by a caregiver through those who are in their care. MSP is a relatively rare behavioral disorder. It affects a primary caretaker, often the mother. The person with MSP gains attention by seeking medical help for exaggerated or made-up symptoms of a child in his or her care.”
Some have mentioned this in regards to Bella and Anwar, especially with this past episode when she said the alarming statement along the lines of whatever treatments help me even a little bit, I give to them too. However, by proxy usually involves a lot more, like faking tests, falsifying records, etc. Yolanda seems to be going to a lot of alt. med clinics that already give bogus tests and treatments, so I doubt she really has to go to any lengths. However, years into her claims CLD and she has only mentioned it this year, that happens to culminate with the higher frequency of alt. med treatments and pseudoscience claims. If she did have MS by proxy, I’d expect to see it get only worse.
The threshold for both are quite high. It certainly is a plausible theory.
- What about legal issues?
I am not well versed in California divorce law, but several commenters noted that if she is ill, then a pre-nup may not be enforceable. If someone is more familiar with California law, please note in the comments!
- Is she depressed?
Kyle made an interesting point this past episode with her story about being diagnosed with fibromalygia and really having depression. Fibro really isn’t my concern here, so I’m refraining from discussion, but depression does have real, physical symptoms. A study from the NIH details the physical symptoms as “chronic joint pain, limb pain, back pain, gastrointestinal problems, tiredness, sleep disturbances, psychomotor activity changes, and appetite changes.”
I could see this also being likely, as a divorce is looming, her children are all leaving the nest, and her mother is only getting older and she has a very close relationship with her.
[I also have to remark that many did not take kindly to her comment that CLD is not “JUST depression or anxiety” which felt quite belittling. If you need help with depression or any other mental illness, NAMI (National Alliance Mental Illness) has resources and help available. Project UROK has domestic, international, and specific resources in their guide as well.]
- Possibly menopause?
Possible. Menopause is a difficult time, physically and emotionally, but I would find depression and anxiety a much more likely cause over menopause. Perhaps even both?
- Another illness?
This is my least favorite because of the implications. She could be avoiding or not searching for a root illness or cause because of clinging to Chronic Lyme Disease.
I would certainly hope if Yolanda does another illness or a mental illness that she gets help and support she needs. That still doesn’t release her from perpetuating dangerous pseudoscience on her social media and legitimizing questionable organizations and doctors though. At best, they have duped her and at worst, she knows and plays pretend.
I hope we don’t have another Brooks Ayers scenario on our hands, but in the universe of Real Housewives, who can say for sure yet.