👉 What’s The Story With HPV?
HPV, or Human Papilloma Virus, is a very common viral infection that is sexually transmitted. It is mostly known for it’s role in causing pre-cancer and cancer of the cervix, which is why Pap smear testing is routinely recommended. But it plays a role in many other health issues.
Full disclosure: For those of you savvy readers, you may have noticed that the image for this post is “not quite right.” That is to say that the image above is not a microscope view of the HPV, nor is it even a generic virus. It’s some sort of sea creature. But I was hoping to fool at least some of you with that random photo. That’s all I found on Pexels.com, my source for website images. It’s a great resource, except for this particular post. And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…
HPV is notorious for causing these things:
- A lot of anxiety and worry
- Genital Warts
- Relationship strife and marital discord
- Pre-cancer and Cancer of the Cervix, Vagina and Vulva — this will not get HPV invited to any parties, that’s for sure
- Various Google searches that inevitably turn up “How my house fell into a sink hole after finding out I had HPV.”
- Throat Cancer a la Michael Douglas
- Anal cancer a la Farrah Fawcett Majors
- Penile Cancer (I got nothing)
Rates of HPV-related cancers
Overall, there are about 40,000 cases of HPV-related cancers a year in the US. Now, let’s get some perspective on this. 79 MILLION people are infected with HPV currently and about 14 MILLION get infected every year. Yet only about 40,000 cases of cancer occur in a given year.
Viruses causing cancer…that’s scary!
Well yes, that is a concerning thought. But consider this: more than 99% of the time, HPV infection leads to nothing. What’s that you say? You heard me. There is a ton of hubbub out there about abnormal Pap smears and HPV infection and where did I GET this from? And who GAVE it to me? And what do you mean it’s an STD? And where’s my husband/boyfriend/partner because I’m going to murder someone. And is that the cancer Michael Douglas had in his throat? And so it goes.
The reality is that HPV, as with most viral infections we encounter, is taken care of by our immune system and will NEVER turn into cancer. In fact, 90% of abnormal pap smears will spontaneously clear up within two years.
Is HPV an STD (sexually transmitted disease)?
Yes it is. Basically if you are EVER going to have sex, you will likely get HPV. Even with perfect condom use. Over 40% of men and women between the ages of 18 and 60 carry the HPV infection. For you singles out there, don’t delete those dating apps just yet and for those of you partnered up don’t assume that your partner is cheating. You can be exposed to HPV YEARS before it actually shows in a pap test. So before you start pointing fingers, get your facts straight.
The rational approach to HPV
Many of you have been told by your gynecologist that your pap test came back abnormal or that you have HPV. The majority of you did not need any treatment for cancer or pre-cancer and went on to have normal pap tests. This is what typically happens. Not to say that things can’t go wrong and and that you shouldn’t take these things seriously. It is very important to follow your doctor’s instructions regarding next steps and more frequent screening or treatment when needed. But the majority of cases are A-okay. So my point is, do not panic. As long as you get routine Pap screening, you will be able to catch most problems early on and intervene. Now….read on to find out what you can do if your pap test is abnormal.
👉 What Can You Do About HPV?
As we discussed in our previous post most HPV requires no intervention.
But, if you DO get an abnormal pap test with abnormal cell changes OR if you repeatedly get Pap test results that come back with a reading of “a positive HPV”, then it may be helpful to give your immune system a boost and knock that virus down.
Here are the three main things that we want to correct to reduce the presence of HPV and its potential for causing abnormal or precancerous cells of the cervix.
FIX YOUR NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES
Folate and B12– needed for normal cell division and the repair of damaged cells. One study showed that women who took 5mg of folate daily for 6 months had an 83% clearance rate of precancerous cells compared to women who took placebo. B12 at 1000 mcg a day should be sufficient.
Vitamin A — according to a study looking at 12,000 women, higher serum vitamin A levels were associated with lower cervical cancer risk. If you are not pregnant, then 8,000 IU a day is great. If trying to get pregnant or if pregnant, use beta-carotene instead, 3000 mcg/day.
Selenium — a mineral that is critical to normal immune system function, particularly against viruses. Low levels have been associated with increased cervical cancer risk. 200mcg a day is sufficient.
Vitamin D — having optimal vitamin D levels has been associated with decreased cancer risk for many conditions, so know your vitamin D level and aim for a range of 50-60. Don’t just accept “it’s normal” as an answer from your doctor. Know your number!
Choose organic leafy greens and berries (both high in pesticides if NOT organic)
Aim for 8-10 serving veggies a day — green drink in AM — salad for lunch and dinner — berries for dessert and done !!
REDUCE YOUR INFLAMMATION
If you suffer from stomach pain, joint pain, headaches, bad periods, back pain, neck pain, poor sleep, anxiety, depression, fatigue, pre-diabetes, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, drink unfiltered water, breath in air, eat non organic, non grass-fed meat, farm-raised fish, processed food, you sit around more than six hours a day at a desk, or smoke, drink alcohol more than two glasses a week and are stressed, you may be inflamed. Pretty much think I’ve covered everyone with that little description. Oh, if you live on this planet. Now I’ve got everyone!
This all inclusive list is related to the creation of something called free radicals — chemicals in our body that lead to tissue damage. Whenever there is tissue damage and free radical formation, you become inflamed and that sets the stage for making the cells of your body more vulnerable to HPV damage. Cigarette smoking in particular will raise the risk of HPV related damage.
WHAT TO DO
Change your diet. Ditch the processed sugary foods and increase the number of vegetables you eat a day.
Reduce stress — and just like that, the world is a better place!
Improve sleep — the most important anti-cancer, healing behavior we love to ignore. Work on both the amount (8 hours a night) and the quality of your sleep to give your immune system the boost it needs to defend your health.
Find alternatives to Tylenol as this medication depletes a certain antioxidant called glutathione. Glutathione helps your liver detoxify harmful substances and environmental toxins. Low levels of glutathione are seen in women with abnormal cells of the cervix. Consider taking NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) a precursor to glutathione, about 300-900 mg 3x/day, depending on how severe the cervical changes are.
Green tea extract can block the harmful HPV related effects on cervical cells because its antiviral and helps support the immune system. Drinking green tea won’t do it but taking the concentrated extract EC GC 500mg daily will help.
Curcumin — One study of 287 women with early precancerous changes of the cervix applied curcumin topically for 30 days. 83% showed improvement in reversing these changes. Meriva (a special formulation of curcumin) at 500mg 2x/day is recommended.
FIX YOUR VAGINAL BACTERIAL BALANCE
Having healthy bacteria in your vagina can crowd out the presence of pesky interloping viruses like HPV. The LACTOBACILLUS species in particular can defend against harmful organisms. Think of your friendly Lactobacillus species as the bouncers at a high profile night club. They are not interested in some annoying virus that wants to break glass and dance on tables. It’s not the 80s sweetheart, this isn’t Studio 54 or the Tunnel.
If you have HPV or abnormal paps or frequent UTIs or chronic BV or chronic yeast infections, very likely you have a disrupted vaginal bacterial balance AND likely an imbalanced gut microbiome issue. Fixing this may take a little more work than just throwing down a probiotic.
Probiotics may be a good start, but reestablishing a healthy vaginal ecosystem is likely going to require way more work than that. If you are going to take probiotics for your vagina, look for lactobacillus reuteri, rhamnosus, and crispatus species. Those are the best bouncers for the vagina. More on this in a future post!!!!
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Ready for the legal disclaimer? Information offered here is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As with any health recommendations, please contact your doctor to be sure any changes you wish to consider are safe for you!