Admittedly, it’s a topic no one wants to talk about: HPV.
For most, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is synonymous with the term “sexually transmitted disease”—and they’re right. HPV is transmitted from person to person through sexual contact. However, HPV is also naturally occurring and can be dormant in the body for years without ever causing issues.
How Is HPV Dangerous?
While many live their entire lives without ever knowing that HPV resides within them, should the virus become active, it has the potential to cause abnormal cells. For women, abnormal cells on the cervix are called “dysplasia” and if left untreated, these cells have the potential to turn into cancer.
Finding HPV and Abnormal Cells
Pap smears help to identify abnormal cells on the cervix or vaginal walls as early as possible before it has time to progress. Starting at age 21, pap smears are recommended every 2 years for women. At age 30 (or more), your practitioner (naturopathic doctors and midwives offer this service in many states) should also test for HPV, and specifically the riskiest strains of the virus (16 and 18).
For women who have had three consecutive normal pap smears with no HPV, pap smears are still recommended every 3 years until age 65 or 70. Even women who received the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) need to get pap smears according to these same recommendations (the vaccine is not protection enough).
Should a pap smear come back with abnormal findings, it will be on a continuum from mild to moderate or severe (ASCUS, CIN1, CIN2, CIN3 or CIS). Depending on your history of HPV and the severity of abnormal cells, your practitioner will recommend a biopsy. Referred to as “colposcopy”, this in-office procedure will help to evaluate the abnormal cells more specifically.
If the cells are considered to be more abnormal (closer to cancer cells), conventional medicine would suggest either a LEEP procedure to laser the cells away or a “cone biopsy” to remove more tissue.
Of course, we all want to address any abnormal cells as soon as possible.
And yet, many practitioners don’t explain the potential downsides to this approach: Both procedures can cause potential damage to the cervix, which could cause issues for women trying to conceive in the future. Plus, removing the cells doesn’t address the actual virus, so often the abnormal cells will reoccur.
They also don’t explain that other options exist; nor that the abnormal cells often resolve ON THEIR OWN without any treatment.
Women often walk away from the doctor’s office after an HPV diagnosis feeling:
- Afraid for their health or to ask more questions
- Worried over the effect a virus could have on their relationships
- Unsure of what to do and out of control of their own bodies
- Unsupported and isolated
- And worst of all, uninformed.
Listen when I say that HPV is just like any other virus… even down to the way it can be triggered.
How Stress Affects HPV
As I’ve mentioned, HPV can be dormant in the body without presenting signs or testing positive for years. It’s no coincidence that most times women test positive for HPV, they also admit that they’ve been under higher than usual levels of stress.
Whether it’s money, a relationship, school, a big move or the demand at work, stress triggers viruses all the time—and HPV is no different. In fact, women in their 50s and 60s can test positive for HPV for the first time ever and it’s typically during stressful events in their lives.
This is because stress decreases our immune function, making it harder for our immune system to protect us from viruses. Stress also disrupts cortisol, causes leaky gut, and throws off methylation, all of which makes you more susceptible to HPV and abnormal cells.
Thankfully, there are other options to explore for addressing HPV without damaging the cervix.
The Naturopathic Approach to Addressing HPV
After 20+ years I’ve had the pleasure of helping thousands of women to reverse their abnormal cells using natural treatments with diet changes, herbs, supplements, and customized stress recovery protocols. And maybe, more importantly, I’ve helped women to understand that HPV isn’t something to be embarrassed about.
In fact, I’m hoping women will feel more comfortable talking about it.
The best way to address HPV and dysplasia is with a comprehensive approach that addresses the issues triggering the susceptibility in the first place—such as stress (and cortisol), leaky gut, and/or food sensitivities—and then use well-researched nutrients and herbs to help your body fight off the virus and make healthy new cells.
The Top 5 Supplements and Herbs For Addressing HPV and Dysplasia Are*:
- Folate (1 to 10 mg per day): Not to be confused with FOLIC ACID. Your body needs the right type of folate in dosages specifically prescribed for your body to get the full benefits of folate. Methylation is your body’s ability to use B vitamins, influenced by your genetics and stress exposure. However, if you’re like roughly 40% of women, this process doesn’t happen and your body doesn’t receive the true folate it needs.
- Vitamin A: It’s incredibly common for women who have HPV and/ or dysplasia to be deficient in Vitamin A, which is known for its antiviral properties. Vitamin A also helps to improve healthy cell function, important when trying to fend off or replace abnormal cells in the body. While many people attempt to get their Vitamin A from beta-carotene supplements, similar to the previous example, some people are genetically predisposed to not be able to convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A. It’s worth noting, however, that Vitamin A should not be taken in excess of 10k iu if trying to conceive or more than 100k iu without consulting your practitioner first.
- Green Tea Extract (200 mg per day): Green tea drinkers, rejoice! This extract is known for shifting the genes responsible for cancer growth, helping to prevent cervical cancer. While you could drink an excessive amount of organic green tea daily, one capsule is equivalent to four cups and gets the job done just fine.
- DIM (200 mg per day): Also known as diindolylmethane, DIM is actually derived from broccoli. It works to ensure the healthiest detoxification of estrogen by the liver, helping to prevent abnormal cells on the cervix and breast tissue. It has also been shown to reverse dysplasia on its own. That said, you would need to eat a dump truck worth of broccoli to get the benefits one capsule can provide, so enjoy your side of greens at dinner but let the capsule do the work.
- Mushroom Extract: Specifically AHCC and Coriolus are known for their antiviral, immune boosting properties that help to fight off all viruses, HPV included. Adding them to the HPV protocol can also help to protect your body from the negative effects of HPV. These products can be found individually or in combination. I encourage you to choose the highest quality products and to work with a practitioner who can guide you on the dosing that is best for your situation.
Additional Naturopathic Solutions…
While the above are the top supplements and herbs I recommend to my patients to reverse HPV and dysplasia, there are other natural methods that are beneficial and deserve mentioning:
- Hookworm Therapy: a recent study showed that having a hookworm decreased HPV and cervical cancer.
- Vitamin C: known to support the immune system.
- Vaginal Suppositories and Escharotics: need to work with a practitioner to access these effective strategies. Check out my program here.
It’s important to remember that an HPV diagnosis is not the end of the world—but it is best to identify it as soon as possible. Stay up to date on your routine pap smears and don’t ignore any abnormal results. The sooner we work together to address the internal issues and design a customized protocol, the sooner we can reverse HPV in your body.
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.
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