Did you recently test positive for HPV or get an abnormal Pap test result? If so, you’re probably trying to digest a lot of new information at once. The fact that there is no cure for HPV can make it especially intimidating, but there are two important things to remember if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
First, keep in mind that most cases of HPV never result in any symptoms or health issues. In more than 90% of cases, HPV infections go away on their own within two years, including those caused by high-risk strains of the virus. Essentially, the immune system suppresses the virus until it becomes undetectable, even with high-risk types of the virus.
Second, there are natural ways to boost your immune system so that it’s better equipped to fight the virus. While these aren’t foolproof treatments, natural supplements allow you to be proactive when it comes to your health and can help your body become less susceptible to the virus.
Before going into more detail about these supplements, it helps to learn a little more about what the outcome of your HPV or Pap test means for your personal health.
What Do My Pap Results Mean?
When you get an “abnormal” result on your Pap test, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have cancer. Instead, this result simply means that abnormal cells were found on your cervix. In most cases, these cells are not cancerous. They are usually caused by an HPV infection.
Essentially, your abnormal Pap test result indicates that your doctor needs to keep a close eye on things to see how they develop. This may require follow-up tests or more frequent screening. Depending on the specific results you receive, your doctor may suggest a procedure like a colposcopy or loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) to further evaluate the abnormal cervical cells.
HPV tests are not the same as Pap tests, although they can be performed at the same time. The HPV test will confirm whether or not your abnormal cell changes are caused by an HPV infection. You can also find out if you have one of the high-risk types of HPV which are known to cause cervical cancer.
Possible Effects of HPV Treatment
Procedures to address abnormal Pap results may be recommended, especially if your doctor finds alarming changes to your cells. But these procedures do come with some risks, and since most HPV infections become undetectable on their own over time, it’s important to carefully consider what’s right for you.
For example, the LEEP is a procedure in which a heated wire loop is used to cut away cells and tissue. It can be effective for removing cells for further testing and allowing healthy cells to grow in their place. However, it can also potentially cause scarring in the cervix and may make it more difficult to get pregnant. These factors should be taken into account when making decisions about whether to pursue these procedures.
Another issue that comes into play with HPV treatment is stress. Dealing with a positive HPV diagnosis can be taxing. Unfortunately, stress can affect the immune system and make it harder for your body to suppress the virus. Therefore, reducing stress and boosting your immunity naturally are both healthy ways to treat HPV.
Natural Ways to Treat HPV
If you’re concerned about how certain medical treatments for HPV may affect your health, you may want to look to natural treatments that boost your immunity instead. First, look for ways to reduce stress in your daily life. For example, you can try meditation or yoga, make sure you get plenty of sleep, or seek counseling. Each of these strategies can help to minimize stress, which is good for your immune system.
Another strategy for improving your body’s ability to fight the virus is to take immunity-boosting supplements. This can be a great way to build up your body’s natural defenses so it has a better chance of successfully suppressing the virus.
The top supplements for treating HPV naturally include:
- Folate: Also known as vitamin B9, folate is associated with cervical health. People who get enough folate in their diet have lower rates of several types of cancer, including cervical, breast, colon, pancreatic, and stomach cancer. You can take folate as a supplement (known as folic acid) or get it naturally in your diet through a variety of foods, including spinach, soybeans, lentils, avocados, and oranges.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is another supplement that can help boost your immune system function. The body doesn’t make it naturally, which is why vitamin C food sources like oranges, grapefruits, and broccoli are recommended as part of a healthy diet. However, you may want to increase your intake with a vitamin C supplement as well.
- Vitamin A: Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin A each day as well. It assists in immune system function, reproduction, and vision. This is another important vitamin found naturally in certain foods, including salmon, broccoli, carrots, and dairy products, as well as in dietary supplements.
- Mushroom extracts: Certain mushroom extracts are known for their antiviral and immune-boosting properties, and they’ve actually been used for that purpose in Eastern medicine for thousands of years. In particular, Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) has been extensively studied as a potential HPV treatment, and the results are very encouraging. Other immunity-boosting medicinal mushrooms include shiitake, red reishi, cordyceps, chaga, and turkey tail.
- Green tea extract: Some studies suggest that the polyphenols in green tea may help to reduce the risk of certain cancers. In addition, a prescription green tea extract ointment has been approved for treating genital warts. Make sure to talk to your doctor before trying this supplement as it does have potential interactions with other medicines.
- DIM: DIM (which stands for Diindolylmethane) can enhance immune function and help to prevent the development of cervical lesions. Though it’s found naturally in broccoli, it’s also recommended to take DIM in capsule form to get a sufficient amount to experience its potential benefits.
Talk to your doctor to decide which natural supplements are right for you. Because certain supplements, such as green tea extract, may potentially interact with other medications, it’s a good idea to discuss these natural treatment options with a professional.
In addition, keep in mind that natural HPV treatments should not be considered as a substitute for medical procedures in more serious cases, including the discovery of precancerous or cancerous cells in the cervix. If you have a high-risk HPV infection, you may need a biopsy or another type of treatment.
For most people with an abnormal Pap result or positive HPV diagnosis, however, treating HPV naturally with supplements can help improve your immunity and strengthen your body’s defenses. Consider incorporating one or more of these supplements into your diet to help heal your susceptibility to HPV.
- Chapter 5: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017.
- What Do My Cervical Cancer Screening Test Results Mean?: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019.
- Abnormal Pap Test: University of Michigan Medicine, 2019.
- Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP): John Hopkins Medicine, 2020.
- Vitamin B9 (Folic acid): Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2020.
- Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals: National Institutes of Health, 2020.
- Vitamin A Fact Sheet for Consumers: National Institutes of Health, 2020.
- Mushroom extract, AHCC, helpful in treating HPV: ScienceDaily, 2014.
- Green Tea: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2016.
- Diindolylmethane Inhibits Cervical Dysplasia, Alters Estrogen Metabolism, and Enhances Immune Response in the K14-HPV16 Transgenic Mouse Model: American Association for Cancer Research, 2009.