The body requires a certain level of macro and micro-nutrients in order to carry out an array of cellular functions and enzymatic processes. These nutrients are typically obtained through eating a diverse diet of plants, seeds, legumes, and animal products.
Unfortunately today, most diets do not fulfill the body’s baseline nutrient requirements. This is mostly due to our industrialized food system, access to highly processed foods, and low intake of fruits and vegetables. When we lack nutrients in the body, it becomes more difficult for us to perform proper cellular function and impairs immunity.
Studies show that persistent micro-nutrient deficiencies correlate with on-going infections, like HPV and influenza, by affecting the function of cells in both the adaptive and innate immune response.
In addition to eating a greater variety of natural plant-foods, taking a nutritional supplement can be one way to help raise baseline nutrient status, improve immune function, and fight off viral pathogens.
We have listed a few of our favorite, vitamins, and minerals studied for their role in the immune system and supporting eradication of HPV and other viral infections.
Vitamin A – Carotenoids
Vitamin A is a group of nutritional compounds that include retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, and carotenoids, typically found in colorful foods like carrots, dark leafy greens, and bell peppers. Carotenoids play multiple functions, particularly in the growth and development of the immune system and good vision.
Low levels of dietary carotenoids have been found to be associated with an increased risk of persistent HPV infections.
Research has found that increasing concentrations of carotenes and tocopherols through dietary intake of dark green and deep yellow vegetables was associated with a 50% decrease in risk of CIN3 in HPV infected women.
Supplementing with mixed carotenoids, a combination of beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, zeaxanthin, lycopene, etc.) has been found to be superior to supplementing with beta-carotene alone. Combined consumption improves the absorption, efficacy, and safety of vitamin consumption.
Lycopene is another antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables like tomato, watermelon, and pink grapefruit that has also been found to have anti-viral properties. Higher blood levels of lycopene are associated with a decreased risk of HPV associated CIN 1, 3, and cervical cancer.
Selenium is an essential trace mineral, meaning we need to obtain small amounts of it from our diet. Selenium plays a role in many cellular functions, influencing both our innate and adaptive immune systems.
Selenium deficiencies can lead to impaired cognition, immune function, fertility, and cancer.
Low levels of selenium are associated with cervical dysplasia and have also been found to allow benign strains of coxsackie and influenza viruses to mutate into highly pathogenic strains.
Supplementing with selenium is one way to improve levels in the blood. Dietary supplements containing up to 200 ug/d of selenium have the potential to support immune function.
Vitamin E is found in many foods like cooked spinach, almonds, and sunflower seeds.
The vitamin contains a group of eight fat-soluble compounds, four tocopherols, and four tocotrienols. Because vitamin E is lipid-soluble, it accumulates within lipid membranes, preventing oxidative damage through free-radical scavenging.
These powerful antioxidant effects of Vitamin E inhibit cancer cell growth and support the immune system.
Low levels of vitamin E have been seen to increase the incidence of cervical cancer and proliferation of HPV types 16 and 18. Whereas nutrient sufficiency of vitamin E has been found to reduce the oxidative stress induced in influenza and by virus-infected organisms.
Vitamin B9 – Folate/Folic Acid
Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin. The body uses folate to help make DNA and RNA and metabolize amino acids, required for cell division.
The body cannot make folate on its own so we must obtain it from our diet.
Folate is naturally found in many foods like dark leafy greens, vegetables like spinach, brussels sprouts, nut and legumes.
However, deficiency is common.
Folate deficiency can predispose individuals to an increased risk of positive HPV status as well as an increased risk of progression to cervical and oral cancer.
Folate deficiencies lead to immune dysfunction through defects in the folate pathway and reduced natural killer cells, known to fight off invading pathogens.
Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin
Is a water-soluble vitamin involved in the metabolism of every cell in the human body and cofactor in DNA synthesis, and fatty acid and amino acid metabolism.
We obtain B12 from animal products like meat, milk, eggs, and fish. Because vitamin B12 is so widely used in the body, deficiency can cause serious, irreversible damage to the brain, nervous system, and immune function.
Inadequate levels of B12 alter the immune response by affecting the production of nucleic acid, protein synthesis and inhibiting the activity of immune cells. Low vitamin B12 also interferes with metabolic processes like methylation and serine, glycine, and purine cycles, all-important for contributing to a healthy immune system.
Because we obtain B12 from animal products, vegans and vegetarians are particularly at risk for deficiencies. B12 levels can be assessed through a basic blood test.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and is involved in several important enzymes for immune system function. Vitamin C is found naturally in foods like kiwis, dark leafy greens, and broccoli.
Vitamin C has various roles in the immune system, supporting both the adaptive and innate immune system, protecting the skin barrier function, and protecting against environmental oxidative stress.
Research has found individuals with higher vitamin C levels to have a reduced HPV viral load and decreased likelihood of developing oral and cervical cancers.
Studies have found dietary intake of vitamin C to prevent both respiratory and systemic infections. Supplementation with vitamin C has also been found to decrease cold and flu symptoms by 85% compared to control groups.
Eat Your Veggies and Supplement Smart
With our food becoming more nutrient-depleted and the access to refined and processed foods increasing, it is on us to make more of an effort to ensure we reach our daily dose. Including a greater variety of plant-based foods in your diet is one way to help naturally boost our macro and micro-nutrient levels.
Supplementing with a clinically-researched supplement like Papillex is also an option to increase the nutrient levels that are persistently low in people with HPV, and to supply and optimize the body’s immune system to respond to viruses. However, before starting any nutritional supplement, we recommend you consult with a health care professional first.