Recently there has been buzz online surrounding a cure for HPV.
Is there a cure? Will it reverse the damage that’s already occurred? Do I have to go to Mexico?
Learn about HPV and whether or not there is a cure here.
What is Human Papillomavirus?
Human Papillomavirus is one of the most common viruses that affect humans and the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
It affects countless men and women every year. That’s right – HPV affects men, too.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that almost every sexually active adult will get HPV at some point in their lifetime. It can be spread by skin-to-skin contact, most commonly through sexual activity.
How does it become Cervical Cancer?
HPV causes 91% of cervical cancer. However, not all HPV infections can or will cause cancer. Only a few out of the 100+ known strains of HPV have the potential to become carcinogenic.
Most infections will present with no symptoms at all and be cleared naturally over time with a robust immune system!
However, when your immune system is weakened, or when your body is invaded by a strong strain of HPV, cell proliferation can occur. This is the growth of abnormal cervical cells, which can lead to cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), and eventually, cancer.
Is there a cure?
The short answer is no. There is no magic treatment that will completely eradicate HPV or reverse all damage. But, outcomes for HPV and cervical cancer are very good with routine screening and well-informed treatments.
How can we naturally respond to HPV?
There are many ways to naturally respond to symptoms and complications of HPV including genital warts and cervical dysplasia. The two most popular treatment options are Cryotherapy and LEEP.
Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen, a very cold substance, to freeze off abnormal cells from your cervix. Cryotherapy is also a commonly used procedure for wart removal. This treatment kills off the cancerous cells allowing for new growth of healthy cells in its place.
How it works: Similar to a Pap test, you will be laying down and your doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina. Instead of the brush used for Pap testing, your doctor will use a cryoprobe, holding it at certain places on your cervix to freeze the cells. The whole process should only take 5 minutes or so. You may feel some cold sensation or mild cramping.
The result: Cryotherapy is quite effective for eliminating abnormal cells with a low recurrence rate.
Are you ready to respond to HPV?
Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP)
LEEP is another cervical cancer prevention treatment, where abnormal cervical cells are removed from your cervix using a small electrical wire loop.
How it works: Similar to a Pap, you will be lying down while your doctor inserts a speculum into your vagina. Numbing cream will be applied, and your doctor will use the wire loop to remove the cells. The electricity of the loop cauterizes the blood vessels in the area to prevent bleeding. The whole process should take about 10 minutes.
The result: Highly effective. LEEP will usually remove all the abnormal cells. One study even showed LEEP was more effective than cryotherapy.
- Conization, or a cone biopsy, removes a cone-shaped section of the abnormal tissue for lab examination of CIN.
- Surgical removal, including electrocautery, laser surgery, and excision.
- Photodynamic therapy, combined with Aminolevulinic acid, has been a novel treatment generating a lot of hype in the media as the “cure to HPV”. Photodynamic therapy uses wavelengths to damage the surface layer cells affected by HPV. The treatment poses a lower risk to women looking to get pregnant in the future. However, the treatment is still in its infancy. Further quality research is needed to determine its long-term effectiveness.
You may read conflicting information about these treatments online. You and your doctor will know what’s best for you; every treatment should be specific to each case.
An HPV vaccine exists that protects against two strains of HPV, HPV 16 and 18, that cause genital warts and two strains that most commonly cause cervical cancer.
For the vaccine to be effective, it must be given before the virus has been contracted. Typically, it is recommended for females aged 13 to 26 and males aged 13 to 21.
While the vaccine protects against a few of the high-risk and common strains, it is important to keep in mind that the vaccination does not protect against all HPV strains. Several other high-risk strains exist and are being detected in patients that have been vaccinated, so routine screenings are still recommended.
Are new vaccines on the way?
A new immune-based vaccine was recently developed that may be effective in treating women with existing HPV and precancerous changes on the cervix.
The therapeutic vaccine injects a specific protein that triggers the immune system to attack high-risk HPV which is known to cause cervical cancer.
A randomized controlled trial that followed women for over two years post-vaccination found that those who received the vaccine were more than twice as likely to see their CIN eliminated compared to those who received placebo.
The vaccine shows promising evidence that it may not only eliminate the lesions but also the HPV infection. However, research is still in its infancy and more long-term trials are needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of treatment.
Natural Methods to Fight HPV
Most HPV infections can be easily cleared by a strong, healthy immune system. Immunity can be heavily supported and improved through our daily lifestyle choices, including:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables – fruits and vegetables contain many essential vitamins and nutrients to keep your body functioning at its best! These food groups are specifically high in antioxidants, which may help neutralize bad molecules floating around in your body. The food we eat also plays a crucial role in supporting our gut health, where nearly 70% of our immune system is housed.
- Quit smoking – smoking significantly increases your risk for HPV-related cancers, and even second-hand smoke exposure increases your risk. While cutting down your cigarette count will still have an effect, nothing is quite as good as quitting entirely.
- Reduce alcohol consumption – high consumption of alcohol is related to several negative outcomes, including a reduction of immune function.
- Drink green tea – green tea has been shown in many studies to have immune benefits and anti-cancer effects, some specific to HPV.
- Exercise to sweat – movement is important to improve your circulation for immune benefits and general well-being, while sweating will help release toxins from within your body.
- Get adequate sleep – getting 7 to 8 hours of high-quality sleep is important to regulate your bodily functions, including your circadian rhythm. All of these factors have a distinct effect on your ability to fight infections.
- Keep a positive mindset – positivity has several health benefits, including stress reduction which will keep your immune system strong.
- Supplement your diet appropriately – for some people, it can be difficult to get the nutrition they need to keep their immune system working at 100%. Papillex is a supplement specifically designed to help both women and men respond to HPV naturally and give their immune systems the support it needs.
Could Medicinal Mushrooms be the Cure?
Promising new research on the benefits of a shiitake mushroom compound called Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) could help eradicate persistent HPV infections. Two small human clinical research trials have been conducted by Dr. Judith A. Smith, Pharm D., an associate professor in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine at the University of Texas.
The studies have found daily intake of 1-3 grams of AHCC eradicated the virus in 44-66.7% of patients with high-risk HPV status after 3-7 months.
Medicinal mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to support the immune system and fight viral infections and cancers. You can learn more about AHCC for HPV here.
While the trials have been successful so far, more research is needed to determine if it is effective. Patients should talk with their doctors before starting any supplementation.
The Ultimate Cure-All?
It seems we are always looking for the ultimate cure-all – that one thing that will do the trick and solve our problems. Unfortunately, a magic pill rarely exists, and instead, a more nuanced and multi-faceted approach is needed. This nuanced approach applies when we talk about curing HPV.