Natural Remedies for Cervical Dysplasia and HPV Infection
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is very common. In the United States, approximately 20 million people are affected by this sexually transmitted infection. Although HPV infection can be initially mild or without symptoms, it can cause genital warts or cervical dysplasia, a condition where abnormal cell changes occur in the cervix, which can lead to cancer. Fortunately, most cases of HPV infections get better on their own without treatment. Furthermore, many treatment options and HPV vaccines are available, which can help prevent the disease.
There are about a hundred different types of HPV and some of them may cause health problems such as genital warts and cervical dysplasia. HPV is transmitted through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. You can get it from someone who has the virus, even when the infected person has no symptoms. You can also get it even if you have had sex with just one partner. Symptoms can develop years after you have sex with an infected person, so it may be difficult to determine when you first became infected.
Cervical dysplasia (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia) is a condition where abnormal cells grow on the cervix. The cervix is the opening found between the uterus and vagina. This precancerous condition is strongly associated with HPV infection, and is most common in young women. There are usually no symptoms, but it is often diagnosed after taking a routine gynecological exam (Pap test).
Risk factors that increase one’s likelihood of developing cervical dysplasia include HPV infection, genital warts, being sexually active, having many sex partners, long-term use of birth control pills, smoking, having a history of sexually transmitted disease, and having a weak immune system. Nutritional factors may also play a role in the development of this condition, which includes having low folate levels in the red blood cells and dietary deficiencies in vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, and selenium.
How to Prevent HPV Infection and Cervical Dysplasia
Women can reduce their risk of developing cervical dysplasia by following certain guidelines:
- Avoid high-risk sexual behaviors, including early sexual experience and having multiple sex partners.
- Use condoms properly during sex.
- Avoid smoking.
- Begin screening for cervical cancer at 21 years of age.
- Get vaccinated for HPV to prevent infection and avoid cervical cancer. Studies show that vaccination may prevent up to 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that girls ages 11 and 12 should be vaccinated before they become sexually active. Older girls who have not yet received the vaccine should also be immunized.
- Exercise regularly, for at least 30 minutes per day, on most days of the week.
Health experts recommend nutritional support to reduce one’s risk for cancers, such as cervical cancer. Their recommendations include eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes rich sources of beta-carotene, folate, and vitamin C. These include fruits and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage, which are believed to help prevent cancer.
It is also important to eat calcium rich foods, such as almonds, beans, and leafy, dark green vegetables, and antioxidant-rich foods, such as cherries, blueberries, tomatoes, bell pepper, and squash.
Other recommendations include:
- Avoiding refined foods such as sugar and white bread.
- Eating beans, lean meat, and cold-water fish for protein.
- Using healthy fats, such as olive oil.
- Avoiding trans-fats, which are usually found in processed foods, margarine cookies, cakes, onion rings, French fries, and donuts.
- Avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol consumption.
- Quitting smoking.
Consult your doctor about taking these nutritional supplements to help prevent cancer:
- Fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids. These supplements are believed to help lower inflammation and improve health in general. However, omega-3 fatty acids may increase your risk of bleeding, especially if you are taking aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), or clopidogrel (Plavix), which are blood-thinners.
- Multivitamins containing antioxidant vitamins A, C, D, E, B-vitamins, and trace minerals like calcium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
- Indole-3-carbinol, a substance also found in cruciferous vegetables. One study suggested that indole-3-carbinol supplementation may help treat cervical dysplasia, although more research must be done to confirm its results.
- Some herbal supplements that have been found to help prevent cervical cancer include green tea (Camelia sinensis) and turmeric (Curcuma longa) extracts. However, more research is needed to confirm the benefits of herbal supplements in the treatment of cervical cancer.
Treatment of Cervical Dysplasia
Early treatment of cervical dysplasia may prevent the development of cervical cancer. Mild cases may resolve without treatment but may need to be monitored for several months for development of cancer. Persistent growth of abnormal cells or more severe cases may need immediate treatment to reduce one’s risk of cancer. Treatment options involve surgical removal of the abnormal cells (usually in an outpatient setting) through cryocauterization, laser therapy, loop electrosurgical excision, or cervical conization.
This information should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.
WebMD. Cervical Dysplasia. http://www.webmd.com/cancer/cervical-cancer/cervical-dysplasia-symptoms-causes-treatments.
WebMD. Is There a Cure for HPV? http://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/hpv-genital-warts/hpv-treatment-is-there-hpv-cure.
CDC. Human Papillomavirus (HPV). http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/default.htm
UMMC. Cervical Dysplasia. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/cervical-dysplasia