The past two decades of research has revealed that infection by a high risk human papillomavirus (HPV) is a necessary step for the development of cervical cancer. Thankfully, for most women, the data shows for 60% of those with positive HPV tests, will find that their infection will resolve spontanoeusly in a year, however, HPV infection can remain a worry for women, particularly for those whose infection persists (1).
here is something you can so about it! Dietary and lifestyle research has shown that there is an association between eating & lifestyle habits and HPV infection, resolution and progression to cervical cancer. In fact, those in more developed countries with 'Western' dietary habits were cites as being more at risk from HPV infection and persistence.
So what can you do to support your body.......
- 1.Ditch the junk food
A diet that is high in red and processed meats, dipping sauces, chips and snacks with a low intake of vegetables and olive oil was shown to be associated with a higher risk of HPV infection (4). This type of diet is often called the 'Western' diet which is already associated with reduced infection control, increased inflammation and a risk of developing an auto-immune disease. So, less of the processed carbohydrates and sugary drinks and chips and dips and more of the good stuff - fresh veggies and fruits.
In a recent study of HPV positive women over 1 year, it was noted that those with a higher vegetable protein and seafood protein intake were more likely to have resolved the HPV infection than those who obtained their protein mainly from meats.
-2. Up your phytonutrient intake
Phytonutrients are chemicals produced by plants, which give vegetables and fruits their different colours. These phytonutrients have significant health benefits including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and may also help to repair DNA damage. \a recent study showed that consuming higher levels of vegetable and whole fruits can reduce the risk of HPV persistance as much as 54%.
You may have heard the phrase, 'eat the rainbow' this helps to ensure you are obtaining a variety of these phytonutrients. Here's just a couple of examples of the HPV busting activity of a some of these phytonutrients:
- Psterostilbene - found in blueberries, cranberries, red/black grapes, is not as well known as its brother, reservatrol, but has similay health supporting benefits. Psterostilbene has been shown to eliminate HPV cells in culture and supress the oncoprotein (or cancer expressing) gene expression.
- Lycopene – a 56% reduction in HPV persistence was seen in women with blood levels of cis-lycopene. This is obtained from red, pink and orange vegetables and fruits.
- Beta-carotene – this phyto nutrient is responsible for giving fruits and vegetable their orange pigment and is converted to Vitamin A by the body.
- alpha-tocopherol - is a potent antioxidant , Alpha-tocopherol protects you from potentially damaging free radicals while also boosting your immune system to help you fight off viruses and pathogenic bacteria. Consume vitamin E rich foods such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus and other green vegetables along with nuts and seeds such as hazelnuts, pine nuts, almonds and brazil nuts. Extra Virgin Olive oil is also a good source of vitamin E
-3. Ditch the smokes!
The risk of cervical cancer is two fold to that of non-smokers. Cigarette smoking is also known to play an early role with an increase in the likelihood contracting HPV and also an increased risk of progression to cervical cancer.
-4. Learn your destressing jam
Our immune systems do not like chronic stress, it can affect our immune response. Whilst stress in our daily lives is inevitable, it is important to find your destressing jam! Whether its mediation, reading a book, a walk in the forest, playing with your dog, or even simple deep breathing techniques, find yours, and try to take time each day to give yourself a break.
5. Check your folate intake
Whilst studies have not demonstrated an association with folate status and HPV persistence, there is evidence to suggest that a higher dietary intake of folate was protective for HPV+ women, and in those women with cervial cell changes defined as CIN 1-3 there was a strong protective effect of high serum or red blood cell folate.
Think leafy greens, beans and lentils.
For your free Immune supporting 7 day meal plan complete with shopping list, please click here.
Still concerned? A Registered Nutritional Therapist and functional medicine practitioner can help you to pinpoint potential nutrient deficits in your diet and support you with dietary and lifestyle interventions.
Chatterjee et al., 2018; García‐Closas et al., 2005; Hwang et al., 2010; Koshiyama, 2019; Lopes et al., 2017; Moga et al., 2016; Naresh et al., 2020