HPV for the uninitiated: an update

Exactly a year ago, I was dealing with the frightening reality that I had “precancerous” lesions due to HPV. I wrote about my conclusions here, explaining that despite the fact that the doctors recommended I get an LEEP procedure to snip things into normalcy (I was diagnosed with CIN II, basically two steps removed from cancer), I preferred to wait and see, improving my nutrition, trying not to stress out, and generally giving my immune system as much support as I could give it. Because HPV is a virus, its lesions could be cured by my own body, at least in theory.

So I did it. I cut out gluten and more or less went organic, grass-fed paleo. I ate a lot of kale. After my not-yet-boyfriend left bone broth on my doorstep, I made bone broth and drank it like tea. I ate grass-fed beef and wild salmon. In the summer, I picked myself blueberries. I ate local grass-fed yogurt for the live probiotics, which have been linked to HPV suppression. I slept — I made sure I slept eight hours a night, even if it meant I slept in. I got a panel of blood tests to make sure everything was in balance — my vitamin D was low, so I started taking that. I still drank some and had treats, but my sugar and alcohol intake were naturally curtailed due to the fact that I was avoiding gluten. The stress of eating that specifically sometimes tended to give me pause, but I hoped that it would more than balance out.

And then it was time to face the music. I’d had a lingering cough for three months, which didn’t seem like a good sign in terms of the efficacy of my immune system. I had a nagging fear that I’d made the wrong choice and would go in to find that I had cancer. With this happy thought, I visited my gynecologist. I half-expected her to give me a lecture about not following her surgical recommendations and basically falling off the face of the earth for a year, but she didn’t. She was polite, upbeat, gave me the world’s fastest pap smear, and then I was out of there.

I was thinking that what would probably happen would be that I would get a call that I needed to come in for a colposcopy, just like last year. In a last-ditch attempt to send my lesions into regression, I supplemented for a week with folic acid, vitamin C (which my well-beloved pomegranates contain), CoQ10, indole-3-carbinol (which kale contains), green tea extract, and coriolus versicolor mushrooms, which have all been linked to regression of dysplasia in clinical trials. The mushrooms made me feel nauseated and a bit out of it, so I stopped taking them.

And then today, I got the call. You’re clear, she said. No HPV, she said. And just like that, this nagging weight at the back of my mind is lifted. I have conquered this on my own terms, and my body remains whole and intact.

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7 thoughts on “HPV for the uninitiated: an update

  1. Someone asked, so I thought I’d clarify: The virus is still theoretically present in my body, it’s just that the infection from it (the lesions, or the dysplasia, or the precancerous cells, however you want to classify it) is eradicated. So there’s no sign of HPV in the pap results, in spite of the fact that I technically still have HPV. I still need to get yearly check-ups to make sure everything’s golden. So I’ll probably be into nutrition and immune-boosting for the rest of my life, not that I kind of wasn’t already…

    As I said in my previous post about this, HPV is very common, so it’s important to get yourself checked regularly as a woman, even if you think your risk of having it is relatively low. It’s also important to consider all your options when you get bad news about it. Medical professionals tend to recommend aggressive procedures in general because of the liability issue, but you should talk to them about the actual risks of your case and what your goals are.

  2. Okay so I’m a little confused. I understand that a woman can get HPV through sex and “messing around” but what about virgins?

    I mean if you are a virgin and then messing around well you have entered into the sexual arena of sorts but what about those girls who are virgins and never kissed a guy? Where’s the risk?

    And if eating well and taking care of your body can eliminate the lesions then isn’t celibacy (when I say this I mean nun type celibacy, no kissing, nothing) a good addition to the nutritional route?

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Virgins, from the studies I’ve read, can get HPV if it’s passed down from parental contact, including childbirth, though it does seem to be a lot less common than getting it via sexual means.

      If you already have one strain of high-risk HPV, celibacy (or long-term monogamy pre-dating your discovery of the lesions) will almost certainly prevent you from getting another strain of high-risk HPV. The more strains you have, the harder it can be on your immune system. However, celibacy won’t really do anything to cure existing lesions beyond not potentially introducing new viruses. It’s just like getting a cold. Washing your hands won’t cure your existing cold (your immune system needs to do that, internally), but it could mean you avoid introducing new germs into yourself.

  3. I had a similar scare. Was already on the diet you switched to when I had the scare. But a check from a more reputable doctor showed I had been misdiagnosed. However, I was 26 and it was the last year I could get the Gardasil vaccine. I’d never bothered with it. I guess I didn’t think about it much. But I got it then and I’m glad I did.

    The diet you are on can do wonders, but I did know a woman on a paleo message board I moderated who died of virulent HPV-caused cancer cervical. The success of diets and supplements probably depends on the strain.

    1. I totally agree. I was trying to think of it as immune support that might or might not work, instead of some magic diet. Keeping tabs on whatever illness you’re trying to improve with improved diet and lifestyle is also very important.

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