Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Support
BLOCKING THE SILENT INTRUDER
As a young woman, protecting yourself against the human papilloma virus (HPV) is crucial. But some controversy exists around how you're supposed to go about it.
Out of sight is out of mind. Perhaps that's the reason why the human papilloma virus (HPV) is such a common sexually transmitted infection. Very often HPV shows no symptoms at all. It's a silent intruder but, once you're infected, it can cause a host of serious health problems.
The less obvious, but more serious strains of HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, the lowest part of the uterus, which extends into the vagina. Cervical cancer begins with slow, but progressive changes in normal cells on the surface of the cervix. This is called dysplasia which, if left untreated, may lead to cancer. It can take years, but cervical cancer can also spread to nearby tissues and to other parts of the body.
The good news here is two-fold: treatment of cervical cancer is very effective when caught early and most cases of HPV don't progress to cervical dysplasia or cancer. In fact, up to 90% of HPV infections clear up entirely on their own within two years.
Research shows that certain factors may encourage HPV's development into cervical cancer. These include:
- Being infected with more than one type of HPV
- Having a large number of the virus in your body
- Being infected with certain 'high risk' strains
- Persistent HPV infection
- Use of oral contraceptives
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Multiple pregnancies
- Immune deficiency, which implies women with HIV, lupus or transplanted organs, whose immune systems may be weak
- The presence of other sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes or chlamydia
- Changes in diet and the use of nutritional supplements can reduce the odds of developing cervical cancer after an HPV infection
- Lower levels of vitamins A and C, and beta-carotene have been found in women with cervical dysplasia
- Nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as vitamin C, are thought to slow down the HPV through their antioxidant activity
- Vitamins such as folate, vitamins B6 and B12 reduce the persistence of HPV infection by reducing the virus's ability to multiply
- Turmeric seems to have a similar slowing effect
VACCINE – HOPE OR HELL?
Gardasil was first marketed as a supposedly “safe and effective” vaccine to protect against four cancer-causing HPV strains. But it's been continuously questioned, after some reports of serious health problems allegedly related to the vaccine. These include Guillain-Barré syndrome (an autoimmune condition that attacks the nervous system), blood clots and 53 reported cases of death in the US. Dr Diane Harper, head researcher in the development of Gardasil, was quoted in a CBS News report, saying that the vaccine could prove to be riskier than the cervical cancer it claims to prevent. She says that young girls and their parents should be properly warned before given the vaccine.
WHAT TO DO
Most doctors recommend that annual cervical cancer screening with pap smears should start no later than three years after beginning intercourse, but no later than 21 years of age. It's also important that you have regular follow-up screening.
Of course, prevention is always better than cure and abstinence is the only fool-proof way of avoiding HPV altogether. Condoms do not completely prevent HPV transmission, although consistent condom use has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of acquiring HPV by 70%.
PLEASE NOTE: Products are ranked in decreasing order of potency. Products listed nearer the top of any particular health need are the most effective and have the most scientific research to support their use in respect of such health need. Multiple products, one from each bullet (•) can be combined with products from other bullets for added effectiveness, if needed, since products from different bulleted lines have different mechanisms of action. However, where more than one product is listed within a particular bullet (•), then only one of these products should be used, since all products listed within the same bullet share an identical or similar pharmacology (mechanism of action) for that condition. This is because whenever a particular condition is treated via multiple different mechanisms of action, the result is generally improved effectiveness. However, when products are combined that work via exactly the same mechanism of action, then no extra benefit is obtained.