“The root of the female body is the physical ground where a woman can begin to understand her own relationship with the wild feminine.”~Tami Lynn Kent, Wild Feminine
I have first hand experience with healing Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical dysplasia naturally. I’ve also helped other women do the same using diet changes, supplements, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, as well as addressing boundaries and other lifestyle factors.
While it can initially feel very threatening to receive the news that you tested positive for HPV and precancerous cells on your cervix, it is very rarely an urgent matter. It’s very helpful to pause and gather information to make an informed choice about your path forward.
As usual, let’s start with some basics. If you’ve already done your research you may be able to skim this section or skip it, I’ll leave it up to you.
What is HPV?
HPV is a sexually transmitted viral infection; however, it’s transmission does not rely on body fluid exchange. Instead it is spread via skin to skin contact, meaning you could potentially get HPV from non-penetrative sex that involves genital skin to skin contact. It’s a very common viral infection that is estimated to affect 80% of individuals at some point in their lives.
There are over 150 strains of this virus, which gets its name human “papilloma” virus from the strains that cause genital warts (papillomas). Strains that cause genital warts aren’t known to cause cancer, so I won’t be going into those here.
The strains that are typically referred to as “high-risk” for causing cancer growth are 16 and 18, which account for about 65-70% of cervical cancer. There are other high risk strains; however, they are not as common.
Unlike the strains that cause genital warts, high risk strains don’t typically have any signs or symptoms beyond irregular cell growth.
What is cervical dysplasia? And how do I know if I have it?
Cervical dysplasia is the presence of abnormal cell growth in cervical tissue. It is usually revealed during a routine pap smear, which is a screening test to assess for cervical cancer risk. If a pap smear comes back as positive for abnormal cells, then further diagnostic testing is recommended to to determine the severity of abnormal growth.
The diagnostic testing is a colposcopy in which the cervix is viewed with a magnifying device after being washed with a vinegar solution to more easily see any abnormal tissue. If abnormal tissue is present, which is usually the case if you’ve already had abnormal pap results, then a small piece of tissue is cut from the cervix for viewing in a lab. This is a biopsy. Most colposcopies will include biopsy, unless you do not consent to that, which is always a possibility at an point in this testing trajectory.
The tissue taken for biopsy is then viewed under a microscope and determined to be CIN 1, 2, or 3. CIN stands for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Grade 1 is mild, 2 is moderate and 3 is severe. It’s important to understand this to accurately assess your risk for cervical cancer if you chose to have a biopsy taken and get diagnostic results. It’s been shown in research that nearly 70% of HPV infections causing CIN 1 will spontaneously regress in 12 months or less.
That means that for many women their body will fight the infection off within a year and heal the cervical tissue. And better yet, according to the World Health Organization, 90% of people will fight off an HPV infection within 2 years.
So, while I think it’s smart to help your body along the way and boost your immune strength, it’s also important to recognize that the actual risk for low grade (CIN 1) dysplasia to progress to cancer is very low.
A few more words on testing
Different western countries have different guidelines for testing in adult females. You can check out the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists current recommendations here.
Most providers will recommend a colposcopy if you test positive for HPV and have an abnormal pap (to follow ACOG guidelines). However, it should be noted that a colposcopy is an uncomfortable procedure and if a biopsy is taken it can result in cramping for several days after as the cervix heals. So, I think it’s reasonable to want to avoid that if possible.
I also think it’s reasonable to be concerned that cervical scar tissue from a biopsy could interfere with a future pregnancy or birth or pleasure potential. Unfortunately, this information is not shared in the process of clarifying risks and benefits of testing or treatment procedures.
Western Medicine Treatment
Before we get to some of my favorite recommendations, I want to address what western medicine has to offer here. And I genuinely mean that because in some cases of more severe dysplasia it may be the best option to take that route, alongside supporting the immune system with other methods.
For most women, the treatment is more like a wait and see approach. It’s more frequent pap testing and potentially more colposcopies to track changes in the cervical tissue. If you fall in the category of women who will clear the infection within 2 years, this can lead to a lot of potentially unnecessary biopsies.
On the other hand, if you are one of the rare cases that does progress to more severe dysplasia, it can be extremely beneficial to know that information. In that case, a LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure) is typically recommended where the abnormal tissue is removed. There are also other removal techniques available, like cryotherapy or conization.
This is effective for removing abnormal tissue; however, it doesn’t necessarily address the root cause, the HPV infection or the immune systems lack in ability to clear it.
Of course, I have to say it, please work with a professional if you know you have cervical dysplasia, especially moderate or severe. While I am very confident in what I’m offering as natural options and support for healing, I can’t address your specific condition in a blog post.
Knowing the ins and outs of how the western medical community views HPV and cervical dysplasia can help you make a more informed choice around your care and also help you in communicating with doctors and nurses about the route you’re going to take. If you choose to deviate from their recommendations, you will have to be firm, confident and willing to be dismissed from a medical practice (I know this from personal experience).
While I do think in some cases it is reasonable to decline a biopsy and instead seek other healing options and do a repeat pap in 3-6 months, this is not in all cases! So, reach out to me if you need clarification.
Overall, what’s needed to heal from HPV and cervical dysplasia is addressing any immune system dysfunction or insufficiency and supporting vaginal and cervical health directly. Addressing dietary habits is a great place to start. It may be necessary to cut all sugar, gluten, dairy and other inflammatory foods for a period of time to facilitate healing. Although that may sound overwhelming, this is very doable with the right support.
Along with dietary changes, there is a good amount of research supporting various supplements can support cervical health. These include the following:
- Vitamins C, E and A and calcium help decrease viral load and support cervical health
- Selenium has been shown to improve cervical health when taken for a 6 month period
- Zinc deficiency has been shown to be a risk factor in developing cervical dysplasia
- Green tea extract is an antioxidant that supports normal cell growth and immune function
I typically may recommend a few of these supplements based on diet and lifestyle factors, but rarely do I recommend all. Instead, I might suggest a high quality multi-vitamin with additional zinc, vitamin C and selenium for a brief period of time. Dosages would also depend on diet and lifestyle factors.
All my favorite brands of the above supplements are tagged in my online dispensary here.
I also recommend external and internal Chinese herbal formulas. So, one formula would be taken as pills or as granules mixed with water and the other formula would be used for vaginal steaming. The formulas are customized to fit your needs, so I don’t have general recommendations here.
Another option I like for the external application is Yin Care. It’s an herbal wash that has been shown to support vaginal health and be beneficial in treating HPV infections. It’s pre-made and comes in a small bottle of concentrated liquid. It is mixed with water in a 1 part Yin Care:10 parts water ratio (stronger concentrations may be needed for certain cases). The wash is then inserted into the vagina using the Yin Care applicator, so that the liquid does reach the cervix, and then it gently flows out of the body. It’s easiest to do this in the shower. There are other methods of using Yin Care if needed, please reach out to me for guidance.
To support the vaginal microbiome, I recommend using Integrative Therapeutics Pro-flora probiotics capsules orally and vaginally. One capsule can be taken orally per day and one capsule can be inserted vaginally before bed to restore the vaginal microbiome. This is a great probiotic for all vaginal health issues.
While it may not be possible to prevent recurrence in all cases, I think it’s important to address especially for women who are in long term sexual relationships. If you suspect that you are and your partner are repeatedly exposing each other to this virus then it’s best to also treat your partner with similar methods. Supplements and external application can be useful in this regard.
Another aspect of preventing recurrence is in supporting immune function and vaginal health overall. You might decide to continue a multivitamin or continue the dietary changes to support healthy nutrient levels.
Addressing Hidden Causes
It’s important to recognize that I didn’t cover underlying causes of immune dysfunction or susceptibility to chronic HPV or cervical dysplasia here. That could include thyroid health issues, adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances, gut health issues and more. It’s best to work with a practitioner to address these more directly, especially if you have tried some of what I’ve mentioned here and still have a chronic HPV infection or cervical dysplasia.
I also want to address another, often overlooked, issue that can be related to cervical dysplasia. While this is not supported by current research, I have been tracking this in my practice for several years.
Any issues of boundary violations or unprocessed experiences related to the pelvis or genitals can weaken immune function and create more susceptibility to cervical dysplasia. Since the cervix has an intimate connection to the Heart in Chinese medicine and serves as the passageway or gatekeeper into the Uterus, any boundary violation can be damaging to this tissue. This could be a physical boundary violation, like an unwanted gynecological exam, or it could be an energetic or emotional boundary violation, like saying yes when you really mean no.
As women, we must become autonomous in the use of our time, energy and resources. This is no easy task but it is possible with commitment and self-compassion. It’s essential for our cervical health that we hold our own power when it comes to everything from the treatment we seek out and to the way we interact with our families and communities.
Cervical health is becoming an epidemic because women’s health and autonomy still exists in major cultural shadow. Taking time to read this information and make an informed choice for your cervical health does matter. It does matter how you are treated during gynecological exams or treatment procedures.
Please share this information if you found it useful and reach out to me for in person or virtual support if you need a clear treatment plan for healing cervical dysplasia.