Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection. According to the CDC, nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected with different types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). About 14 million Americans, including teens, become infected each year (1).
Around 90% of HPV infections cause no symptoms and resolve spontaneously within two years (2). But if the virus doesn’t go away on its own, it can cause serious health problems. Keeping your immune system healthy can assist your body in getting rid of HPV.
This fact-based article is compiled to provide information gathered from credible, fact-based sources to give you a high-level overview of boosting your immune system to beat HPV infection.
What is HPV infection?
The human papillomavirus causes HPV infection. It’s a DNA virus from the papillomavirus family. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that are small non-enveloped DNA tumor viruses that are extremely common worldwide. Over 170 types have been described. More than 40 kinds of papillomavirus may be spread through sexual contact and infect the anus and genitals.
Image: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) (Rendered from Protein Data Bank)
Papillomaviruses were first recognized in the early 20th century. It was first revealed that papillomas or skin wart could be transferred between individuals by a filterable infectious agent.
HPV infections are caused by vaginal, anal, and oral sex with someone who has the virus. It is most prevalently spread during anal or vaginal sex. This virus can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.
Can HPV Go Away On Its Own?
90% of new HPV infections will clear up or become undetectable on their own within two years, and most of these infections will clear up in the first six months.
There are lifestyle changes you can make to help boost your immune system, such as dietary changes and avoiding smoking, which may affect your body’s ability to clear an HPV infection.
How to Boost Immune System To Fight HPV?
|Risk Factors||Research-based supported interventions to boost the Immune system|
|Smoking||Quit smoking and second-hand smoking|
|Alcoholism||Quit Alcohol consumption|
|Nutritional Deficiency||Take multivitamins, especially vitamins A, C, E and calcium|
|Stress and Depression||Find ways to minimize stress or effectively handle stress|
Multiple research studies showed the relationship between smoking and HPV infection. Some of which are listed below;
- A study published in the “Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention” showed that women who smoke while concurrently being infected with high levels of the human papillomavirus (HPV) increase their risk for cervical cancer by as much as 27-fold.
- Another study published in the “Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics” showed smoking’s role in cervical cancer. The study demonstrated that smoking could lead to an enhanced risk of high-grade cervical lesions in persistent high-risk HPV-infected women. This study has a good understanding of smoking’s role in cervical cancer.
- A recent research study also showed the influence of smoking on the natural history of HPV infection in men.
- Researchers also find out the relation between HPV infection and second-hand smoking. Their study published in “BioMed Research International” showed that alcohol drinkers exposed to second-hand smoking at home or in the workplace had a higher risk of persistent high risk-HPV infection than did alcohol drinkers not so exposed. This combined effect was also observed in women who had never smoked in their lives.
- The University of Sheffield researchers recruited 700 participants for the study, including 179 university students, 122 Sexual Health Sheffield patients, 163 universities and hospital staff, 13 dental hospital patients, and 223 people from the general public. They created a lifestyle questionnaire and rendered samples for the detection of oral HR-HPV. The results showed that former smokers were significantly more likely to test positive for the virus than those who had never smoked.
- A study published in “Annals of Epidemiology” showed that nicotine in cigarettes gets absorbed into the cervical mucus, and it is thought that this decreases your body’s ability to clear the virus from your cervix.
As shown above, smoking increases the risk of subsequent infection by reducing your immunity; so, quit smoking cigarettes if you smoke, and also try to avoid second-hand smoke when possible.
Quit Heavy Alcoholism
Multiple research studies showed the relationship between alcoholism and HPV infection. Some of which are listed below;
- A study published in the journal of “Sex Transmitted Infection” demonstrated that alcohol intake is associated with significantly increased risks for any HPV type of infection. Their results show that high consumption of alcohol is associated with an increased risk for prevalent HPV infections among men.
- During 2002-2011, 9230 women who underwent screening at the National Cancer Center, were analyzed to find out the impact of alcohol consumption on HPV infection. The results showed that alcohol drinkers had a higher risk of 2-year HPV persistence compared to non-drinkers.
- A study published in the “Journal of PLOS One” demonstrated that tobacco chewing and alcohol consumption might act as risk factors for high risk-HPV infection in Head and Neck Cancers (HNCs) from the North-East region of India.
- Another study showed that the synergistic effect of high risk-HPV load and alcohol consumption is associated with the risk of high risk-HPV persistence and was stronger for longer-term high risk-HPV infection. The study also showed that limiting alcohol consumption might be an essential measure to prevent the development of cervical cancer in women with a high risk-HPV load.
Your immune function is depressed in chronic alcoholics with increased susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections. In mice, chronic alcohol consumption results in impaired killer T cell (immune cells that attack virus-infected cells) responses to influenza A infection and reduced virus removal. So the speculation that increased HPV DNA prevalence in heavy drinkers is related to immune function is reasonable.
So, to boost your immune function, quit heavy alcoholism as multiple research studies showed the clear-cut relationship between alcohol consumption and weak immune system.
Multiple research studies also showed that ingesting multivitamins decreases HPV load in your body. Some are listed below:
- A study published in the “International Journal of Gynecologic Cancer” demonstrated that patients who took multivitamins that included vitamins A, C, E, and calcium supplements had a lower viral load of HPV.
- Through the role in DNA methylation, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and methionine may function to prevent cervical cancer. The “Journal of Cancer Prevention Research” showed that folate and vitamin B12 might play an essential role in maintaining a desirably high degree of methylation.
- A research study published in “BioMed Research International” investigated 13412 American women from NHANES to find out whether vitamin A was independently related to HPV infection. Their results suggested that an appropriate amount of dietary vitamin A may be beneficial to prevent HPV infection.
- Studies also showed that patients with B12 and folate deficiency were more likely to have high-risk HPV infections and the risk of carcinoma.
Take multivitamins, especially vitamins A, C, E, and calcium. Vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Not only that, but it will also help to boost your immune system and increases your body’s ability to clear the virus from your body.
Minimize Your Stress
A study examined a group of 333 women on which the researchers began following in 2000. The results suggest that anxiety and depression play a significant role in whether a woman with human papillomavirus (HPV) can get rid of her infection or not.
A study published in the journal of “Annals of Behavioral Medicine” showed that higher levels of perceived stress are associated with impaired HPV-specific immune response in women.
Stress can weaken the immune system as studies also showed the association between stress and immune suppression. So, find ways to minimize stress or effectively handle stress.
Dr Martin receives his MD from University of Iowa. His expertise includes microbiology, anatomy and clinical psychology. He also dedicates himself to continuous learning in different fields.