Being told that you have an abnormal pap test result can be very scary to hear.
People are often told to watch and wait, which can leave them feeling helpless and anxious about what comes next. Fortunately, there are steps that can be made to help the body defend and heal itself, such as nutrition choices, lifestyle habits, and natural herbal medicines. As a naturopathic doctor, I am passionate about educating people on how they can directly support their own health and wellness.
Here’s what’s happening with abnormal pap tests, and how you can influence your body’s healing and recovery.
Cervical dysplasia is the finding of abnormal cells on the cervix. It is detected by a pap test, and is most often caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted by sexual contact. Different types of abnormal cervical cells are categorized based on their severity, and require different treatment and follow up.
Cervical dysplasia may resolve on its own but can also lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.
From a naturopathic medicine perspective, the primary goal of cervical dysplasia treatment is to support the immune system. The human body often clears HPV and restores healthy cervical cells on its own. By supporting the immune system, we can assist the body in this process.
Immune support can be implemented in several ways, such as lifestyle, nutrition, and herbal medicine.
From a dietary perspective, it’s important to include plenty of colorful vegetables and antioxidant-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, blueberries, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, pumpkin, and squash. The cruciferous or brassica family of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, cabbage, and kale, are excellent to incorporate since they contain the nutrient indole-3-carbinol, which prevents abnormal cell growth and supports estrogen metabolism.
Reishi and shitake mushrooms are fantastic for supporting the immune system and can be added to regular meals. Folate, or Vitamin B9, is an exceptionally important nutrient in the treatment of cervical dysplasia, and is plentiful in dark leafy greens. In addition to cultivating a healthy diet, certain key vitamins and nutrients can also be taken as supplements to achieve higher therapeutic dosing.
Lifestyle habits that support immune function include smoking cessation, getting consistent good quality sleep, limiting alcohol use, and managing stress effectively. When taking a holistic approach, building the foundations of a healthy lifestyle is central in supporting the body’s healing over the long-term.
The vaginal microbiome is the collection of different bacteria and yeast that are present locally, which should be investigated and supported appropriately. Yeast overgrowth, bacterial vaginosis, or STIs can be present along with HPV, and should be treated accordingly. Certain beneficial bacteria may be protective against HPV, and probiotics have been shown to increase the clearance of abnormal cervical cells and HPV infection.
Overall, the naturopathic treatment of cervical dysplasia emphasizes immune system support from many different angles, including nutrition, lifestyle, herbal treatments, and microbiome balance, all while actively monitoring progress in a supportive environment.