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How Can I Boost My Immune System To Fight HPV?

Your immune system helps in the battle against many viruses and illnesses. If you are one of the 80 million Americans currently affected by HPV1, you might want to consider how best to help your immune system fight it off.


HPV stands for human papillomavirus1. It is a widespread - perhaps the most common - sexually-transmitted infection, affecting at least 50% of all sexually active people at some point in their lives2. Around 14 million Americans contract the condition each year, including many teenages1. It causes warts to develop, typically in the genital area, though some of the 40 or so strains of the disease can lead to more severe symptoms, such as cancer of the cervix, anus, or penis2.

However, the human body’s immune system can fight off around 90% of all cases of HPV by itself3, with no intervention needed from medical professionals. That shows how important it is to keep your immune system strong and healthy.


How does my immune system work?

The human immune system is founded upon white blood cells. These travel the body through arteries, veins, and capillaries, seeking antigens to tackle. An antigen can be any kind of foreign substance in the body, such as a disease, virus, bacteria, or fungi4.

When they find an antigen, B lymphocytes - one of the types of white blood cells5 - begin the release of antibodies, which latch onto the antigen4. T lymphocytes also called T cells - another type of white blood cell5 - tackle the antigen once the antibodies have locked onto it. If a B lymphocyte identifies and tags an antigen, the T cells will be able to destroy it4.

Once the immune system has developed antibodies for a particular antigen, they will usually remain in the body in case of the appearance of the same antigen again. This is why someone who had chickenpox as a child typically never gets it again4.


How can I boost my immune system?


So, we have established the basic biology behind the immune system and that it’s really important to keep your immune system in good health to combat HPV. But, what are the best ways of boosting your immune system by yourself? The main options are as follows:

  • Take vitamins

  • Keep away from tobacco smoke

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Minimize stress

  • Get enough sleep

  • Reduce alcohol consumption

Take vitamins

There are loads of good reasons for taking vitamin supplements and ensuring that you’re getting a healthy balance of vitamins in your diet. In terms of boosting your immune system, the most essential vitamins to take are calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E2. Vitamins A, C, and E are all antioxidants, and so these help to protect your body from potential cellular damage caused by free radicals6.

Studies have shown that taking these vitamins reduces the likelihood of developing HPV and helps to lessen its effects if someone is already suffering from it2. Also, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folate have been shown to help in preventing cervical cancer, which can be triggered by HPV1.

It doesn’t even need to be all of these vitamins. For example, one study showed that a sufficient amount of vitamin A in the diet could help to prevent HPV infection in American women1.

Keep away from tobacco smoke

Again, as with taking vitamins, there are lots of health reasons to avoid tobacco smoke. Smoking weakens the immune system2; if you are a smoker, you should try to stop. If you are not a smoker yourself, you should still try to keep away from secondhand smoke.

Women who smoke are 27 times more likely to develop cervical cancer than their non-smoking counterparts1. Men also have a higher chance of acquiring HPV if they smoke1. It’s not just about smokers themselves either. Research has demonstrated that people exposed to secondhand smoke when drinking alcohol are more likely to encounter persistent HPV than those drinking alcohol away from other smokers1.

Even former smokers are significantly more likely to show signs of HPV than people who have never smoked before1. In addition, in the case of women, nicotine found in tobacco becomes absorbed into cervical mucus, which decreases the body’s ability to clear HPV away1. All of this illustrates how harmful tobacco smoke can be concerning HPV.

Maintain a healthy weight

Your body’s immune system is more likely to stay in top shape if you do too. That means eating a healthy, balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise, all of which can help to strengthen the immune system2.

Minimize stress

Stress and depression can both lead to a weakening of the immune system2. Furthermore, being stressed or depressed has been shown to cause difficulties in fighting off an HPV infection1.

Activities such as yoga, talking about problems, breathing exercises, and participating in regular exercise can all help to reduce stress levels2.

Get enough sleep

Linked to the previous point, sleeping well and sufficiently can help to manage your stress. Having enough sleep also aids in strengthening the immune system, which can then fight off an HPV infection2.

Reduce alcohol consumption

Alcohol intake has been proven to be associated with much higher risks of becoming infected by HPV1. Not only is the chance of developing such an infection higher, but so is the likelihood that the infection will be particularly severe1.

Moreover, chronic alcoholism leads to a depressed immune function, presenting with a lower T cell count, meaning that the body cannot fight off infections as well. Therefore, reducing your alcohol consumption as much as possible (preferably to zero) will help in boosting your immune system.

Summary

HPV is arguably the most prevalent sexually-transmitted infection in the world, with millions of new cases every year and many more than that stuck with persistent infections. The disease causes warts to grow, mainly in the genital regions, and has been linked to developing cancer of genital organs.

As scary as that sounds, it’s not all bad news. 90% of HPV infections are fought off, albeit over time, by the body’s immune system. However, that does mean that you need to keep your immune system in top shape so that it can do its job and get rid of HPV.

To boost your immune system, you should reduce the amount of alcohol you drink and tobacco smoke you inhale. If possible, eliminate these from your lifestyle. In addition to that, eat a healthy, balanced diet that is full of vitamins, especially vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B12, and calcium. Finally, try to get enough sleep and minimize your stress levels as much as possible. All of this will help your immune system to be robust and fight off an infection of HPV.

Reference List

  1. https://explorebiotech.com/boost-immune-system-to-fight-hpv/

  2. https://www.livestrong.com/article/352836-how-to-build-the-immune-system-in-someone-who-has-hpv/

  3. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/human-papillomavirus-(hpv)-and-cervical-cancer

  4. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/immune.html

  5. https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Lymphocyte#:~:text=A%20lymphocyte%20is%20a%20type,bacteria%2C%20viruses%2C%20and%20toxins.

  6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/301506

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