The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a common virus that lives on your skin. Most strains are harmless such as warts, but researchers have discovered a link between certain strands of HPV and cervical cancer. Although HPV is not present in 20% of cervical cancer cases, it has become the fall guy for this concerning disease. So much so that Big Pharma have decided to inoculate our nine year old’s from HPV, boasting full protection from cervical cancer. But does this vaccine actually work and is it safe?

Understanding Cervical HPV

According to Professor Diane Harper, chair of the department of Family and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Louisville, and the principal investigator of the clinical trials of the HPV vaccines, “HPV cannot infect unless you have an opening in that skin (on the cervix). You have to have a rent, a tear, an abrasion, some kind of opening that goes all the way to the basement membrane. Likewise it cannot go through the basement membrane. At the basement membrane level, there is an option. If there are antibodies in that cervical mucous, it makes it impossible for the HPV to get into your cell.”

Harper goes on to say, “If those antibodies are not present then there are receptors that sit on that basement membrane, that grab for that HPV virus and they start to suck it into the cell. As it’s going towards the nucleus, the outer part of this virus dissolves.  So that all that is left by the time it gets to the nucleus, is the DNA double strand. That DNA of the HPV is then shoved into the cell nucleus, where it sits next to your human DNA, waiting to do its job. At this point you see that HPV is completely separate from your human DNA.  When the cell decides to replicate and reproduce, it starts to replicate itself and its replication of that DNA makes new HPV variants and those new HPV viruses percolate up through those cell layers until you see these new forming viruses that get to the top and then fall off.  These can now infect someone else or re-infect the woman if she has another tear in her epithelium.”

Harper explains that sexual HPV infections usually clear up without any intervention within a few months after contraction, and about 90% clear naturally within two years. Only a small proportion of infections of certain types of HPV can persist and progress to cancer. 

It is also established that up to 80% of sexually active females will harbour HPV at some point in their lives. A healthy immune system will either kill the virus off within a year of contracting it, or simply integrate it into the innate immune system along with many other common viruses.

But while most HPV infections clear up by themselves and most pre-cancerous lesions resolve spontaneously, a small percentage may progress to invasive cervical cancer. Even so this is a very slow process. The WHO (World Health Organization) explain that it takes fifteen to twenty years for cervical cancer to develop in women with normal immune systems; it can be reduced to five to ten years in women with weakened immune systems, such as those with TB or HIV.  

So the good news is, women often have more than enough time to detect and stop the pre-cancer process in its tracks.

How do the HPV Vaccinations work?

Today the vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil are promoted as the perfect solution to cervical cancer prevention. The vaccines claim to inhibit the two HPV virus strands that trigger cervical cancer: HPV16 and HPV18. In simple terms, the vaccines are supposed to restrain the HPV strands from entering our cells. 

At the 2009 International Public Conference on Vaccination, Prof Harper explained that “The biggest unknown for what we have, is how long is this protection going to last?  How often are we going to have to vaccinate these young girls to guarantee protection? The published efficacy for Cervarix is that it lasts 7.3 years. We have firm data for Gardasil that it lasts 5 years. You see that 35% of the women with Gardasil lose their antibody status to HPV18 by three years. We don’t have long lasting evidence of antibodies to give us reassurance. If the vaccines are not effective for at least 15 years, then there is no cervical cancer prevented. All that you are doing is postponing it till a later date in time.”

In addition, the WHO notes that the Gardasil vaccination cannot provide any protection if the HPV is already present in the system

Possible Health Risks

After a decade of use a great wave of concern has spread across the globe relating to the possible health risks of HPV vaccines. 

A Medscapes (Medical News) article on HPV vaccine policy, published in January 2013, reported serious adverse reactions associated with HPV vaccinations coming from Australia, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States; it included reports of death, convulsions, paralysis, autoimmune disorders, deep vein thrombosis, pancreatitis, ovarian failure and pulmonary embolism, to name but a few.  Soon after, according to Medscape’s reporton June 25, 2013, the Japanese government withdrew its recommendation to use HPV vaccines in girls.

According to the Tokyo Times report the HPV vaccination in Japan was withdrawn from the market in 2013 after 2,000 girls reported serious symptoms. The side effects of the HPV vaccines include regional pain, seizures, brain damage, blindness, paralysis, speech problems, pancreatitis, short-term memory loss and death. The initial onset of symptoms occurred anything from several weeks to one year after the girls received the HPV vaccine.

In the United States, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) gathers official reports for all vaccines’ side effects and creates statistical data based on these reports. The current total in the US for severe side effects of Cervarix and Gardasil combined is now 35,270.

In his UK clinic Dr Damien Downing is one of a handful of doctors around the globe that takes girls and young women through the difficult process of healing vaccine damage. Laboratory findings show that these girls have increased pro-inflammatory cytokines in the spinal fluid (IL-2, IL-10, TNF-à), reduced brain blood flow by perfusion scintigraphy, and high leukocyte sensitivity against aluminum.

Canadian researcher Lucija Tomljenovic, PhD from the Neural Dynamics Research Group, University of British Columbia in Vancouver, points out in Medscapes article on HPV policy, January 31 2012, that there is a major discrepancy in claims regarding the safety and efficacy of both Gardasil and Cervarix. “We have to ask if it’s worth receiving a vaccine that has been associated with a permanent debilitating disease, or death, in young girls. These vaccines only have a theoretical potential to prevent a disease that may or may not develop until decades later, and which can be easily prevented in another, safer way.”

Pap Smears & other Alternative Solutions

Photo by Timothy Dykeson Unsplash

Pap smears are highly effective; they can detect precancerous cells at a very early stage, and cryotherapy (a medical technique for freezing and killing abnormal cells) is used as an efficient way to remove cells that could possibly be cancerous.

Interestingly, the Asia Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention published a study in 2013 showing that curcumin (turmeric extract) vaginal capsules resulted in 81.3% clearance of cervical HPV.  

A study conducted at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston in October 2014, on Reishi mushroom and Wild Turkey Tail mushroom, shows how the funguses may be strong assistants in clearing HPV16 and HPV18 infections. Patients that were HPV positive and otherwise healthy were given an oral dose of the mushroom extract AHCC 3 (Active Hexose Correlated Compound) daily.  After two months of trial, the researchers found that 88% of the patients tested negative for HPV. The principal investigator, Judith A. Smith, Pharm.D explains,“The results are very encouraging. Since AHCC is a nutritional supplement with no known side effects and other immune modulating benefits. This confirms our earlier preclinical research.”

As we can see from the nature of HPV the main tool we have to keep our cervix healthy is a beautifully balanced immune system and that starts in the gut. Our gut microbiome makes up 80% of our immune system and this bacteria is stretched throughout our body, including in our vagina and on our cervix. If we nourish this bacteria we have solved 80% of the concern.

Of course there are many lifestyle factors that can contribute to immune imbalance such as inflammation. This is easily triggered by environmental chemicals such as those found in non-organic tampons, spermicides, vaginal douches and plastic dildo’s. In fact the common spermicide nonoxynol-9 has been found to strip layers of epithelial tissue away inside the vagina and create lesions within the tissue; this explains why it has been banned in some countries. Therefore making the decision to only use 100% organic products within our very sensitive vagina’s is a powerful step towards preventing HPV infections.

Key Lifestyle Principles for Preventing HPV

  • Only use organic tampons or moon cups inside your vagina. Conventional tampons are filled with toxic materials and chemicals that damage the vaginal microbiome.
  • Gut health equals vaginal health – when we have an imbalance in our gut health such as candida or SIBO, we are dysregulating the micro biome of the whole body, compromising the immune system and making the vagina prone to thrush and other bacterial infections that compromise the integrity of the cervix.
  • Avoid all vaginal douches unless they are made up of 100% certified organic ingredients and are prescribed by an integrative medical professional for the elimination of a bacterial infection.
  • Avoid all forms of spermicide or lubrication that are not made up of 100% certified organic ingredients.
  • Avoid putting any objects inside your vagina that could scratch the surface of your cervix. Ask partners to keep their nails filed down.
  • Make sure all sex toys are made from non-toxic materials (plastic is a no no).
  • Make sure you eat a microbiome friendly diet – whole foods, eliminate wheat and sugar and all processed foods.
  • Synthetic contraceptive hormones such as the Pill, mirena and the injection dramatically increase your chances of HPV infection by compromising your hormonal integrity and microbiome.
  • Support your immune system by quitting smoking, getting enough sleep, drinking good quality water, avoiding environmental chemicals in all forms and getting weekly exercise.

With nature and time on our side it seems clear that supporting a healthy body is key when it comes to preventing cervical cancer.

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