Are You in Control of Your Cervical Health?

Most patients give little thought to the health of their cervix until there is a problem. They tend to think, why worry about that narrow passage that really doesn’t serve many purposes! Yes, most of us know that the cervix ensures menstrual fluid passes from the uterus, and sperm travels through it, but other than that, cervical health is no big deal, right? Wrong. While the cervix may just be a connecting tunnel between the uterus and vagina, it is actually vulnerable to several health concerns including inflammation, polyps, dysplasia, and cancer.

Cancer screening recommendations

The American Cancer Society (1) (ACS) estimates that more than 13,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2019, and more than 4,000 women will die from cervical cancer. On the bright side, ACS also reports that while cervical cancer was once a common cause of cancer death for American women, because of increased screening, the number of deaths has dropped dramatically.

Thanks to the Pap test, changes in the cervix can be detected long before cancer develops. The Pap test can also uncover cervical cancer earlier when it’s much easier to treat and to cure. According to a 2016 (2) systematic review and meta-analysis, “The protective role of the Pap test against cervical cancer has been confirmed especially among women <40 years. Annual screening still remains the most cost-effective prevention strategy.”

Here are the cervical cancer screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society (3):

This is a breakdown of screening recommendations per age bracket for women, when it comes to cervical health.

Screening can also detect cervical dysplasia (4), which is a precancerous condition. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a key risk factor in the development of both cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer. A weakened immune system makes the cervix more vulnerable to this opportunistic virus. It’s important for women to understand that an abnormal Pap (5) test doesn’t mean they have cancer. For these women, an integrative approach to cervical health is especially important.

While screening and early detection are critical, it’s equally important for practitioners to advise female patients about an integrative approach to keeping their cervix healthy and free of illness. This includes information about diet and dietary supplements.

The healthy cervix diet

cut up limes, grapefruit, lemons, and oranges on a table

It is essential that you include vitamin C in your diet to protect your cervical health.

When it comes to diet and dietary supplements to support cervical health, it’s all about antioxidants. For this reason, a colorful diet that emphasizes high-antioxidant fruits and vegetables is important to cervical health. These foods have also been shown to help reduce the risk of cervical cancer. For example, a 2015 hospital-based case-control study (6) demonstrated that carotenes, vitamin E and vitamin C, in particular, were associated with a lower risk of cervical cancer.

The most widely-studied diet for overall good health is the Mediterranean diet, so it’s not surprising that recent research also shows that this diet can help reduce the risk of HPV progression into cervical cancer. A 2018 cross-sectional study (7) conducted in Italy is the first to demonstrate that women who had medium adherence to the Mediterranean diet decreased the odds of high-risk HPV infection when compared to women with low adherence. The researchers conclude, “…our data discourage unhealthy dietary habits in favor of healthy ones such as a Mediterranean-like diet…”

Dietary supplements for additional support

green tea leaves in a clear tea jug and in a glass

Green tea is a natural & tasty option for maintaining cervical health.

Dietary supplements can play an important role in protecting the cervix, as well as offering support in cases of cervical dysplasia. According to women’s health expert Marianne Marchese, ND (8), “When the pap comes back with ASC-US and no HPV, normal cytology with HPV present, or ASC-US with HPV in the younger women, conventional medicine suggests to watch, wait and repeat the pap.” She says this is the perfect time to begin integrative treatment by supporting the immune system with key nutrients and botanicals. Here are some of the dietary supplement ingredients to consider:

  • Folic acid: several studies (9) have linked folic acid deficiency to cervical dysplasia, including a 2016 study that evaluated 20,000 sexually active women under the age of 65.
  • Indole-3-carbinol: this powerful antioxidant is present in cruciferous vegetables, and can support the immune system and cervical health.
  • CoQ10: a 2003 study (10) found that low levels of CoQ10 and tocopherols were linked to increased risk of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.
  • Vitamin E: authors of a 2017 meta-analysis (11) concluded, “…a high level of vitamin E was significantly associated with a decreased risk of cervical neoplasia.”
  • Green tea: epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) from green tea is another potent antioxidant that has been shown in several studies, including a 2018 review (12), to support cervical health.
  • Coriolus versicolor: this mushroom extract supports the immune system and research (13) indicates it can support cervical health specifically as it relates to HPV.

An integrative approach

woman leaning on her bike smiling while outside

Keep cervical cancer at bay by staying aware of your cervical health.

Whether female patients are looking for protection or they have a cervical diagnosis, an integrative protocol will have benefit. This approach should focus on increasing antioxidant consumption with an emphasis on a healthy diet (e.g. Mediterranean diet) and key dietary supplements.

In addition, all women who smoke are advised to quit. There is no question that smoking increases the risk of cervical cancer, which is especially true when the patient also has an HPV infection. In fact, a 2018 review (14) makes the link by demonstrating that smoking increased the risk of high-grade cervical lesions in women infected with HPV which provides “a good understanding of smoking’s role in cervical cancer.”

By utilizing an integrative approach, health care practitioners are able to help their female patients achieve a much higher chance of having a healthy cervix. Since you now know the inherent benefits of an integrative approach to a healthy cervix, you know why it’s always good to consult your health care practitioner with any wellness concerns and questions.

  1. Barchitta M, Mauigeri A, Quattrocchi A, et al. The association of dietary patterns with high-risk human papillomavirus infection and cervical cancer: a cross-sectional study in Italy. Nutrients. 2018;10(4):469.
  2. Borisov S. Coriolus versicolor — assessment of the effects on patients infected with low-risk and high-risk HPV subtypes. Clinical Journal of Mycology. 2012;3.
  3. Fang J, Yu X, Zhang S, Yang Y. Effect of smoking on high-grade cervical cancer in women on the basis of human papilloma virus infection studies. Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics. 2018;14(8):184-189.
  4. Guo L, Zhu H, Lin C, et al. Associations between antioxidant vitamins and the risk of invasive cervical cancer in Chinese women: a case-control study. Scientific Reports. 2015;5:13607.
  5. Hu X, Li S, Zhou L, et al. Effect of vitamin E supplementation on uterine cervical neoplasm: a meta-analysis of case-control studies. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(8).
  6. Meggiolaro A, Unim B, Semyonov L, et al. The role of the Pap test screening against cervical cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Therapeutics. 2016;167(4):124-139.
  7. Palacios S, Losa F, Dexeus D, Cortes J. Beneficial effects of a Coriolus versicolor-based vaginal gel on cervical epithelization, vaginal microbiota and vaginal health: a pilot study in asymptomatic women. BMC Women’s Health. 2017;17:21.
  8. Unim B, Meggiolaro A, Semyonov L, Maffongelli E, La Torre G. Role of pap-test in cervical cancer prevention: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Public Health. 2014;24(S2).
  9. Wang Y, Lu J, Liang Y, Li Q. Suppressive effects of EGCG on cervical cancer. Molecules. 2018;23(9):2334.
  10. Zhao W, Hao M, Wang Y, et al. Association between folate status and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016;70:837-842.

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