Got HPV? Have Some Carrots…

My patients who have HPV invariably ask “Is there anything I can do myself to help clear this infection?”

“Actually”, I tell them, “there is. Most importantly, don’t smoke. And eat your fruits and veggies.”

That’s right. Have a carrot. Or a tomato or some broccoli. Or better yet, a papaya. Because numerous studies suggest that women who eat more fruits and vegetables have lower rates of HPV infection, faster clearance of HPV once they get it, and lower rates of cervical cancer overall.

We don’t know which of the many vitamins and substances found in fruits and vegetables are responsible for this antiviral effect. It could be the combination of substances rather than separate vitamins themselves, since treatments using supplements rather than foods have not been effective. And it’s not at all clear if these foods are helpful once precancerous lesions are established. If veggies do work to prevent cervical cancer, it is most likely early in the natural course of HPV infection.

Large controlled trials are still needed, but, while we are waiting for that evidence, I see no down side to telling my patients with HPV to increase their dietary intake of fruits and vegetables if, like most Americas, they don’t get enough already.

How much fruit and vegetables? According to the American Cancer Society, everyone should have five or more servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily to help prevent cancer.

Here’s a great recipe for Carrots.

Glazed Carrots with Lemon (Adapted from the Silver Spoon Cookbook)
The original recipe used sesame seeds instead of pine nuts, and pearl onions instead of shallots. I’ve also made it substituting olive oil for the butter, and it tastes just a delicious.

1 ¾ lb carrots, fairly thickly sliced
3 tbsp butter
2 shallots, chopped
Strained juice and grated rind of ½ lemon
1 Tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Olive oil for drizzling

Put carrots in a bowl. Add water to cover and a pinch of salt. Let soak for 15 minutes then drain. Melt butter in a pan and add shallots. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add lemon juice and rind and cook for a few minutes more. Add carrots, season with salt and pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the pine nuts in a heavy skillet.

Transfer the carrots to a small serving dish, sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Serves 4

Here are a few references…

Int J Cancer 2005, 117 (4):629-637.

Cancer Epid Bio & Prev 2005. 14: 1149-1156.

JNCU Monograph. 2003;(31):29-34.

11 Responses to Got HPV? Have Some Carrots…

  1. Mmm. Love this sort of vegetable dish. Actually, love vegetables.

    Why do you soak the carrots? I’ve never heard of that before.

  2. chairwoman: I have no idea why you soak the carrots, maybe to get ris of some starch? But if that’s how the Italians do it, there must be a good reason…

  3. More likely it is simply a correlation and people who eat more fruits and vegetables are the same ones more likely to practice safe sex and there isn’t some magical something in the carrots.

  4. Anonymous:
    Actually, that does not seem to be the case.Many of these studeis were done in women already infected with HPV. What seems to be true (maybe) is that if you get infected with HPV, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will help you clear the infection faster.

  5. You’re still not getting the correlation. Just because fruits and vegetables was ASSOCIATED with those getting better means nothing about the CAUSATION. They were likely doing other things to take care of the infection and themselves. To think produce has any magical capabilities beyond basic nutrition is simply nonsense.

  6. anonymous –

    I’m not sure what the other things were that these folks were doing to clear their infection faster. These studies tried to control for things like smoking and co-infection with other std’s and the correlation remained. Safe sex was not the issue – all these women were infected with HPV already.

    I agree that this is just an association – notice I used the words “maybe” and stated that controlled trials are needed.

    As far as there being nothing “Magic” in carrots other than basic nutrition – I agree with you on that. But what exactly is “Basic nutrition”? I think it is more than calories, don’t you?Changes in diet can have profound effects on our health, and one could argue that nutrients are important in all aspects of our lives, including our ability to fight infection.

    I don’t think advising women to get enough fruits and vegetables is a bad thing. Given some of the diets my patients eat, I still maintain that it is good advice.


  7. Thank you for that carrot recipe – it was delicious although I had to substitute cashews as that was what was available. I have never pre-soaked carrots before cooking at home but I know that this is a technique that was used in various restaurants where I’ve worked.

    It is extraordinary how much countries vary in the general daily intake of fruit and vegetables. In countries like the UK, people react to 5-a-day as if it is an endurance test; in France, Italy, Spain etc. it is not unusual to have about 14 portions a day as a matter of routine.

    Regards – Shinga

  8. Hi, your post is really interesting. I have a question; I have been diagnosed with HPV and low grade cervical dysplasis. I also have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) since about 5 years now. I also suffer from recurrent vaginal yeast infections.
    Am not sure if all the above 3 are related.
    My diet was terrible earlier and I am prone to high levels of anxiety.
    I did cryotherapy for the cervical dysplasia and HPV, but was not really for it.
    I want to take a more natural course to get rid of the virus. The problem is, I cannot eat raw food, becauase of the IBS, and fruits are counterindicated for the yeast infection!
    I am at a loss as to what to do. Any help would be appreciated tremendously.
    I am really really really scared about the HPV.

  9. Very Anxious –

    I hope you understand that I cannot give personal medical advice on a blog. I can tell you that a nutrition consultation may be helpful in patients with both IBS and recurrent yeast, as the two could be related. Remember that HPV is ubiquitous at this point – most people will get it at least once if not more during their lifetime, and clear it. Use condoms, get enough sleep and exercise, and keep your appointment for your pap smears, so that if anything arises, it can be treated. But in between, try to relax and let your body do its magic.

    All the best.

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