Coping With Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV)

How to Build Your Immune System to Fight HPV

If you have been infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), the chances are good that you will clear the virus spontaneously. In fact, the majority of HPV infections are cleared by the immune system within two years, and many people who were asymptomatic (without symptoms) and cleared the virus may never even realized they had it.

While there isn't anything specific you can do to help your body clear the virus, staying healthy and maintaining a strong immune system may help. While there is no guarantee you won't still experience a chronic HPV infection, there is literally no downside to maintaining to a strong immune response .

This article discusses practical ways to boost your immune system to help your body fight infections like HPV.

How to Cope With HPV.

Ellen Lindner / Verywell

Can You Get HPV Out of Your System?

Having a strong immune system is essential to fighting any infection, and HPV is no exception. While research is lacking, studies have shown that people under 30, who generally have a stronger immune response, have the greatest odds of clearing HPV.

There are four simple ways to boost your immune system if you have HPV:

  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce stress
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Find support

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can also boost your immune system by cutting back on alcohol, maintaining your ideal weight, getting plenty of sleep, and being physically active.

Quit Smoking

If you are a current cigarette smoker and you have HPV, you should do your best to quit smoking.

Smoking is thought to decrease your immunity, which impacts your body's ability to fight off illnesses, including the HPV infection. Those who smoke are also at a higher risk for getting multiple HPV infections.

Decrease Stress

When your body's stress hormone levels increase, your immune system doesn't work as well as it should. This means you can't fight off infections, like HPV, very effectively.

Making changes in your life to reduce your stress level is very important. Activities like yoga, connecting with friends, and meditation can help decrease the effects of stress on your body.

Review Your Diet

There is some disagreement among experts on whether or not diet plays a role in helping your body get rid of HPV.

There is some thought that certain B-complex vitamins are effective in boosting your immune system. These include riboflavin (B2), thiamine (B1), vitamin B12, and folate. Making sure your diet includes foods rich in these B vitamins is certainly not harmful and may be helpful.

Some good dietary sources of these vitamins include:

  • Milk and cheese
  • Vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale
  • Chicken, pork, and beef
  • Eggs
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Whole grains

Find Support

Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection can be very stressful, but you should not be embarrassed about having HPV. You might be surprised that once you open up to trusted family or friends about your diagnosis, you will find that many people have dealt with this infection.

Talk with your healthcare provider about local resources for individuals diagnosed with HPV. For online support groups, you can check out the American Sexual Health Association website.

Remember that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and you are not alone.

HPV Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman

Protect Against Other STIs

Being diagnosed with HPV is not a fatal blow to your sex life. You may just need to sit out a few weeks if you are being treated for genital warts. If you are sexually active, though, you should be aware of the fact that you could contract another type of STI, which could also weaken your immune system. Be aware of how to protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Having one sexual partner and using protection can help lower your risk of getting another sexually transmitted infection.

Because genital warts are so easily transmitted from skin-to-skin contact, your current sex partner may also want to get checked for them.

Work With Your Healthcare Provider

While self-care and immunity-building steps can help you fight HPV, it's important, to also see your healthcare provider for specific medical treatment such as topical creams that may be needed. You should also plan to see your provider regularly and get follow-up care based on your symptoms as needed.

Most cases of HPV go away without treatment within two years.

You may also want to speak with your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine. Even if you already have HPV, getting the vaccine can help prevent you from getting other types of it, including ones that can lead to cancer.

Summary

If you've been diagnosed with HPV, you should know that most cases of the condition clear up on their own within two years. To help you fight HPV and stay healthy, you can take steps to build your immune system by quitting smoking, decreasing your stress level, and altering your diet.

Your doctor may also recommend treatment for your specific symptoms, as well as support resources.

Keep in mind that HPV is very common and you are not alone.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you know if you have HPV?

    Most people with HPV don't show any symptoms. A gynecologist can test for HPV during a routine pap smear. There is no male test for HPV. However, if you or your partner notice genital warts, you should reach out to a doctor right away.

  • Is HPV a lifelong infection?

    Not typically. HPV infections often go away without treatment within a few months, and about 90% clear on their own within two years. However, some individuals may have long-term symptoms or develop cervical cancer. 

  • How do you know when HPV is gone?

    If you don't have symptoms, you may not know when the infection has cleared your system. If you have symptoms, your doctor will be able to tell you when you no longer have the infection. Having routine pap smears can ensure that you check for signs of HPV.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisolm, MD, is a board-certified OB/GYN who has taught at both Tufts University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.