Dr. Doni Wilson on Managing HPV Naturally

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Katie: Hello, and welcome to the “Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and wellnesse.com. That’s wellnesse with an E on the end, my new line of personal care products that are completely safe and also as effective as their chemical counterparts.

In this episode, I am going deep to answer a lot of questions from you guys that I don’t have personal experience with regarding HPV. This is a question I’m getting more and more and seeing more blog comments about, especially with recent vaccines that have become available for it and people wondering if it could be mitigated in different ways.

And I am here with Dr. Doni Wilson, who is a naturopathic doctor, a certified professional midwife, and a certified nutrition specialist. She graduated from Bastyr University, and she’s also the bestselling author of “The Stress Remedy.” And the reason I wanted to have her on today is that she has an extremely high success rate in helping patients, who have things like HPV or abnormal pap smears, get back to having normal pap smears even after, like I said, after that diagnosis. She really specializes in helping people get to their underlying causes, including genetic issues, reverse adrenal distress, autoimmunity, like I said, HPV, and cervical dysplasia, and infertility.

So we’re going to go really deep on HPV today, but a lot of these same ideas and principles apply to other types of chronic virus. And I learned quite a bit in this episode, as well, that I didn’t know, including the fact that if you are female, you likely have up to an 80% chance of getting this at some point during your life, and if you are male, you may never know if you had this or not, but you might have an equal risk.

So very fascinating episode that I hope you will learn as much as I did. And without further ado, let’s jump in. Dr. Doni, welcome. Thanks for being here.

Dr. Doni: Oh, my gosh, thank you so much. I’m very excited to be here with you today.

Katie: Well, I’m excited to go deep on a topic I get a relatively large number of questions about. which is HPV or human papillomavirus if I’m pronouncing it right. It’s actually a word I’ve never heard out loud. I know that you have a lot of experience helping people with this. But first, before we jump into the specifics, I’d love to know kind of a little bit about your background and how you became interested in naturopathic medicine and or viral components like HPV.

Dr. Doni: Well, I’m a naturopathic doctor, and I have been for 20 years now. And originally, growing up, I had an interest in nutrition already. Interestingly, my father is actually a pharmacist. So, one might think that I would have gone down that direction, but actually, with a father as a pharmacist, he put a lot of emphasis at home on what we were eating and what we were taking in terms of vitamins to prevent health issues. And so I grew up actually in a home where there was a lot of attention to prevention, preventing the need for medical interventions.

And so when I went to study pre-med, I also studied nutrition and ended up getting both a degree in science and in nutrition and realized I really wanted to be studying a type of medicine that integrated food as medicine. And that’s when I found out about naturopathic medicine. I grew up on the west coast, and at that time, most of the naturopathic medical schools were on the west coast, but there was no internet. So I couldn’t google a naturopathic medical school. I just drove to the naturopathic medical school.

I went to Bastyr University in Seattle, and when I walked in, I knew immediately I was in the right place because that’s…they were exactly talking about how to use food and nutrition as medicine. I was also very interested in women’s health in particular, and so I studied to also be a midwife. And so I was side-by-side training as a naturopathic doctor and doing birth center and home birth deliveries, and in that process, I was also trained to help women with all different health issues including HPV, which we’re gonna talk about today and cervical dysplasia.

Cervical dysplasia means…is what it means when you get an abnormal Pap smear, you know, when the Pap comes back with abnormal cells. The general term is cervical dysplasia. And so I was trained by my mentors, and this is, you know, again, a couple decades ago on how to help women recover from HPV and abnormal Pap smears. And I have been doing that helping women ever since then.

Katie: Wow, that’s awesome, and it’s so cool that you were also a midwife. I have so much respect for midwives. I’m a doula and have worked with some incredible midwives and got to witness several amazing births. And those are definitely amazing memories for me. And you’re right. I will make sure we go deep on HPV today because, like I said, I get a lot of questions about this, and it’s not something I have first-hand experience with, and I don’t feel like I’m an expert in the least. So to start broad so that I can learn along with the listeners today, can you just walk us through what is HPV kind of define our terms?

Dr. Doni: Well, and definitely, we talk about it as if it’s a single virus, but actually, there’s over 100 different types of HPV viruses. Some of them are less of a risk. You know, they may not cause anything. Some of them are associated with causing genital warts for both men and women. And then others of HPV virus is what we now know to be causing cervical cancer for women but also is associated with oral cancers for both men and women.

So before when we first were doing Pap smears way back when we didn’t know what was causing abnormal Pap smears or cervical cancer. So this is cancer on the cervix, right? We didn’t know what was causing it way back when, but eventually, the research came out that really HPV is almost 100% something like 80 to 90% cause of cancer on the cervix for women. And then we found out that HPV can also cause cancer in the oral in the mouth and oral area for both men and women. This is how we’ve now started to become much more aware about HPV.

For many years, it wasn’t even tested for. Women might get a Pap smear, but they weren’t necessarily testing for HPV. And more recently, especially around the world, I’m hearing more and more from women all over the world who are now…the doctors are more consistently testing for HPV when they do a Pap smear. It’s two separate tests. So you do the Pap smear to look at the cells but is a separate test to look for the virus. And so now that we’re actually testing for it more, we’re finding it more.

Katie: Gotcha. That makes sense. Anytime you test more, you’re more likely to find it. And I’m glad you brought up the point that it’s not just a single strain because that obviously would make it probably more difficult to mitigate. But also if we’re talking about a family of this, is it something that there are kind of some generalizations that work across the board or are more strains much more difficult to deal with?

Dr. Doni: Well, the HPV 16 and 18 are the two that we most often hear associated with abnormal Pap smears for women. So, a lot of times when you get your Pap smear back, really what you’re looking for is you’re looking for two things by the way. Just so I love for everyone to really understand what you’re looking for when you get your Pap smear back. One is you’re looking did they actually get adequate cells. You know, was the test accurate. And so that’s one of the first things because if it says not adequate cells, they’ll have to redo the Pap smear.

And then the next thing you’re looking for is are the cells normal or were there any abnormal cells. And so if they say, you know, negative for intraepithelial lesions. Basically, you wanted to say negative for abnormal cells or else it’ll say there might be, and we can talk this through, but variations of abnormality in the cells. And then the third thing is they’re gonna test for the HPV, and when they test for HPV, the labs vary a little bit just so you know. But it might say…if it’s a pretty highly specific test, it’ll say whether you have HPV 6 strain 16 or 18 in which case those are considered the high-risk strains.

Now, some of the labs will come back and it’ll just be more of a general…it’ll just say positive for high-risk strain. So they might not even tell you which HPV type it is and so just knowing that there are some variations in that. From my perspective, if we see that it comes back even as a general high-risk HPV type, right away, I’m gonna wanna be proactive at helping your body fight it off. So you can just know this, soon as you see anything that looks like a high-risk strain, we’re gonna wanna be proactive about helping to stop it from causing abnormal cells or cancer.

Katie: Okay. I think I understand. So if these are all done through a Pap smear though, right, like these wouldn’t be part of a regular blood test panel?

Dr. Doni: Yeah. It’s not in the blood tests. For men, there is no test. You would think, right? You would think and maybe at some point, they developed one, but right now there’s no way to test men for HPV. And there’s no like oral test. There’s no blood test. So right now really the only way we test for HPV is vaginally.

Katie: But yet men can…I would assume they would have to be able to carry it and transmit it, right?

Dr. Doni: Exactly. And so it can be…I hear so many, you know, people who had so many questions, and the very common questions would be say as a woman you get a Pap smear back that shows positive for HPV. Right away you can figure that your sexual partner or partners must have it also because it is transmitted sexually. We just get a positive by association so to speak. I’m trying to think because, yeah, otherwise, there’s no way for a man to know. And I’m hearing more and more from men who are contacting me directly and saying, hey, they found out that their sexual partner had HPV, and now they wanna be proactive about addressing it. And so that’s interesting because that wasn’t happening before.

Katie: Do we have any kind of data on what percentage of the population likely has or has had HPV? I know I’ve seen stats that predicted up to 80% of women will have some strain of HPV in their lifetime, but to me, that speaks to the fact that there must be quite a few strains that are not necessarily gonna lead to abnormal Pap smears or to cancer. Am I extrapolating that correctly?

Dr. Doni: Yes. That’s a good point. Yes, I wanna agree with you that it is very common. In fact, they estimate that most all of us will be exposed to HPV of some type at some point in our lifetime. So, it’s important to know that this virus is everywhere. Because I think that there has been a big stigma about HPV. I think because it is sexually transmitted, we tend to think, “Oh…” we make kind of, you know, stereotypes about sexually transmitted diseases or what kind of sexual activity that might increase risk for exposure to us to this virus. But really, the reality is that all of us are gonna get exposed to HPV at some point in our life. And so I think that is a real chance and real eye-opener to think that…to not feel bad about it because I hear from so many women who contact me feeling very ashamed and afraid for their life, for their partnerships, for their future pregnancies.

You know, there’s a lot of fear that comes up around it because there’s so much people without enough information. And I also think that there’s a lot of, again, stigma about getting this virus when actually all of us are gonna be exposed and have this virus at some point in our life. And so it’s a very, very common virus, and like you’re mentioning, some of those viruses that people get exposed to are gonna be very low risk. So you could have a low-risk HPV and potentially never even know it. You know, maybe it wasn’t tested for. Maybe it never had constant issue, and so maybe you never even knew you had this HPV.

But there’s a certain percentage people, and I don’t know if we know this percentage. What percentage of people get high-risk strains? But what we do know, and this is really interesting, and this is to me one of the key points about this, is that 50% of people who are exposed to HPV or come back positive to HPV, 50% of them will clear the virus. Their immune system will get rid of the virus on its own within eight months. So say you test positive. Within eight months that virus could go away and test negative and be gone. You never test positive again the rest of your life. So that’s 50% of people. 90% of people, it’s gone within two years.

So it just shows you that our bodies can fight off this virus, and a high percentage of people, our immune system can fend it off. So the question really becomes what is the difference in that percentage of people that are not able to fight off this virus, the people who are susceptible, the people where it does have the potential to cause cancer. Those are the people that we wanna help because what I found over the years is that even someone who gets HPV, and it may start to cause abnormal cells, there’s a lot we can do to help your body fend it off so that you can become part of that 90% who resolved in, right? We want you in that 90% who can get rid of it, and there’s a lot we can do to help your body do that successfully.

Katie: I feel like you’re the perfect person to ask this, but it makes me think. So we know HPV is sexually transmitted. Is there a risk with birth, it being transmitted to babies?

Dr. Doni: There’s not. The other viruses like herpes virus, for example, we have to do a lot of precautions around delivery of the baby. HPV doesn’t as far as we know cause any harm or risks to the baby. So that’s a good thing. And it’s interesting because sometimes like at the beginning when you first find out you’re pregnant, one of the first things the doctor is gonna do is a Pap smear and sometimes will find an abnormal…will see a positive HPV at the beginning of the pregnancy.

But depending on…you know, hopefully, it’s just HPV and not a highly severe, you know, abnormality in the cells in which case the doctor will just let the pregnancy continue and will address the abnormal cells after the pregnancy. Luckily, it’s not a concern for the baby. But if you do find out…like I work with a lot of women who find out that they have HPV and perhaps also some abnormalities to the cells before they try to get pregnant, in which case what I do is we work, we get very focused and strategic to address the HPV and the abnormal cells before they get pregnant. Just because you’d really rather it be taken care of before you go into a pregnancy because, once you are pregnant, you’re gonna need to wait until the pregnancy is done to be able to address it.

Katie: That makes sense and pregnancy is also just…there’s a lot that goes on to it and a lot of added stress to the body. So that makes complete sense that you’d wanna give your body all of the factors in its favor before getting pregnant if possible, but also really encouraging to know for women who find out they have HPV during pregnancy that it’s not gonna be dangerous to a baby. That’s really good news. So I’m so curious about this because it sounds like, like you said, most people that we know of we think are able to fight this off and then have it return to normal. People can have HPV and even have an abnormal Pap smear and then fight it off and then have a normal Pap smear after that. Have you seen this happen?

Dr. Doni: Yes, definitely, and this is the thing is that when you’re in the regular doctor’s appointment, you often are not told some of this information. So a lot of times, the doctor will say…because the doctor knows that a lot of times, this resolves on its own. So the doctor might see a positive HPV and just say to you don’t worry. Come back in six months or a year and send you out the door. And you might be like, “What? I have a virus? What? I gotta do nothing?”

And so it can really leave you hanging in a place where you feel like, “I wanna do something about this.” And this is usually when women contact me is they’re saying, “Hey, I know I could wait and see. I know that there’s a high percentage chance this is just gonna go away on its own, but I’d rather be proactive about my health and make sure that it goes away.” And that’s where we can do a lot in terms of dietary changes and nutrients and herbal therapies that have quite a lot of research behind them plus a lot of clinical experience to show that they can work.

And here’s the thing is that HPV is thought to…once you get exposed to it, a lot of practitioners think of it as always being in your body. They’ll say to you, you know, HPV is always gonna be potentially there, and that’s because, like a lot of other viruses, HPV can be dormant, what we call dormant. So sometimes, you’ll get a positive HPV test, and we always have to consider that HPV might have been dormant in your body for 5 years or 10 years or 20 years, right?

When you get a positive to HPV, it doesn’t mean that you were only recently exposed to it. You could have been exposed to it years before, and it only recently became positive on a test. So HPV can be a dormant virus, and I figure, “Hey, if we can at least get it to dormant.” We don’t really know because there’s not a way to test for dormancy. Whether we get the virus to dormancy or the way I think about it is if we can get the virus to negative on a test. Then we’re good. We’re happy. We’d rather it just be negative whether it’s dormant or completely cleared from the body. At least it’s not positive because, when the HPV is positive, that’s when it has the opportunity to cause abnormal cells.

Katie: Okay. So if someone comes to you and they have found out recently that they have HPV, whether it be one of the more dangerous strains or not, what are some of the first steps you take with them? Kind of like walk us through this procedure because my thought had always been like a lot of conventional medicine doesn’t really have any specific treatment for viruses. And we’re definitely seeing that being discussed at wide-scale right now. But these in general typically you’ve explained are things the body often can handle. So I’m curious how do you…like I’m sure it’s a multi-faceted approach, but what do you do when someone comes to you with this?

Dr. Doni: Well, the way that I’d like to start thinking it through is thinking about susceptibilities. So really when we’re thinking what is it that’s making you or, you know, this person susceptible to this virus. And some of the susceptibilities that we know one is birth control pill or any kind of hormonal like even if it’s a hormonal IUD. We know that those hormone exposures, especially from a birth control pill can increase your likelihood of having HPV be positive and having abnormal Pap smears show up. So if you’re on a birth control pill or using a hormonal birth control. That would be one of the susceptibilities for us to consider. We also know that cigarette smoking is associated with higher risk of HPV and abnormal cells. So, right away, those are a couple right from the top, and is well established in the research to increase risk.

The other area that I focus on a lot is stress, and this is a main interest of mine anyway as a naturopathic doctor. But going back to my training as a midwife, what I studied when I was learning to help women through the labor processes, I studied fear of labor and stress during labor. And I took the lessons I learned from women in labor and use it still today in all different health conditions. What I found is that in labor, there’s a certain amount of stress that’s necessary in order for labor to work right. In order for labor to progress, we need a certain amount of stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, to signal to our body for normal labor process to happen.

And too little stress hormones labor doesn’t happen. At the same time, if we have too much stress and not enough support, labor stalls and doesn’t happen well either, and this is where a doula comes in. You mentioned a doula, which is a labor support person, and the research on doulas is very clear that when women have a doula, which is labor support to help decrease the stress, their labor progresses much more effectively. So that shows us that we need some amount of stress hormones, but we also need support for recovering from and buffering stress in order for our natural body processes to work right.

And so I take that lesson and apply it to all different health issues, including HPV and dysplasia. Because what we clearly know is that when we’re under a lot of stress, our immune system is not gonna be able to fend off viruses as well. And what I find in the women that I work with with HPV and abnormal Pap smears, I always ask them, “Has there been a significant stress in your life in the past couple months or in the past year?” And almost 100% of the time they say to me, “Absolutely. I had deaths in my family. I was finishing a graduate degree. I had this really stressful job. I was traveling a lot and changing time zones. I changed my diet and wasn’t eating as healthy as I was before.”

You know, so I all the time we’re able to identify stresses in the recent past that likely made the person much more vulnerable to this HPV virus. Again, I think the virus is looking for a happy home for itself, right? And so it’s gonna find an environment where the immune system is not gonna fight it off. So if your immune system is depleted because of various factors of stress and maybe diet and lack of sleep, you’re not gonna be able to fight off this virus as well. And so that’s exactly where I wanna start helping is by helping you with stress recovery because then we’re gonna help your immune system fight off this virus.

Katie: That’s so fascinating, and it makes me wonder…I wish we could test. It makes me wonder if there are actually a lot more men percentage-wise that have this, and we don’t know because we’re not testing just because I know it came to light with the COVID virus that women…one of the reasons they think women might handle it better, and there’s lower complications with women is because woman’s immune systems typically are more active and that because of that, women also we know have higher rates of autoimmune disease because our immune systems can go too active. But it really makes me curious if there are a lot of men like that we’d have no way of knowing who are kind of like silent carriers of this. But I think it’s also I’m in my head drawing correlations. Can we kind of take some of this information, what we’re finding out, and like what you’re seeing with your patients about HPV? Is this something that’s applicable to other types of chronic viruses? Like do you see this stress component as kind of interwoven through any type of chronic virus?

Dr. Doni: Absolutely. Yes, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes virus, you name it, definitely. And I do a lot of helping with various infections. You know, I think of it like a lot of what I do is helping people learn how to help their body fend off whether it’s even yeast and bacterial, you know, overgrowths and infections. We wanna look at it from the perspective of how do we help your body do a better job of what it’s made to do.

There’s direct nutrients and herbs that will directly support the immune system like vitamin C, for example. We know vitamin C. So much research on vitamin C helps to support the immune system to have a healthy immune response to viruses.

So, just like we use vitamin C for cold or flu virus, we also use vitamin C to help fend off HPV virus, same with vitamin A. You know, vitamin A which normally we would get vitamin A as a beta carotene that converts to vitamin A in our body, but you can also use actual vitamin A. I’m saying this hesitantly because I like to make sure that you’re working with a practitioner to help you with correct dosing because we wanna help you get the clinically effective doses. But, of course, we don’t want you to overdo any of these doses either.

But the point I wanna make is that we can use nutrients too and herbs to directly work on the immune system to help boost the antiviral function of our immune system. That’s one level of the treatment approach, and that’s what you’ll find from most practitioners who help with HPV is they’ll go directly at that level, “Let’s boost your immune system to fight off the virus.” What I would say is, yes, we wanna do that, but we have to also remember to address your stress. Not only to, like one way that people think about stress is, “Okay. I just have to try to decrease my stress,” but sometimes that’s tough. I mean, if you have to work or say you’re a parent and you have…you know, sometimes it’s hard to figure out, “How can I decrease my stress exposure?” One way to do that is I would say to start with the things we have more control over like our diet.

There’s ways to change our diet that’s going to decrease the stress load or the inflammation load. There’s also ways we can help make sure we get enough sleep so that we’re allowing our bodies the time to heal and our immune system to work. And then on another level from that is a lot of what I do is actually help people with stress recovery, which means we can measure the cortisol and adrenaline levels in the body. And if we see that cortisol is way up high or way down low, which is what happens with stress, our cortisol goes way up or way down, then we can use herbs and nutrients and natural approaches to help get that cortisol back on track.

We want cortisol to be higher in the morning and gradually decreasing through the day. And we can actually take steps to help your cortisol get back to that pattern because cortisol is the main messenger in our body that’s gonna send signals out that tells us a signal of not being stressed, of health. We want that cortisol to send a signal to the immune system saying, “Hey, immune system, there’s a virus. Let’s fight it off.” We want the cortisol to communicate to your digestion in a healthy way so you digest your food well and get your nutrients. We want that cortisol to communicate to the hormones and keep the hormones in balance and the nervous system to keep the nervous system in balance. And so I also one of this…this is one of the key differences that I find with my successful cases of addressing HPV is that we work at that level of what I call stress recovery to ensure that your cortisol is working for you instead of against you, if that makes sense.

Katie: Yeah. It absolutely does, and I think you’re right. I think stress is such an important common thread because of all these things like you’ve spoken to a little bit like stress can go so much farther beyond just what we think of as like, “Oh, I’m stressed.” It can be physical things. It can be lifestyle factors, whether it be things we’re coming in contact with that are stressing our body out even if we don’t feel stressed. I think, you know, it’s easy to think of stress and just that like, “Oh, I feel stressed out today,” but like you’re speaking to there’s a lot of different things that can cause this reaction in your body that you may not even recognize, which to echo what you said is why it’s so important to work with a practitioner and to really go deep on all of these things, especially when you’re talking about things like fat-soluble vitamins and things that can be very effective. But also you don’t wanna take too much like you said. Are there common labs or common things, other things that you run with your patients, any other commonalities that you find that seem to be helpful in most cases?

Dr. Doni: In addition to standard blood work, like we wanna look for any other effects of stress like maybe if there’s any anemia or iron deficiency or thyroid imbalances. So we wanna do blood work to look for those things so we can address them. Essentially, we wanna get your body as healthy as possible. So, while it’s tempting to really focus on the virus and vaginally, I wanna help you think big picture and think of your whole body. We want your body as healthy as possible so that you can fend off this virus. Interestingly, by the way, for women who are then preparing for a pregnancy, this process actually gets you super healthy for that future pregnancy because we’re gonna help you do the stress recovery and get your body as healthy as possible, which is exactly what you want for pregnancy too. So you’re kind of multitasking in that situation.

And, of course, you want to…even if you’re not trying for pregnancy, you wanna get your body to that healthiest state, which is when you’re gonna fend off this virus the best. And what I find is when people do that…because a lot of times people will say, “Well, if I do that, is that virus just gonna come back in five years?” And what I find is that’s not the case that when we build your body and get things really back on track again, you’re gonna be fending off this virus into the future. I hear from patients 10 years later, 15 years later, and the virus has not come back positive again. It’s a long-lasting approach.

In terms of your question of what other tests that we do in order to do that. We do the blood work, but then we also do tests that are not in a common…you know, that your doctor’s office is not often gonna do like I mentioned cortisol. We wanna look at your cortisol levels, which is either tested in saliva or urine, because we wanna see the cortisol not just at a single time of day. We wanna see the cortisol in the morning versus the mid-day versus the evening versus the bedtime because, again, it should be higher in the morning and gradually decreasing through the day. When I can see your cortisol levels, that tells me how your body has been affected by stress to this point in time in your life. And so from there, we can really become strategic about getting it back on track again. We can also measure adrenaline levels, and that’s a urine test.

And the other test that I find is key, and I’m so glad you asked me about this, Katie, I find that checking for food sensitivities is so important. And it’s, again, not something that you’ll often hear or think of automatically related to HPV. It’s just that I have been doing this testing side by side. I do a lot of food sensitivity panels in my practice in general, and I was doing them for patients with HPV. And what I found is that the patients with HPV and abnormal Pap smears always come back with food sensitivities. And what that means to me is that they must have intestinal permeability or what we call leaky gut. And the thing is that when the intestinal cells are not as healthy as they could be which is caused by stress of various types. When those intestinal cells are not as healthy as they could be, it allows food to leak through and trigger the immune system. And what starts happening is the immune system starts to protect you from the food you’re eating often.

So some people kind of think, “Oh, wow, I did this food panel, and it just showed that I’m reacting to all the foods I eat.” That’s the definition of leaky gut. That means that your food is not getting digested well. It’s leaking through the intestinal cells, and it’s triggering an immune response. So think about it. Now, if you have your immune system protecting you from your foods, it’s busy protecting you from your foods, and creating a lot of inflammation in your digestion. That’s going to make you more predisposed to the HPV virus and abnormal cells on the cervix. For a lot of people, it’s hard to…you know, it’s not a connection we often think of.

A lot of times people aren’t…you know, it’s surprising to even find out that food sensitivities are related to other conditions like headaches or migraines and joint pain and autoimmunity, but I would add HPV and abnormal Pap smears to that list because I so often find that the two coincide. And what happens is once we have that food sensitivity panel…so this is a specific food panel for IgA and IgG antibodies to foods. Once we see which foods your immune system’s trying to protect you from, let’s say the most common ones are gluten and dairy and eggs. If you see that you’re reacting to those foods, then you know which foods to eliminate from your diet because those foods right now are inflammatory, and they’re making your immune system active against the foods instead of having your immune system help you fight off this virus.

So we remove those foods from your diet, and then we work on healing the intestinal lining. And by doing that, again, we’re decreasing your susceptibility to this virus. And I find that that makes a huge difference in terms of like I have some cases where we just do the standard antiviral approaches to HPV without doing a food panel or without addressing cortisol. And those cases are not as likely to successfully eliminate the virus. But when we address leaky gut and the food sensitivities and we address the cortisol, then we’re getting to this deeper level of helping your body recover from stress. And those are the cases that get rid of HPV the fastest and recover, you know, the most fully from this virus. So I really wanna point that out because it’s not something…you might not hear that everywhere.

Katie: Yeah, such a good point. I mean, as you’re saying these things, I keep thinking too like…considering so many women likely have this and have no idea. These all sound like things that we should all address in general anyway because, like in my experience, gut health and leaky gut resolving that fixed…was a part of fixing my autoimmune issues. And I had stress and sleep connection issues. And so these kind of all work together, and I think women especially are more likely to struggle with problems related to any of them. So addressing everything in a big picture like this it makes so much sense that it would be able to resolve a virus as well. Do you know offhand what percentage of people usually are able to resolve HPV using a protocol like this?

Dr. Doni: In the cases that I’ve worked on over the past 20 years, the percentage is very high. I would even be likely to say greater than 90% even 95%. I’m hoping to get this documented so that I can have it in a, you know, documented study. From the cases that I’ve worked on, it’s a very high percentage of cases where we can, you know, get the virus to negative on a test result. But not only that, but I also see women with different degrees of abnormality on the Pap smear. So, we didn’t talk that through as much, but the brief version would be, you know, HPV, it starts to irritate the cells on the cervix is the way I think about it. And this is what the pathologist is looking for when they look at the cells on a Pap smear. They’re looking for, “Do these cells look like a healthy cell that lives on a cervix, or it is it starting to look a little bit misshapen or a little bit different size?” And so there’s degrees.

So they might say one of the first…the more mild form would be what we call ASCUS or abnormal cells of unknown significance, which is kind of a funny name, right? It just means that there’s a little bit inflamed cells, which could be caused by HPV, but it could also be caused by other things like Candida like a yeast infection or other kinds of inflammation on a cervix. So, that’s a very mild form, which is more easily corrected…more quickly corrected.

Then we go into what we call CIN or, you know, this is when there’s intraepithelial neoplasia. That’s how they call it, is a CIN 1, 2, or 3. So CIN 1 is the more mild and then it goes to CIN 2 and then CIN 3. CIN 3 is the step before it goes to pre-cancer. So we can actually identify this quite early before it goes to pre-cancer or cancer cells, and that’s where we wanna catch it. We’d rather. That’s why they recommend doing Pap smears on a regular basis so that we can hopefully catch it in these early stages.

Now, there’s different ways to treat that. You know, if some of you have had that test results come back, sometimes doctors will treat it with what’s called a leap procedure, which is like a, you know, in-office electrosurgical procedure to remove the abnormal cells. If it’s more advanced like a CIN 3 or pre-cancer, what’s called in situ, then they may wanna remove part of the cervix, which is called a cone biopsy. Then if it becomes into in situ or cancer, then they start talking about removing the cervix or even a hysterectomy, having to have a hysterectomy.

So we wanna prevent that. We wanna start working on it earlier, and the thing is, there actually are documented studies that show that we can use dietary changes, nutrients, herbal approaches that can address these abnormal cells when they’re in that ASCUS to CIN 1 and CIN 2 and even CIN 3 range and get them back to normal cells without having to do any kind of medical intervention. That’s an amazing thing that the doctors are probably not gonna mention because that’s not their specialty. They don’t specialize in using diet and nutrients and herbs. So they’re not gonna even know how to address that.

But I want your listeners to know that that’s possible that we can actually…if you think about it, we’re gonna help this…the cells on the cervix are just like the cells on your skin, right? Our skin, we have dead skin cells that slough off, and we grow back new cells. So on the cervix is the same. We can slough off the abnormal cells, and your body can grow back new healthy cells on the cervix. So that’s what we start to work on is how to help your body grow back healthy cells, how to get rid of the virus so it’s not bothering your healthy cells. And this is how we can get a Pap smear back to normal again.

Katie: So, I’m curious what your take is like for women who have had an abnormal Pap smear and who maybe their doctor is recommending one of those in-office procedures or that’s kind of been recommended. Do you think that there are cases where that’s good and necessary, or do you think in some cases that can be avoided? Because it makes me think of kind of even a little bit like the cancer debate. I know there’s a lot of alternative cancer treatments out there. My thought’s always been if someone…even if they wanna go with conventional cancer treatment, there doesn’t seem to be any harm in also supporting the body from a dietary perspective and also supporting the body from a reduction of stress or for the case of cancer, you know, like using tools like fasting, which are shown to be synergistic with chemo. So even if you’re gonna do chemo, fasting might improve your outcome. What’s your take on that in relation to some of these procedures? Is it better to do them or not do them or is it case-specific?

Dr. Doni: I would say case-specific. It’s a great question. I’m so glad you’re, you know, bringing that up because they are…the way I look at it is it has to be the right decision for each individual. So, for one person, the right choice might be to do say the leap procedure and alongside that make diet changes and use some of these interventions we’re talking about to help prevent the virus from coming back because that’s…the thing is you might do one leap procedure, and then it might come back again next year or in five years. And then there’s cases where they’re having to have leap procedures repeated over and over, or you might have even say you have more advanced abnormal cells, and you need to do a cone biopsy. But you wanna still be I would say using these natural approaches alongside of it because I see cases of women who had their cervix and even had a hysterectomy, and the virus can come back in the vaginal tissue.

And so this is something we call vein, which is where the virus causes abnormal cells in the vaginal tissue. So this virus doesn’t wanna give up, right? If it thinks it’s a happy home for it, it’s gonna find another way. And so we wanna make it so that your body is not a happy home for HPV. I agree with you or I think what you’re saying is really important. No matter what you choose in terms of how you wanna address the current abnormal cells, I would encourage you to still be thinking of stress recovery, dietary changes, nutrients. You know, let’s get your body healthy so that you don’t have…this isn’t coming back and this isn’t getting worse.

Katie: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. That makes complete sense.

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I’m curious as well. I know that it’s a controversial subject. So if you wanna skip it, I totally understand. But there is now a vaccine for HPV that gets recommended, especially for teenagers, and this question has come up quite a bit with the audience. I’m curious your take on that and if you think that it can be beneficial, or are there also potential concerns that we might need to be aware of with it as well.

Dr. Doni: Definitely. The Gardasil vaccine and there’s different versions of the vaccine that have been developed over time. The one that’s used most often now is what’s called a Gardasil 1 or excuse me, 9. And the 9 stands for the number of different types of HPV that it works against. So one thing to know and keep in mind is even if you do that vaccine, it’s going to be potentially protecting you from those 9 strains, which includes the 16 and 18. The most risky ones are the ones most associated with cancer. Those are included in the 9, but the vaccine doesn’t fend off all the hundreds of types of HPV.

So I also see cases where people have gotten the vaccine, and they still get HPV, and they can still get an abnormal Pap smear. So just know that it’s not 100%. It’s not like it’s gonna be you do the vaccine and you don’t have to worry anymore. You do the vaccine, and you still have to do Pap smears, and you still might get HPV. So I feel like that’s really important information. You know, anytime you’re gonna do a vaccine, I feel like it’s most important to get as much information as you can, and so I always encourage you to do your research and look up what are the potential side effects of this vaccine. What have other people experienced? How likely is it that you might experience a side effect? Then you can make more of an informed decision about it because it’s they are…

You know, with all things, there is some risk of side effects and there is some risk of harm with the vaccine. And so you have to weigh that out for yourself and think through, you know, “In my situation or in my child’s situation, is it worth it to do this vaccine to potentially cover for these nine types of HPV?” At the same time, I’m hoping with information I’m sharing to help you know that if and when you or your child is exposed to HPV or does come back positive to HPV, there’s a lot we can do to fend off that virus, you know, so that it doesn’t get the chance to cause cancer. So just knowing that, knowing, “Okay. Here’s this vaccine. Here’s what it covers. Here’s what the risks are. Here’s what the risks of the virus are and how I would address it if I got it positive, you know, with or without the vaccine, and then be able to navigate that decision from there.”

Katie: I think that’s a great perspective, and you mentioned with kids. You know, I have teenagers who eventually like one day this is something I think about for them. I would guess it might be hard to know but without being able to test especially men. Do we know if someone has like for instance had an abnormal Pap smear and tested for HPV and then resolved it? Do we know if once the virus is dormant, are they still able to transmit? And really I guess to echo what you said in the beginning, we don’t really have any way to know if men have it or if they’re transmitting or not. Do you have any tips for helping people stay safe?

Dr. Doni: These are all great points, and sometimes those unknowns can be anxiety-producing. You know, we start to go, “Oh, my gosh, do I wanna be in a relationship? Do I wanna have sex knowing that, you know, we don’t even have a way to test to see if this other person has HPV?” And so it can create a lot of anxiety, right, and feeling like wanting to isolate yourself from this virus. So I’m hoping to help you find a middle ground there and feel like, “Okay. I understand that there were some unknowns. I also know that there’s…especially after listening to this today there’s a lot of things we can do about this virus very successfully. And so then you can start to navigate in your relationships, “How do I wanna make these choices? How do I wanna, you know, protect myself?” You can use a condom, and that’s one way to, you know, help prevent exposure to the virus. I don’t think it’s necessarily 100% because, you know, there’s other contact, you know, in the area.

And oral sex, for example, is another way to transmit HPV. So, you know, there’s ways to minimize your risks such as using a condom. And you may wanna then…before you go into a relationship, you may wanna get a Pap smear, an HPV test done so you know whether as a woman if you have HPV. And you may wanna, you know, talk to…you know in the relationship that you’re in talk to that other person and see if they have any, you know, history of HPV in their prior relationships. You can start to ask a little bit more.

And I’m actually really hoping that people feel a little more comfortable talking about it because this virus has been something that’s really isolated women and I think men as well. Because a lot of times, I hear from women who find out they have HPV, and then they’re afraid to tell their partner because they don’t want their partner to, you know, leave them, say leave the relationship because of finding out that she has HPV. Other times the woman finds out she has HPV, and she might feel angry at her partner as if maybe the partner was having sex outside of the relationship, and that’s why the HPV happened.

And so I wanna just mention those because it definitely becomes part of this, and, of course, we’re talking about how decreasing stress helps to fend off this virus. So if there’s a lot of emotional stress around finding out that you’re positive for HPV, that’s gonna actually be to the advantage of the virus. So we wanna help you to process those stresses and help you to get to a place where you can be, you know, more proactive about the virus and not in a stress state about, “How did I get exposed, and where did it come from?” Do you know what I mean? That stressed ruminating anxious thoughts about, “How did I get this” and feeling angry too. Those are very common to feel angry about, you know, finding that you have this virus, even angry at yourself.

I’ve talked to a lot of women who are just like so mad at themselves for getting this virus to come back positive on a test result, and I really try to help talk them through that and let them know that this virus is so common and it’s because there aren’t a lot of ways to test for it, and there’s no symptoms. So it’s not like a person knows they have symptoms of HPV. There are no symptoms. Men don’t have any symptoms of these high-risk types either. It doesn’t cause genital warts. So they wouldn’t know.

Because of that unknown, I think we have to give each other a little bit of slack and just know, “Okay. This is a virus that lives in this world with us, and we’re very likely to get exposed to it.” It’s nothing bad that you did or bad that someone else did that it ended up coming back positive. It’s more like, “How do we then learn from this? How do we then use this virus as a chance to learn that, ‘Hey, my body’s susceptible right now? I’ve been under a lot of stress, and I haven’t had enough chance to help my body recover. And that’s why this virus is hanging out here”‘? And that help me recover from stress. It helps my immune system work better so that I can fend off this HPV virus just like you fend off all kinds of viruses and other microbes in the environment every day all day. Do you see what I mean? So let’s reframe it so that it doesn’t have to be such a stressful situation and help you to become more proactive and empowered about it.

Katie: That’s such an important perspective and I think applicable to so many areas of life. I think about that. Even in my own journey it’s been like 13 years kind of my own health journey, and in the beginning, I was angry at myself for having Hashimoto’s, and I was angry at my body for not doing what I wanted it to do. And it really wasn’t until like you said I kind of started working with my body and like, “I wanna be your friend. Let’s get through this together and not fighting it” that it got so much easier to work through that. And I found a quote, and I’ve shared it before in here. But it was really impactful for me during that time. And it said, “I said to my body for the first time, ‘I want to be your friend,’ and my body responded, “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.” I think that’s like for women especially, you know, like we have to give ourselves that grace like you said. I just think that’s so beautiful.

Dr. Doni: It’s so important. Beautiful. Thank you.

Katie: A brief point of clarity. So, men don’t have symptoms. Men can’t know they have it. Does it have any negative effects on men that we know of?

Dr. Doni: It can cause cancer. Usually, for men, it’s more likely to be an oral cancer in the oral mucosa or the throat. So, yes, you know, that’s the thing where for men, you know, in some ways it’s even worse because they don’t have symptoms other than if they get genital warts. They don’t have symptoms and there’s no test. I mean, they could. If you thought you might have symptoms, you can go into an ENT and get, you know, tested for the abnormal cells in the throat. But that’s not a normal screening exam for men.

So men are actually, you know, really in this unknown space where if they think they might have been exposed to HPV or maybe have any kind of symptoms in the oral area should be thinking about, “Hey, maybe I need to be checking to see if HPV is causing an issue here.” But, yeah, that’s definitely the case. It’s right. When you start to think about it, you’re like, “Wow, there’s some areas here that we really have opportunity to help people be more proactive about this. You know, what if we could be testing men to help them know if they have HPV.” Then they can be proactive too.

The people I work with when the women come with positive HPV and an abnormal Pap smears, they say to me, “What about my partner? Can we help him too?” And so we start then to address the men’s health. We use nutrients and help them with stress recovery and help them fend off the virus. Even though we can’t test for it, we presume that they likely have it or at least they’ve been exposed to it. We wanna help them to fend off this virus as well.

Katie: Awesome. And I will make sure that in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm I will link to your website and also to your book because I know you go a lot deeper on a lot of these things we’ve talked about today. And if anyone wants to find you and work with you directly, do you work remotely with patients as well?

Dr. Doni: I do. Yes, I work by phone, video with patients around the world. It’s been very exciting to be able to help people both in the United States and also, you know, everywhere, Australia and India and Dubai, you know, you name it. Because women around the world are finding out that they have this HPV and abnormal Pap smears, and they are all looking for, “What can I do?” And it’s scary because sometimes when you’re in that situation, you don’t know who to trust. You might be searching the internet and kind of compiling your own list of potential things you could do, but you feel like you’re piecing it together, and you’re not totally sure you’re gonna be successful because, you know, you’ve never done this before.

So I really hope that, you know, those people who are listening, you know, can feel a lot more secure in knowing that there are people like me who’ve been doing this for a long period of time and helping a lot of people. And I have come up with a lot of resources to help one on one. I can meet with people one on one to guide them through the process, and I also have created a group online course to guide people so that we can…it’s anonymous.

So you can join the group course online without…if you don’t wanna share, you know, your name or your location or your sex even, you can join and get this information on how you can yourself, you know, starting today start making steps to change your diet and get the right nutrients and get the right stress recovery so that you can fend off this virus even if you just wanna do it proactively without ever having a positive. Like you said, this process of helping you fend off this virus actually ends up just helping you be healthier, in general, to fend off a lot of health conditions.

Katie: Awesome. I will make sure all those links are included. And another question I love to ask kind of for my own reference at the end of podcast is if there’s a book or a number of books that have really dramatically impacted your life and if so what they are and why.

Dr. Doni: If you could see me right now you see I have a bookcase in front of me with a whole bunch of my favorite books. I love to read, and I love to learn in all different areas of health and wellness. But the book that always comes to mind first when I’m asked that question is Eckhart Tolle, his book called “A New Earth.” And the thing about Eckhart Tolle, he does a lot of work around meditation and mindfulness. The lesson from this book that I find is really helpful especially related to HPV and this discussion we’ve been having is that he helps us to create some space between us and let’s say our thoughts or our anxieties, a space between us and this virus, a space where we can then think through and connect with what’s really true for us in the moment.

Because it’s tempting for us to be attached to a diagnosis, right, like a diagnosis of HPV, and that can create us a lot of stress by being very focused on a diagnosis, or we might be very attached to the story of how we got that HPV or why we’re susceptible. But to the extent that we’re attached to a diagnosis or attached to the story means that it’s…we’re not gonna be as successful resolving, and it’s gonna be a stress that continues. And so what Eckhart guides us to do is to learn to create some space for ourselves and to let go of those stories and the diagnosis to really find ourselves. And from there, I think that’s when you can find that empowered place where you can start to feel empowered about your health and the choices you’re making about your health and what you can do about it to change your future.

Katie: I think that’s a perfect place to wrap up. I love how deep we were able to go. I love your approach to this and the tangible tools you’re giving people. And I’m also glad that we had this conversation, and that like to speak to your point, we’re speaking publicly about a topic that has been so taboo because I think you’re right. We all benefit when we can move these conversations to the forefront, especially when we’re talking about solutions. And I’m very grateful that you’re doing that and that you’re helping so many people. Thank you for your time and sharing today here with us.

Dr. Doni: Oh, you’re welcome. It’s my pleasure. My goal is just to have this information reach as many people as possible because, just from my experience to know that it’s possible to get this HPV to negative and get the Pap smear to negative, it’s been so empowering. And it’s actually my patients who come back to me and encourage me. They say, “Dr. Doni, you have to tell more people that this is possible. So, really, this is a gift from my patients. So thank you, Katie, for having me.

Katie: Oh, I love it, and thanks as always to all of you for sharing one of your most valuable resources, your time with us today. We’re both very grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.