Why An Abnormal Pap Isn't The End Of The World
I know exactly how you feel. You're sitting there alone in a paper dressing gown with your knees knocking together and your teeth chattering. It's so quiet you can hear the second hand of the clock ticking the time away (speaking of time, just how long have you been in here?). If it weren't for the stack of outdated gossip magazines (and your admirable sense of self-care), you'd be suiting up and hopping the next train home.
But before you can change your mind and slip on your skinny jeans, in comes your gynecologist to conduct your annual exam.
We have all been there – the dreaded annual exam. We vow each year to be more sexually responsible, to eat better, to get enough rest, to join a gym, but alas, life takes over, and before we know it, we're back in the doctor's office waiting to get a status update on what's going on "down there."
And it's not always good news.
An abnormal pap most often points to the presence of HPV (Human Papillomavirus). According to the CDC, approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected. Sadly, HPV is almost as common as the common cold, so there is absolutely no reason to feel alone.
But maybe you already have HPV, and now your pap results are showing something more. If you've been diagnosed with cervical dysplasia (abnormal cervical cell changes), then there are a few things you should know...
1. Your life is not over.
Cervical dysplasia doesn't automatically translate into cervical cancer. In fact, in many cases, the abnormal cells will go away on their own without any sort of medical intervention. Even if your cell changes are already highly abnormal, your doctor should be able to remove those pesky cells through a simple, in-office procedure. The great news is that cervical cancer is avoidable if it's detected early enough, and thanks to an annual exam, it can be!
2. You're not alone.
If you ask around, you'll find that many women you know have received the same diagnosis. The stigmas surrounding sexually transmitted infections and other sexual health issues tend to promote silence. We're often ashamed or embarrassed, preferring not to discuss such sensitive information with our friends and family. But I'm here to let the cat out of the bag: chances are, someone very close to you has received the same diagnosis!
3. You have the power to support your body's healing process.
The health of your cells is closely linked to the way you treat your body. This means that YOU have the ability to jumpstart your immune system through smart dietary choices, stress management and lifestyle modifications. When you support your immune system, you give your body the tools it needs to reverse the abnormal cell changes and promote a healthy cervix.
So let’s talk about some immediate steps you can take to start boosting your immune system…
1. Go green.
For any type of health issue, greens are my number one recommendation (that’s because they hold amazing medicinal powers!). If your time in the kitchen is limited, buy a green juice or a green powder supplement. Work a salad into your daily routine for lunch or dinner (or both!). Munch on raw broccoli for an afternoon pick me up! And for the record, frozen veggies are great on a budget. Throw them in the freezer for a quick weeknight stir fry! In fact, frozen veggies oftentimes contain more nutrients than their fresh counterparts because they are harvested and flash frozen when the nutrients are at their peak!
2. Reduce your toxic load.
Toxins have sadly become a daily part of our lives, and unfortunately, many are unavoidable. But one of the easiest ways to reduce your toxic load is to clean up your makeup bag. Your skin absorbs up to 60% or more of what you put on it so just guess where the toxic chemicals and additives in your beauty products end up? For more information on why you should clean out your makeup bag, check out my blog post here.
3. Say no to stress.
When you're constantly stressed, your body is in permanent fight-or-flight mode, and crucial immune-sustaining functions are put on hold while your body tries to fight off the “attacker” (or stressor, in this case). When you live in a state of constant stress, your immune system can’t do its normal job, and you're more susceptible to illness. If I could stress one thing (no pun intended), it's THIS – find healthy ways to manage your stress, or seek out someone like me to help!
So when you get disappointing news from your doctor, please take a deep breath and give yourself a big bear hug! This news is not the end of the world and you, my friend, are not helpless! When your body exhibits a symptom, it's often a blessing in disguise, a red flag meant to bring your attention to an area of your life that needs some TLC.
And once you figure out what that area is, you will be well on your way towards healing!
Ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.