Can Foods Cause Herpes Outbreaks?

The herpes simplex virus, commonly known as herpes, is transmitted through direct contact. There are two strains of the virus -- one that causes cold sores and the other that causes genital herpes. Most people with herpes have outbreaks multiple times within a year, with itchy, painful sores and blisters. The outbreaks occur less frequently as time goes on, and medication can help reduce the severity of outbreaks. However, watching your diet can also help you reduce the number of outbreaks you have.

A small bowl of raisins. (Image: MSPhotographic/iStock/Getty Images)

Foods that Lower Your Immune System

According to, people with herpes should limit their sugar intake to help reduce the likelihood of an outbreak. Your immune system helps you fight off the virus and keep outbreaks at bay, while sugar suppresses your white blood cells from doing their job as virus killers. Sugar may also lower your immune system by inhibiting your body's utilization of vitamin C and absorption of B vitamins, which all play a role in immune function.

Foods with High Amounts of Arginine

Arginine is an amino acid found in peanuts, raisins, chocolate and certain grains, including wheat. Because herpes requires arginine to proliferate, too much of it can actually trigger a herpes outbreak. Lysine is an amino acid that balances out arginine, and it's found in meat and dairy products. However, too much of these foods can make the body too acidic, which can also trigger herpes outbreaks. Watching your diet and knowing which foods contain arginine and lysine is important because it takes a balancing act between the two to help keep outbreaks at bay.

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