Can Eating Certain Foods Help Heal & Prevent a Herpes Outbreak?

Herpes is the common name for infections caused by one of two types of the herpes simplex virus. Oral herpes, also known as cold sores or fever blisters, involves the face, while genital herpes involves the genitals, buttocks or anal area. There is no cure for herpes, and some people experience frequent, troublesome outbreaks in response to triggers such as stress, sunlight and diet. Eating certain foods can help heal and prevent a herpes outbreak.

Whole Grains

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that people obtain 45 to 65 percent of their daily calorie intake in the form of carbohydrates. However, in the December 2005 issue of "Alternative Medicine Reviews," nutritional medicine specialist Alan R. Gaby, M.D., claims that ingesting large amounts of refined carbohydrates impairs immune function. In humans, Gaby writes, ingesting just 300 calories of glucose produces measurable decreases in immune-system function in as little as 30 minutes. Although Gaby admits that specific studies on refined carbohydrates and herpes have never been conducted, he writes that many of his patients have noticed the correlation. Whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, barley and quinoa represent healthful and tasty alternatives to refined carbohydrates such as white flour, white rice, sugar and corn syrup.

Meat, Poultry and Fish

Meat, poultry and fish contain a high ratio of lysine to arginine, two essential amino acids implicated in herpes outbreaks. According to Gaby, the herpes virus requires arginine in order to reproduce. Lysine, by contrast, counteracts the growth-stimulating effects of arginine on herpes and stimulates the production of an enzyme, arginase, that breaks down arginine. In addition to amino acids, these foods also provide key minerals such as iron and zinc, low levels of which also contribute to the risk of herpes outbreaks. While meat, poultry and fish can help fight herpes, they can cause other health problems. It's important to choose lean cuts of meat and poultry and follow local public health advisories on fish consumption.

Fruits and Vegetables

Vitamins and other, non-vitamin compounds such as flavonoids in fruits and vegetables also help fight herpes. In the 2007 edition of "Integrative Medicine," University of Wisconsin professor David Rakel, M.D., specifically recommends consuming at least seven or eight servings per day in order to ward off herpes outbreaks and speed symptom resolution when outbreaks do occur. Good choices include citrus fruits, bell peppers, mangoes, onions and broccoli. In addition to their effects on herpes, higher intakes of fruits and vegetables are also associated with reduced risk of several major health problems, notes the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including stroke, diabetes, cancer and obesity.

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