Foods to Avoid and Vitamins for Herpes

Herpes is a common name for infections caused by one of two types of the herpes simplex virus. Oral herpes, also known as fever blisters, cold sores and herpes labialis, affects the mouth and the surrounding skin. Genital herpes affects the genitals and sometimes the buttocks or anus. There is no cure for herpes and some people suffer periodic reactivations. Avoiding certain foods and consuming certain vitamins can reduce the frequency and severity of herpes outbreaks.

A box of chocolates. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Foods to Avoid

In the 2007 edition of "Integrative Medicine," University of Wisconsin professor David Rakel, M.D. recommends steering clear of foods rich in the amino acid arginine, such as chocolate, peanuts, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds and gelatin. According to Dr. Rakel, the herpes simplex virus requires arginine to reproduce. Diets high in arginine can trigger the virus to begin reproducing. Although arginine is found in many foods, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and legumes, arginine in these foods is counteracted by another amino acid, lysine, that opposes the effects of arginine on the herpes simplex virus.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin found naturally in many fruits and vegetables and also marketed as a dietary supplement over the counter. According to holistic medicine specialist Alan R. Gaby, M.D. in the December 2005 issue of "Alternative Medicine Reviews," doctors have known since the 1930s that high intakes of vitamin C can also fight herpes by inactivating the herpes simplex virus. Dr. Gaby recommends taking supplements in doses of 10,000 mg per day to treat an active outbreak and 500 to 3,000 mg per day to prevent future outbreaks. For people who prefer to focus on vitamin C from foods, sources include bell peppers, citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, leafy greens, sweet and white potatoes, cantaloupe, papaya, mango, watermelon, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, winter squash, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and pineapples.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin found naturally in fruits, vegetables and grain. Like vitamin C, it is marketed as an over-the-counter dietary supplement. Unlike vitamin C, therapeutic use of vitamin E for herpes has focused on topical applications. Dr. Rakel says that patients who apply vitamin E oil generally experience a decrease in herpes-related discomfort within as little as 15 minutes, but sometimes it takes up to eight hours. Patients also report more rapid healing, especially when vitamin E is applied frequently, up to four times per day. For people who prefer to focus on vitamin E from foods, sources include vegetable oils made from wheat germ, sunflower or safflower and green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.

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