Although there's no cure for herpes once you contract the virus, you may be able to manage outbreaks with lifestyle and dietary changes. Stress, for example, can trigger a flare-up of cold sores or genital blisters, and learning stress-management techniques may help with prevention. Food choices, too, can work in your favor, so start your day with a healthful breakfast with a good ratio of essential amino acids to help manage herpes. Talk to your doctor about the best ways to deal with your condition — don't attempt to self-treat through diet.
Foods to Avoid: High Arginine
The amino acid arginine feeds the herpes virus while lysine impedes it, according to integrative medicine practitioner Dr. Deborah Gordon on her website. The two compete for absorption, so keeping them in balance or choosing foods with more lysine than arginine can help your body resist the virus, says Gordon. Many favorite breakfast foods — such as cooked and ready-to-eat cereals, orange juice and nut butters — are high in arginine while simultaneously being low in lysine, so your morning meal will take some rethinking. Gordon advises you to avoid cereal, cream of wheat, oatmeal, white or whole-wheat toast and sugary breakfast items like muffins and pastries. Sugary processed foods can suppress the immune system, triggering herpes outbreaks.
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Dairy Foods Help: High Lysine
Plain yogurt has almost three times as much lysine as arginine and is an excellent choice for your breakfast diet for herpes. Many fruits — especially the tropical kind — are also low in arginine, so enjoy a cup of yogurt mixed with chopped papaya or pineapple. Most fruits are also good sources of vitamin C, an immune booster. Steer clear of adding granola or nuts to the top of your yogurt, though, because those foods are higher in arginine. If you aren't a yogurt fan, substitute cottage or ricotta cheese and use the same types of fruits.
For days when you're in a hurry or need a quick, to-go meal, make a smoothie with a base of skim or low-fat milk, for a ratio of lysine to arginine of about 2-to-1. Blend the milk with your favorite whey powder and some vitamin-C-rich mango. Greens like chard and kale supply B vitamins, which help you manage stress, so toss some of these veggies into your smoothies, too. In fact, most vegetables are naturally high in lysine, so think outside the breakfast box and smear some celery or bell pepper sticks with goat cheese. When you're really rushed, bring an apple to munch on in the car, or a handful of dried fruit like apricots or figs. Michael Murray, N.D., an authority on natural medicine, recommends green drinks made from spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass and the like.
Eggs have about a 1-1 ratio of lysine to arginine, and some of the foods you add to your egg dishes will boost the lysine and vitamin content further. For example, make an omelet or frittata with an ounce of shredded Swiss, mozzarella or Cheddar cheese and a generous helping of your favorite veggies, like peppers, mushrooms and spinach. If you eat meat, add some chopped ham to the eggs, or have a slice of Canadian bacon on the side. Serve with fresh fruit, sliced avocado, black beans or applesauce.
- American Academy of Dermatology: Herpes Simplex
- Dr. Deborah M.D.: Herpes Simplex Type 2
- Herpes.com: Herpes Nutritional Information
- DoctorMurray.com: Herpes
- Healthaliciousness.com: Swiss Chard, Spinach, Kale
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Stress
- 1981 study: Relation of arginine-lysine antagonism to herpes simplex growth in tissue culture.
- 1987 study: Assessment of dietary intake of lysine and arginine in patients with herpes simplex.