The two herpes simplex viruses, HSV-1 or HSV-2, are the cause of oral and genital herpes. Both viruses enter through moist surfaces, such as the mouth, the anus or the vagina, or through small cracks in the skin. After entering, the viruses reside in the nervous system, either close to the ear or at the base of the spine, and can cause a herpes outbreak. There is no scientific evidence for a direct link between testosterone levels and herpes. But herpes outbreaks tend to be more frequent around the time of menstruation when testosterone levels are low, suggesting that low testosterone levels may trigger outbreaks.
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Oral Vs. Genital Herpes
As a rule of thumb, HSV-1 causes oral herpes, or cold sores, whereas HSV-2 causes genital herpes. However, this is only a rule of thumb. Both herpes simplex viruses HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause cold sores and genital herpes. Though the former has a slight preference for sites above the waist and the latter has a slight preference for sites below the waist, either virus can lead to sores on both lips and genitals.
Testosterone and the Libido
Testosterone is a steroid hormone secreted in the ovaries and adrenal glands in women and in the testes and adrenal glands in men. Testosterone is crucial for a healthy sex drive in both men and women. When testosterone levels are too low, sexual desire and sperm count go down in men. Men may further lose muscle mass and develop feminine body traits. In women, low testosterone levels occur naturally around the time of menstruation and after menopause. The lowering of the naturally occurring testosterone levels can give rise to anorgasmia, decreased sexual desire, vaginal dryness, loss of bone and muscle mass and loss of feminine features.
Potential Causes of Herpes Outbreaks
No one knows exactly what causes herpes outbreaks. But they tend to occur more frequently in times of stress and sickness and when women are menstruating. Since testosterone levels are lower in women around the time of menstruation, it is possible that low testosterone levels plays a role in triggering herpes outbreaks. There may not be a direct mechanism of action underlying this phenomenon. Internal stress associated with menstruation could lower the immune defense, which then could trigger an outbreak.
Increasing Testosterone to Prevent Outbreaks
Since there is no treatment of herpes, the only thing individuals with herpes can do to reduce their discomfort is to prevent the severity and frequency of outbreaks. Keeping the immune system strong is one way to do this. If testosterone indeed is a factor in triggering outbreaks, dietary changes to increase testosterone levels may also potentially prevent outbreaks from occurring. Foods that increase testosterone levels include oysters, red meat, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Some foods decrease testosterone levels by increasing estrogen levels. They include non-organic produce, soy products and dairy products.