Alternative Medicine: Herpes and Nutrition
After doing suppressive therapy for two years I finally decided it was time to see whether my body could fight the herpes virus on its own. I had just broken up with my boyfriend, moved to a new city, and was looking forward to the single life again. I assumed I wouldn’t be having as much sex as I had while in a relationship, so if I had frequent outbreaks at least it wouldn’t affect anyone else. This period in my life, I reasoned, would be a good time to try out alternative methods of treating and suppressing herpes outbreaks.
It has been two and a half years since I went off suppressive therapy (800 mg of Acyclovir per day) and I have tried many things including traditional Chinese medicine, a topical solution I bought online, vitamins and supplements, and a considerable change in daily habits. Although none of these methods have completely rid me of constant outbreaks, all of them have been useful at decreasing the length of an outbreak or prolonging the time between outbreaks. I would like to discuss my experiences with these methods in separate SharePosts and will hopefully try out some new methods in the future.
One natural approach to battling herpes outbreaks is by changing one’s diet. Some say that taking supplements of the essential amino acid, lysine, can be beneficial. I have tried taking lysine supplements daily for the last six months (though sometimes I miss a day or two) and haven’t found that it helps much. However, I just read online that taking less than one gram a day is useless, and I was barely reaching that amount. So I am now going to up my dosage to two grams per day and see if it helps (I’ll report back with my results). Conversely, one can get lysine from food. Foods that are high in lysine (foods you should eat) are: fish, meat, milk products, beans, eggs. Foods that are high in arginine (foods you should avoid) include: all types of nuts, cocoa, peanut butter, sesame seeds, coconut, buckwheat flour, brown rice, garbanzo beans, oatmeal, raisins.
Nutritionists also say that someone with herpes should avoid caffeine and sugar. I don’t know if that’s just for general health and well-being, or if there’s a link between those substances and the herpes virus. Although I have yet to wean myself off of chocolate and sugar, I have quit caffeine cold turkey and found it to be helpful. Whenever I think I can sneak some caffeine into my body, I almost always have an outbreak immediately following. It took me years to realize caffeine had such a negative effect on my body.
I have recently made a conscious effort to avoid arginine-heavy foods and embrace lysine-heavy ones"but I’m human and I have my weak moments for candy bars and nuts. So far, following this diet has, at best, decreased the severity of my outbreaks, but hasn’t really kept the outbreaks away, as I had hoped. I’m a firm believer that everyone is different and lysine may work for some people. I encourage you to try it for yourself if you’re looking for alternative ways of dealing with herpes.
Has anyone had much success with lysine? Are there any foods you notice trigger an outbreak that maybe we should all avoid? Any other thoughts on treating herpes through nutrition?
Penelope wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Sexual Health.