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“Let food be thy medicine” ~ Hippocrates

By paying attention to what we eat we can help to minimize the chance of a herpes recurrence. Here are some expert tips to help keep herpes symptoms away and to put you in control.

Top Ten Herpes Diet Tips

TIP #.1 Avoid supplements or foods that contain excessive Arginine

One theory is that foods which contain high amounts of the amino acid Arginine can provoke or bring on a herpes episode for some people. This is related to the fact that the herpes virus requires this amino acid to grow, replicate and to become active. This is why limiting foods which are very high in Arginine can be helpful for those who are trying to reduce herpes breakouts.

Foods which are high in Arginine and can commonly trigger an outbreak are:

  • Chocolate
  • Nuts, including peanut butter
  • Protein shakes and drinks that contain Arginine
  • Oats, including porridge
  • Muscle building formulas and multivitamins that contain Arginine

Reducing some of these foods can be helpful but it is important not to make this the main focus of your diet.
The human body naturally produces Arginine so it can never be eliminated completely. Simply being mindful of foods that are excessively high in this amino acid, and not taking it in supplement form, is sufficient when trying to reduce herpes symptoms.

Tip #.2 Balance Arginine rich foods with Lysine

Lysine helps to stop the virus which causes herpes. If you get ample amounts of this amino acid in your diet it can help to reduce the frequency of the symptoms and make healing faster. This is why it is recommended to eat foods that are high in Lysine, or take a Lysine supplement. See the Supplements section for advice on what to look for in a Lysine supplement. Chart of Lysine vs Arginine in foods.

Foods that contain high amounts of Lysine are:

  • Most vegetables and fruits particularly beets, avocados, mangoes, tomatoes, apples, apricots, pears, figs and papaya
  • Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheeses
  • Eggs
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Fish, particularly sardines and cod
  • Chicken, beef and lamb
  • Sprouts

Tip #.3 Eat foods which are good for your skin

Lysine is beneficial but it is not the only nutrient that the body requires to ward off herpes. The skin should also be nourished with essential nutrients that are needed to resist an infection, as well as to regenerate and repair itself.

Make sure that you are getting plenty of zinc, vitamin C and bioflavonoids in your diet to help protect, nourish and strengthen your skin. This will help your skin to heal more quickly during breakouts, and will also help make your body more resistant to the symptoms surfacing in the first place.

Foods that contain high amounts of Vitamin C:

  • Fresh fruits (especially citrus, such as oranges)
  • Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, bok choy and spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Papaya (papaw)
  • Parsley

Foods that contain high amounts of Bioflavonoids:

  • Most citrus fruits, including oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, mandarins and others. Many bright colored fruits and vegetables, including cherries, cranberries, grapes, peppers, apricots and prunes
  • Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach
  • Black tea (such as Earl Gray, etc)
  • Broccoli, brussel sprouts and eggplant (aubergine or egg fruit)
  • Wine and juice made from berries or grapes
  • Some varieties of red clover
  • Rosehips

Foods that contain high amounts of Zinc:

  • Seafood
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Most dairy products
  • Beans and lentils
  • Wholegrain cereals
  • Legumes

Tip #.4 Avoid or reduce these foods to help prevent outbreaks

– Artificial sweeteners

Anecdotal evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners can trigger a herpes outbreak for some people. They are commonly found in food and drinks that are “diet” or “sugar free” including diet sodas, many toothpastes and sugar substitutes. Check the label to see if it contains the word ‘sweetener’ followed by a reference number, or any one of these ingredient names:

– Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)
– Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
– Sucralose (Splenda, Altern), or
– Sorbitol

– Protein shakes or muscle building formulas

  • that contain the amino acid Arginine

– White bread

  • replace with wholemeal, rye or brown bread where possible

– Cut back on coffee, caffeine and soda

  • especially if you feel you have too much of these in your diet

– If you are going to drink alcohol or take recreational drugs…

try to do so in moderation. If you have a late night or do not get adequate sleep, try taking Panax or Korean Ginseng (before, during and after) to help reduce the negative impact it can have on your body. This in turn can help reduce the chance of a breakout.

White and refined sugars

  • Be mindful of excess sweets in your diet and opt for a natural sweetener instead of sugar where possible, such as agave syrup or stevia.

Eat chocolate, nuts and oats in moderation

  • not every day or to excess

Tip #.5 Eat lots of broccoli and other “cruciferous” vegetables

Vegetables belonging to the cruciferous family (including brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale) may help to stop herpes in its tracks, this is due to a naturally high amount of a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C).

Clinical studies show that this compound has the potential to interfere with the way the Herpes simplex virus (HSV) reproduces. The preliminary trial results are very promising, so eat up on these nutritious vegetables whenever you can.

Tip #.6 Ditch processed and junk food

The occasional treat is no problem, but where possible try to avoid deep fried foods, sugary treats, white bread, junk foods and any processed or packet foods. Foods with artificial colorings, flavorings and preservatives fit into this category too.

Try to reduce the amount of saturated animal fat consumed (which is found in all animal products, and especially fatty cuts of meat) and particularly avoid trans-fatty acids. Trans-fatty acids are commonly found in:

  • Margarine
  • Fast food restaurant food
  • Packet or snack foods, such as crisps
  • Frozen dinners

Some simple adjustments to your kitchen cupboard can help you live a healthier life and therefore help to prevent herpes outbreaks:

  • Use real butter in place of margarine
  • Use a quality, high smoking point oil when you cook your meals such as olive, coconut, rice bran or grapeseed oil
  • Use raw sugar or a natural sweetener, instead of white sugar or artificial sweeteners

Tip #.7 Increase the amount of fresh “raw” foods in your diet

This could be the single most important diet tip of this entire guide because what you eat and therefore how your body functions all begins from here. There are a number of reasons why we might neglect to eat raw fruits and vegetables, including convenience, family tradition and how we are raised. The truth is, eating fresh raw foods everyday should not be a “diet”, it should be a way of life. It will help you to maintain a healthy weight, have more energy and vitality, more youthful skin and… less outbreaks.

Some simple suggestions to get started:

  • Include fresh, raw fruits and vegetables as a side to your breakfast, lunch or dinner
  • When you have a snack try munching on vegetable sticks made of celery, beets or carrot, with a nice dip such as hummus to go with it
  • Make a salad for lunch that has as many raw vegetables as you can find, including fresh greens and sprouts, and top with your choice of oil such as coconut, olive, grapeseed, flaxseed, etc. Finish with a decent pinch of salt and a very small splash of apple cider vinegar
  • Drink a freshly made fruit or vegetable juice each day (within minutes of making it) from whatever is in season in your area. Some nice mixes are:
    – Apples, carrots and celery
    – Apples, pineapples, mint and lime
    – Tomatoes, beets, carrots, salt and pepper
    – Berries, apples and watermelon
    – Whatever yummy fruits you have access to, be creative
    – Add a dash of fresh ginger or bee pollen to your fruit juices, if you desire

Tip #.8 Eat foods which help you to de-stress and relax

Stress has a profoundly negative effect on the body and may contribute to the length and frequency of herpes breakouts. Try to avoid or reduce the stress in your life however you can.

You can improve your diet to assist your body in weathering the stress by eating a diet rich in B vitamins and magnesium. Vitamin B5 has long been considered the “anti-stress” vitamin, and when taken along with vitamin B6 and magnesium your body has a better chance to recover from stressful situations.

If taken in a supplement form, B vitamins should always be taken together in a “complex” to prevent causing an imbalance because some B vitamins are codependent on one another. The Vitamin B complex is comprised of the following; B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid) and B12 (cobalamin). The B group of vitamins are also important for a healthy nervous system and for the body’s production of serotonin, a hormone released in our brain which helps us to feel happy, relaxed and at ease.

Foods that contain high amounts of B group vitamins:

  • Bananas
  • Wholegrain foods and brown rice
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Brewer’s Yeast
  • Barley
  • Soy Products
  • Turkey
  • Tuna & Salmon
  • Other Meats and eggs
  • Dairy Products
  • Mushrooms

Tip #.9 Indulge in antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries and prunes

There are lots of foods that nature has given us that possess the potential to ward off diseases and infections including herpes, and some of the most powerful of these are called ‘antioxidants’.

An antioxidant is something that helps to neutralize and stop the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are caused by many things, including chemicals and toxins in our food and environment, and they are responsible for aging, tissue damage and deterioration of the body.

These foods are on top of the antioxidant rich list:

  • Berries
  • Apricots, prunes and dates
  • Broccoli, brussel sprouts and artichokes
  • Kale and spinach
  • Chilli, peppers, red cabbage and beets
  • Parsley
  • Lemon
  • Ginger
  • Tomatoes
  • Red grapes
  • Garlic
  • Tea (especially green tea)
  • Carrots
  • Soy
  • Wholegrains

Other highly beneficial superfoods for herpes are:

  • Reishi mushrooms
  • Coconuts, particularly coconut oil
  • Barley grass
  • Spirulina
  • Shitaki mushrooms
  • Goji berries

These are just a few. Look for other foods that are antiviral, contain anti-oxidants or have immune enhancing benefits.

Tip #.10 Drink purified, alkaline water

Not only is the amount of water you drink important, but the quality of your water can make a difference too. Some chemicals such as chlorine are necessary to filter germs from our water, but this chemical is also extremely toxic to our health and ideally should be removed from the water before drinking.

Carbon filters are available which filter chlorine from your water and can be fitted either to the house or just to a particular tap or fosset. A reverse-osmosis filter is another type of filter which will remove all heavy metals and chemicals from your water. However, this process removes a lot of the beneficial minerals too, so it is important to find a filter that also replaces these minerals, such as through the use of a coral or mineral cartridge.

Very importantly, it is preferable to drink water that is alkaline. By alkalizing the body you help your entire system fight off “free radicals” which can cause deterioration of the cells. Many scientists claim miraculous benefits for a wide range of health conditions through the regular consumption of alkalizing water.

If you don’t have access to alkaline or filtered water, try having a glass of water with freshly squeeze lemon or lime juice each morning and night. This is highly alkalizing and will help provide you with a good start.

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  8. You list lots of foods high in potassium which can trigger a herpes virus. Eating low in Arginine high in lysine isn’t enough …. spinach, coconut, banana , potato, cantaloupe etc are often triggers for herpes sufferers.

  9. @Hil Yes, it is quite conflicting and confusing. It’s really a matter of eating small-very small portions of those Vit C, antioxidant and superfoods. But, I also try to watch eating 2+ high-arginine foods in one day, in addition to limiting portions. I also take L-Lysine supplements, 2 1,000 mg tabs in divided dosages, everyday to keep my lysine levels higher. When I am going to, or even after I eat high-arginine foods I take an extra tablet.

    @Rd3 “Grapes, Raspberries, and Blueberries are high in antioxidants providing help to kill free radicals, yes…. but the are also higher in Arginine levels then Lysine levels…You cannot rely on berries to be your only source of Antioxidants when you have herpes,…” So true! Unfortunately, so many foods that are great for us are high in arginine. The worse is nuts. I can’t believe what this virus has done to our bodies and diets.

  10. Any packaged food is dangerous to health. Including oils, regular food items etc. Better we need to start consuming food,sweets, drinks prepared at home.

  11. beware of everything on sites . grapes, red wine, grapefruit, grapeseed suppliments, transresveratrol, onions can bring on terrible outbreaks of herpes… again, some and all too many sources just parrot what some professor read out of some book that some other guy wrote. bevery wary.

    1. I think it comes down to the knowledge you have gained in your own research. Grapes, Raspberries, and Blueberries are high in antioxidants providing help to kill free radicals, yes…. but the are also higher in Arginine levels then Lysine levels. Once you have done your research on ratios of lysine to arginine, this page is useful to understand how to balance your diet. You cannot rely on berries to be your only source of Antioxidants when you have herpes, you can cause frequent and more severe outbreaks. Be careful!

  12. Cut down on caffeine and sugar. Why did I know that was going to be there? I think docs throw that into EVERY “food to avoid” list just to try to get people not to consume them at all. One of these days I expect a doc to tell me not to drink coffee if I want my skinned knee to heal…..

    1. A lot of the vit c foods mentioned above are high in arginine as well as the antioxidant foods and superfoods. I find this very conflicting to other websites that have specifically mentioned a diet high in lysine low in arginine. Help!!

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