Herpes simplex (HSV) is an incurable virus. Once you “catch” it, you will have it for life. Two common types of herpes are HSV-1 which causes cold sores and fever blisters around the lips or in the mouth, and HSV-2 which is typically associated with genital herpes (though HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes through sexual transmission).
The good news is that there are many options you can choose from to manage it. Aside from drugs and medications, there are lifestyle changes you can make to stop or prevent an outbreak. One factor – diet – is critical to managing your condition.
First, there are a few fundamental things you need to know: namely, the delicate balance between lysine and arginine as well as acidity and alkalinity. Let’s examine both.
The Arginine and Lysine Balance
Both arginine and Lysine are naturally occurring amino acids that are responsible for regulating herpes-related outbreaks. The important thing to remember is that high arginine and low lysine levels in your diet can worsen your condition. Why is this? The herpes virus needs arginine to replicate itself. Lysine on the other hand has properties that can control it.
Although lysine supplementation can be helpful, be sure to check with your healthcare provider as you want to avoid upsetting the balance between your arginine and lysine intake. Too much lysine at the exclusion of arginine may work against you.
The Acidity And Alkalinity Balance
Some people may want to enhance their lysine intake by consuming lysine supplements. This has to be carefully monitored. Taking lysine supplements with acid rich foods can lead to hyperacidity.
For instance, some lysine-rich foods such as dairy and meat have higher levels of acidity. When you have too much acidity in your system it can cause an outbreak. So when it comes to food, a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of alkaline to acid foods will help you manage this acidity/alkalinity balance. In other words, eat two to three servings of alkaline foods for every serving of acidic food you eat.
Below are 8 types of foods that can help you manage or prevent a herpes outbreak. Bear in mind that there are plenty more than just eight. But the foods featured have the highest lysine/arginine ratios in their respective categories (dairy, vegetables, fruits, and meats) or contain special herpes-fighting properties separate from lysine. For your benefit, there will also be a list of other foods to consider in each food category.
One last thing to note is instead of stating the lysine and arginine amounts by milligrams (or mg), we will list them by ratios which are easier to grasp.
For instance, an apple has 17mg/8 mg of lysine/arginine while beef liver has 1570 mg/1420 mg of lysine/arginine. Which has more lysine to arginine? The answer is the apple as it has 2.125 (lysine) to 1 (arginine). Liver has a ratio of 1.106 to 1. Stated in this form, it’s much easier to understand.
Dairy foods are lysine-rich and yogurt is at the top of the list. In fact, among all other foods yogurt has the highest lysine/arginine ratio. Take plain yogurt, for instance. It has 706 mg of lysine and 237 mg of arginine for a total ratio of 2.979 to 1. Low fat and skim yogurt of the plain or fruit variety are also rich in lysine.
Just be sure to avoid any yogurt that has gelatin or corn syrup. Those contain high levels of arginine which can cause outbreaks.
Up next in the dairy family is cheese. Next to yogurt, cheese also contains the highest amounts of lysine as compared with all foods. The wonderful thing about cheese is that there are so many kinds to choose from adding diverse shades of flavor to your meals. The lysine/arginine ratios in cheese range from as high as 2.787 to 1 (swiss cheese being the highest) to 1.780 to 1 (cottage cheese, low fat 2%). The lysine amounts in the lowest range are still higher than many foods.
Broccoli may not have the highest lysine to arginine ratio (0.969 to 1) but it has a few incredible illness-fighting properties. According to researchers, broccoli, along with a number of other cruciferous vegetables, contains a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) that can help prevent the herpes virus from reproducing. Researchers treated both human and monkey cells with I3C and then with strains of HSV-1 and HSV-2. They found that I3C prevented viral reproduction by at least 99.9%. This high rate of prevention places broccoli among the top foods for managing herpes flare-ups.
In addition to this, broccoli contains numerous other nutrients that can aid to illness prevention and a healthy lifestyle. For instance, broccoli is one of the richest vegetable sources for vitamin A. Broccoli has as much calcium as a glass of milk and more vitamin C than an orange. It has cancer-fighting properties and can also prevent stroke and cataracts. Basically, there’s everything to gain and nothing to lose when adding broccoli to your diet.
If you are experiencing an outbreak, you would want to eat highly nutritious foods as you would with any viral infection. Of course, fish, grass-fed meats and pasture-raised poultry products are among these. As far as lysine-rich foods, however, fish tops the list.
Like most meats, fish is a high-protein food source. But unlike red meats, certain fish such as tuna, salmon and sardines have high omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids that your body needs for optimal health. They are also antioxidants and can help prevent cell damage as they help fight against free radicals. Fish are also high in mineral content including calcium, which helps builds healthy bones, and zinc and vitamin B2 which are helpful to the immune system.
- Wild salmon – 1.550 to 1
- Whitefish – 1.535 to 1
- Tuna – 1.534 to 1
- Sardines (canned) – 1.531 to 1
- Halibut – 1.528 to 1
Chicken is also a great option as it has high lysine contents and much lower levels of cholesterol and saturated (bad) fats than red meat.
- Chicken (dark meat) – 1.409 to 1
- Chicken (light meat) – 1.407 to 1
- Chicken (breast) – 1.337 to 1
6. Red Meats – Pork And Beef
There’s nothing wrong with eating red meat as long as you watch your portions. One portion of meat is three ounces (about the size of a deck of cards). You might want to choose the “leaner” cuts and trim off the fat before eating. Brushing aside the cholesterol and saturated fat concerns, pork and beef have favorable lysine/arginine ratios.
Caveat: if you are taking lysine supplements, too much red meat can cause hyper-acidity which can increase the likelihood for outbreaks. Be sure to check with your doctor or nutritionist.
- Pork spareribs – 1.416 to 1
- Pork leg – 1.365 to 1
- Pork loin chop – 1.364 to 1
- Pork shoulder – 1.363
- Beef round steak – 1.319 to 1
- Beef sirloin steak – 1.315 to 1
- Beef tenderloin – 1.314 to 1
7. Beets And Other Veggies
Most vegetables have a high lysine/low arginine contents. But this ratio is much higher in beets than other vegetables. With 72 mg of lysine to 30 mg of arginine, it has a ratio of 2.400 to 1, placing it smack dab in the middle of the cheese range. You can cook beets and combine them with other foods in various ways. Beets can be cooked in the microwave, boiled, roasted, or steamed. You can pickle them, serve roasted beets with Dijon sauce, add them to salads, and even make Borscht – a delicious pureed beet soup made with yogurt, sour cream, and dill.
Other foods in the vegetable family that you might want to consider not only for its lysine/arginine ratio but for its other nutritional properties are:
- Soybean sprouts – 1.451 to 1
- Potato – 1.357 to 1
- Green beans – 1.213 to 1
- Cauliflower – 1.125 to 1
Most fruits have higher lysine to arginine ratios. Yes they’re delicious as they are nutritious. But one thing that makes them particularly important for your diet, aside from their nutritional content, is that they are healthy alternatives to something you definitely want to avoid: processed sweets (which are stressors to your immune system).
- Papaya – 2.533 to 1
- Mango – 2.179 to 1
- Apricot – 2.146 to 1
- Apple – 2.125 to 1
- Pear – 1.917 to 1
- Fig (dried) – 1.740 to 1
- Avocado – 1.588 to 1
- Pineapple – 1.393 to 1
Foods To Avoid
Now, to balance things out a bit, it’s important to know what are the potential foods to avoid:
Avoid refined carbs – sweets and grains:
Refined carbohydrates can lead to a herpes outbreak as they suppress immunity. Your cells need vitamin C to resist infection. Sugar competes with vitamin C during the cell absorption process, reducing your body’s immunity response.
Alcohol, sodas, processed baked goods, pasta, and bread are among the top foods to avoid. If you are exhibiting outbreak symptoms, stay away from these foods for around two months. Once you are symptom-free, you can slowly re-introduce these foods one by one to gauge your body’s response. Again, you don’t need processed carbs, so unless you have to, try avoiding them as there are other healthier alternatives.
Avoid high-Arginine foods:
This is a no-brainer as we’ve been discussing the lysine/arginine balance throughout the entire post. Avoid foods with gelatin, coconut meat, chocolate, oats, whole wheat, and nuts.
Your diet and lifestyle are critical when it comes to managing a herpes outbreak. So eat healthy and stay healthy!