Nutrition and wellness practices are SO important when living with the herpes virus! When we live with herpes, whether it be HSV-1 (oral or oral/genital) or HSV-2 (genital), it is important to know what foods to eat and what foods to avoid to prevent and heal recurring outbreaks, as well as shorten their duration or severity.
When we live with the herpes virus, we need to make sure our immune system is strong by choosing the right foods to support it and avoiding/eliminating the ones that don’t. When our immunity is lowered or when we are stressed out, that’s when the herpes virus tends to make its sneaky appearance. That’s why not only is nutrition important but wellness practices are as well, like making sure you get enough sleep, reducing stress, as well as practicing mindfulness, yoga, and meditation.
I’m saying “we” in this post because I’ve recently “come out” about my (genital) herpes status publicly and am so excited to finally talk about how nutrition and wellness can help heal your body and boost your immune system. I’ve experienced it for myself that it works!
As this topic is one of my passions, I wrote a paper about it in my Pathology class in nutrition school. In my paper, I broke down the food, vitamin and mineral recommendations in terms of Macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins) and Micronutrients ( foods, vitamins, and minerals), which I’ve highlighted below.
These are recommendations for people living with herpes to include in their diet. And as always, eating whole, natural foods, eliminating processed foods and sugars and reducing your alcohol and caffeine intake helps as well!
I will be sharing more information on what other foods and herbs are important to consume and to avoid for the herpes virus specifically, so stay tuned for more information!
MACRONUTRIENTS – CARBS, FATS & PROTEINS:
Whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth provide an excellent source of zinc and iron.
Sweet potato is a good source of Beta Carotene and Vitamin A which are also helpful in preventing and naturally treating herpes outbreaks.
These all help to inhibit HSV replication and enhances cell-mediated immunity as well as reduces the frequency, duration, and severity of herpes outbreaks
*Note: Excess carbohydrates (especially from refined carbohydrates), have a negative impact on gut health, which can weaken the immune system.
Help to make your skin softer and suppler, which will minimize the “shedding” period of healing of the herpes virus. Polyunsaturated fats and Omega 3’s are important in helping to reduce the inflammation and pain associated with outbreaks.
Excellent sources of “Good Fats” include: Coconut oil, avocado, wild-caught salmon and other fatty fish, olives and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, grass-fed butter and cream, avocados, small amounts of dairy products, cheese
Good quality and conscious sources of lean meat such as grass-fed beef and chicken are high in L-lysine which has been shown to prevent outbreaks of the herpes simplex virus. Red meat is also an excellent source of vitamin A which helps prevent outbreaks by boosting the immune system.
MICRONUTRIENTS – FOODS, VITAMINS & SUPPLEMENTS
Increase healing of herpes ulcers, helps to enhance the immune system
Food Sources: Citrus Fruits, strawberries, broccoli, peppers, cantaloupe, tomatoes, Kiwi fruit
Recommended Supplement intake: 10,000 mg per day to treat an active outbreak. 500 to 3,000 mg per day for prevention
Helps to strengthen the immune system and prevent recurring outbreaks
Food Sources: Salmon, beef liver, cheese, eggs
Recommended Supplement intake: 2000-4000 IU/day
Helps to replenish the good flora in your gut, which helps to strengthen the immune system
Food Sources: Fermented foods (i.e. sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir), yogurt (full fat, low sugar), cheese
Recommended supplement intake: 10-50 billion/day
Lysine has anti-viral properties and prevents and heals herpes lesions. Meat is high in L-lysine which has been shown to prevent outbreaks
Food Sources: Parmesan Cheese, Eggs, Avocado, Lean cuts of meat (i.e. chicken)
Recommended supplement intake: 1000mg 3 times/day
Inhibits HSV replication and enhances cell-mediated immunity. Reduces the frequency, duration, and severity of herpes outbreaks
Food Sources: Oysters and shellfish, chicken, legumes, lean red meat, chicken, turkey, beef and lamb, Whole grains; amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa
Recommended supplement intake: 50mg/day
Supports and maintains a healthy immune system
Food Sources: Sweet potatoes (beta carotene), Beef liver, Spinach, Carrots, Peppers
Recommended supplement intake: males – 6000 IU, females – 4000 IU
Applied topically, it prevents and heals herpes lesions. Applied topically to herpes lesions, up to 4 times a day during herpes outbreaks
Food Sources: Wheat germ oil, Olive oil, Spinach, Broccoli
Fish oil displays anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and may help reduce the symptoms of herpes.
Food Sources: Wild-caught salmon
Recommended Supplement intake: 1000mg EPA+DHA/day
Grape Seed Extract:
Resveratrol is a highly beneficial substance found in grapes (like the popular grapefruit seed extract supplements) and cocoa that has been linked in numerous studies to health benefits. Resveratrol has been shown in labs to inhibit the herpes virus from replicating or forming lesions in mice. For this reason, the resveratrol herpes remedy and grapefruit seed extract herpes remedy are both very popular.
Supplement form only.
Recommended supplement intake: 100-300mg/day
FOODS TO AVOID
Normally a beneficial amino acid that reduces healing time and repairs damaged tissue. However, it makes herpes outbreaks worse. Individuals with herpes should avoid foods with a high arginine to lysine ratio, especially at the time of an outbreak.
Foods high in arginine: Raw nuts and seeds, Chocolate/cacao, Wheat, Corn, Bananas
Alcohol, Caffeine, Cigarettes & Recreational Drugs
All of these things weaken our immune system and can cause a lot of unnecessary physiological stress in the body when consumed in excess and can reduce our immunity. When you live with herpes, make sure to either avoid these things or consume in moderation (and responsibly!)
Consuming sugar can weaken gut health by feeding the “bad bacteria” in the gut. When these bacteria start overpopulating when we feed them with sugar, it can weaken the immune system.