Managing Recurring Herpes Outbreaks & The Stress Hormone Connection
Stress is one of the leading causes of dis-ease in the body and is one of the most common triggers of herpes outbreaks.
When we experience recurring herpes outbreaks it’s a clear indication that something is not right – that your body is STRESSED OUT.
Physical, emotional, or psychological stress can weaken your immune system and trigger herpes outbreaks or other viruses/illnesses like the cold, flu, and COVID-19.
When the body is chronically stressed, particularly with prolonged periods of high-level stress, a hormone called cortisol (AKA the “stress hormone”), is released into the body by the adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and are responsible for producing hormones that we need (sex hormones and cortisol), as well as essential bodily functions like blood sugar, inflammation, and metabolism regulation.
When these glands are overworked, they can’t produce enough cortisol, which can lead to adrenal fatigue,and suppresses the immune system. This usually occurs when people are under long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress.
People experiencing adrenal fatigue are likely to suffer from recurring herpes outbreaks.
Adrenal Fatigue(AKA “Burnout”) is not an official medical condition but it certainly is real. I know because I’ve experienced it and know many people who have as well.
Common symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue include:
- chronic fatigue
- low energy
- trouble falling asleep/waking up
- “wired”/difficulty relaxing
- salt and sugar cravings
- body aches
- weight loss
- low blood pressure
These symptoms are common among many people who live normal, busy lives, but when these symptoms are persistent over time, it can start affecting your quality of life, work performance, relationships, and sex life, especially with recurring herpes outbreaks.
Research has shown that herpes outbreaks increase in frequency with stresses such as strong emotions, trauma, sunburn, illness, and the prolonged use of corticosteroid drugs, especially when adrenal function is low (as it is during adrenal fatigue).
The stronger the adrenals are, the better the body can handle/manage stress, the stronger the immune system is, resulting in less herpes outbreaks.
It can be a vicious cycle – recurring herpes outbreaks can also lead to chronic stress, which can also contribute to adrenal fatigue, which can trigger more outbreaks.
Proper adrenal support, including a healthy lifestyle, specific diet, supplements and herbs, emotional/trauma release work, and effective stress management can be important factors in minimizing stress-related recurring herpes outbreaks.
If you are experiencing recurring herpes outbreaks whether or not it’s because of adrenal fatigue, or if you are experiencing adrenal fatigue alone, here are some of my tips on how to manage it.
- Prioritize Rest – Sleep is ESSENTIAL to boosting your immune system so make sure you are getting at least 7-8hrs/night and naps in between if possible. Sleep supports the proteins and cells of your immune system to detect and destroy bugs and germs – it also helps them to remember them, so they can fight them in the future.
- Proper Nutrition – Eat whole, fresh, healthy foods, and eliminate inflammatory and processed foods. Your gut is the home of your immune system, nervous system, and endocrine system (responsible for hormones), so it is essential to be mindful of what you are putting into your mouth to help keep your immune system boosted and support your adrenal function! Avoid gluten, dairy, and sugar which are the 3 main foods that cause inflammation in your body and in your gut as well as processed foods and junk foods. Include fresh, whole foods as much as possible with fresh fruits, vegetables, organic, grass-fed, and consciously sourced meat products and gluten-free whole grains like quinoa and millet. Avoid/eliminate caffeinated and alcoholic beverages or include in moderation.
- Supplements & Herbs – there are specific supplements and herbs for adrenal fatigue and low cortisol to help support your adrenal glands and bring their function back into balance. Adaptogenic herbs and supplements like Holy basil, ashwagandha, astragalus, licorice root, Rhodiola, cordyceps are great, which you can find in health food stores or online. Immune-boosting supplements and herbs like vitamin C and echinacea, as well as L-lysine, are also essential to keeping your immune system boosted and prevent recurring herpes outbreaks!
- Self-Care & Wellness Practices – Dedicate one day a week as a “Self-care day”. If you can’t do a full day, give yourself a few hours of one specific day/week to. Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite things – whether it be your favorite treat, a day at the spa, time with friends, watching movies, reading a good book, or even just a lazy day. Exercise is a great stress relief and promotes the production of serotonin (AKA the Happy hormone!). Get outside in nature. Find kind and loving ways to connect to your body and your mind. Take time to slow down.
- Manage Stress – Managing stress is essential to balancing cortisol levels and adrenal function, calming your nervous system, boosting your immune system, and reducing recurring herpes outbreaks. If you are really stressed ask yourself:
what are some of the things that really stress me out?
Is there any way I can eliminate some of these stresses?
How can I manage these stressors better?
If you want to go deeper, once you identify your specific triggers of stress, understanding where this stress is coming from is key. Usually, it has something to do with old wounds and patterns, typically from childhood.
There are SO MANY ways to do the work that will help you release any old/stored emotional/psychological trauma. Talk therapy with a therapist, journaling, exercise to move around energy, and various other holistic wellness and self-care practices, depending on what your specific trigger is. Once you identify that trigger, do some research to find out what method of healing resonates with you and when you are ready – the only way out is through doing the work!
If you are experiencing recurring herpes outbreaks (whether they be genitally or orally) and want to learn more about how to manage your outbreaks naturally, I’ve created an online resource called Healing Herpes Holistically, which is ESSENTIAL for anyone living with herpes who wants to learn how to manage, prevent and heal herpes outbreaks naturally through diet, nutrition, and wellness practices.
It’s a unique online e-book resource that will give you lifetime tools and knowledge of how to take the best care of yourself both physically and emotionally when living with herpes.
If you are struggling with your HSV diagnosis and need to talk, I offer 1:1 personal support calls as part of my services. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone who gets it!