I have an embarrassing confession.
I am a life long sufferer of herpes. You might know them as cold sores.
There are different kind of sores that can occur around and in the mouth, but Herpes Simplex Virus – 1 is the viral cause of recurring sores. They begin as a deep itch and tingle that eventually blister, spread, then crust over. They are incredibly painful. And once you get it, you’re stuck with it for life. The virus lays dormant in nerves, and emerges during times of stress or lowered immunity. Sometimes sudden sun exposure can bring on an outbreak and certain foods may even be a trigger.
After over 2 decades of suffering more than several pretty miserable outbreaks, I finally learned exactly how to predict when I might get one and prevent it, and how to treat it quickly if I missed my prevention protocol. I used to just rely on prescription medication and over the counter creams, but I’ve discovered a few things to do/avoid and some better natural medications that work even better than the drugstore stuff.
First and foremost, you want to know what may lead to an outbreak. For me, I know that any time I had a cold, I would get a cold sore right on the heels the illness. So frustrating! To prevent the cold sore, try and prevent the cold! Get your immune system up by avoiding sugar, refined carbs, alcohol and eating immune boosting foods. I personally double up on vitamins C and D, and eat selenium and zinc rich foods like raw Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds when I know I’m fighting something. I pull out all the stops. I eat crushed raw garlic cloves (fantastic germ fighter) a few times a day in a spoonful of guacamole or hummus and simmer ginger root and mix with raw honey and apple cider vinegar. I make bone broth and drink echinacea tea and shoot oil of oregano (another powerhouse bug killer.) I don’t take any chances! More often than not, I am able to prevent the cold.
But if I’m not able to prevent the cold, I begin taking a lysine supplement, and I avoid arginine rich foods like the plague. Lysine and arginine are both amino acids found in foods. However, lysine helps prevent the herpes virus from replicating, while arginine encourages it to flourish. Chocolate and peanuts (and nuts/seeds in general) are both rich in arginine, and I have on more than one occasion triggered an outbreak by eating these foods just when I thought I was on the mend from a cold. So now I take lysine supplements and stay far away from peanuts when I’m stressed and fighting off something. I really like the Super Lysine + brand found at health food stores. Other foods that have triggered an outbreak for me include coffee and shrimp, which is higher in arginine than lysine. Note, that these arginine rich foods have only triggered an outbreak when my immune system is already down via illness or stress. I don’t otherwise avoid these foods, except coffee, which gives me heart palpitations in high doses! Dairy products like high quality cheese and full fat yogurt are high in lysine, so if I don’t have nasal congestion (which dairy causes me to have if I eat it frequently) I will eat more of these products as well.
I also use Super Lysine’s topical cream if I do feel the tell tale tingle of a cold sore. I have found that these salves work better than Abreva, the go-to drug store treatment, which I always thought left cold sores uncomfortably dry and still painful. The olive oil base in the SL brand topical treatments is much more hydrating and pain relieving, I find.
Stress is a BIG trigger for herpes outbreaks. When I was a kid, I would get a cold sore every.single.year. on the opening night of the famed Christmas production The Nutcracker. I was a dancer in a prestigious dance school, performing with a prestigious company, and this was no small potatoes production. So I’d get stressed and nervous leading up to opening night, and the curtain rising on a 2,500 seat theater. Every year! I wish I knew then what I know now! So, shortly after I got engaged to my now-husband, I began to fret that the stress and nerves of wedding planning would surely mean a cold sore on my wedding day and that was simply not an option. For 3 months before my wedding I supplemented with lysine, didn’t touch a drop of peanuts or chocolate, replaced my usual lip balm with the lysine brand balm, and took additional vitamins known to help with stress and anxiety, especially the B vitamins. I wasn’t messing around. Of course, the few days before the big day, I didn’t sleep a wink. I know for sure that if not for that strict routine, I would have gotten a stress induced cold sore! In fact, the night before my wedding I did wake up in a panic with a subtle tickle on the side of my lip, that luckily subsided after more lip balm.
The other thing that I absolutely swear by is the DermaSeptic. I know this little thing is pricey (even more so than when I bought mine), but this thing WORKS. Anyone who knows the embarrassing and painful hell that is cold sores doesn’t care about money if something really works! I call it my “lip zapper”. Silver is naturally anti-viral, and this device creates a charge through a silver tip that deposits the silver ions directly into a brewing cold sore. I don’t travel without this (I usually throw my Super Lysine in the suitcase, too!) because one of my biggest fears is being away from home and feeling the impending doom that is the tingling of an oncoming cold sore without my armory of treatments. This device is the real deal, and I honestly can’t remember the last cold sore that’s actually manifested beyond the tingling stage since using this as my main defense.
Other topical solutions I’ve used include tea tree oil (diluted in a carrier oil!), Thieves essential oil by Young Living (also, dilute in carrier oil), oil of oregano, which I also drink in water whenever I feel I might be coming down with something, and olive oil. These are all anti-microbial and anti-viral and work well to squash an infection. But I really feel that anything topical needs to be paired with the lysine and immune boosting diet and supplementation as well. I have gotten the best results with this multi-pronged approach.
I hope this information helps if you are a fellow sufferer
If you have a natural protocol that works wonders for your outbreaks, please share in the comments.