Thursday, June 14, 2012

Herpes good food/bad food response

This is a response to this tumblr post as reblogged by fuckyeahsexeducation. It appears to be sourced from e-how. I have posted each section in the article, then my response below it. 

Foods to Avoid
When a herpes outbreak occurs, you should do your best to avoid foods with a high arginine content. Arginine essentially provides the food necessary for the survival of the herpes virus. High-arginine foods include coffee, chocolate, nuts, oatmeal, raisins, seeds, whole wheat bread, brown rice, coconut and lentils. You should also avoid eating fruits with high citric acid content, such as oranges and grapefruits, during an outbreak. In general, you should avoid processed foods and artificial cola drinks.
This is an area where it's a bit more complicated than you think. Dosage matters. Take over what you should or under and you run into problems. A study by Naito et. al. Found that Arginine suppresses the growth of HSV-1 but only up to 50-60 nM. They also found that it is time dependent and that it doesn't directly interfere with the recurrence of the virus. SO what does this mean? It means that you can have your mocha and not really worry about its effect on your herpes. Should you binge on them? No, but in moderation your coffee, brown rice, whole wheat bread and coconut shouldn't do you any harm. As for the claim about citric acid I couldn't find any studies on that – positive or negative. As far as I can tell this came from nowhere.

Good Foods to Eat
Lysine, on the other hand, serves to combat herpes when an outbreak occurs and helps prevent outbreaks as well. Foods with high lysine content include cheese, chicken, eggs, fish, milk, potatoes, beef, brewer’s yeast, yogurt, sprouts, avocados, papaya, mango, apricots, apples, figs, beets and lamb.
Lysine – according to Griffith et. al. Lysine does indeed seem to suppress the clinical manifestations of herpes virus infection. This means that it helps speed up recovery and helps suppress another outbreak. HOWEVER. These results were found with a daily dose of just over 1,000 mg. The lower dosage studied in McCune et. al. Study on the same therapy (around 600 mg per day) found no results. While consuming these foods might give you an increase in lysine intake – you're better off talking to your doctor about options for when you get an outbreak and how to prevent them. If your doctor agrees that a Lysine dosage might help – they can assist you in getting a safe, reliable dosage so that you don't need to gamble on the unknown dosages you might get from foods. Remember – the amount you take matters. A dose too small might not do anything and a dose too large could do some serious damage. 
Other Dietary Considerations:
Broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts contain a compound known as indole-3-carbinol (I3C) that may be effective in suppressing herpes. Green tea is also a good thing to work into your diet, as it contains antiviral and antioxidant properties. Most organic herbal green or white teas are good. Consume lots of sprouts as well, because sprouts contain powerful enzymes and vitamins, even more than the actual vegetables themselves. Try to consume fruits and vegetables in raw form rather than cooking them, as cooked vegetables usually have lower vitamin content. Drinking fresh vegetable and fruit juice can do wonders for the immune system and your overall health. There are also some good enzyme and vitamin supplements on the market that can help control herpes. Vitamin C, B5, B6, zinc, and magnesium are all good choices.
Here's the deal on this portion. Have a healthy diet and you don't need to worry about any of this. Yes, green tea is lovely but the research is mixed, we can't say that it will do any good to help with HSV-1 because we don't have results showing this. Based upon the scant evidence I have been able to find in reliable places I am inclined to lean toward this not helping anything save a very minor effect in oral herpes infections that are currently active. Of course there is a huge placebo effect there still.

Consume lots of sprouts as well, because sprouts contain powerful enzymes and vitamins, even more than the actual vegetables themselves.” What does this even mean? How can something contain more “powerful enzymes and vitamins” than the actual vegetable? I don't get it.

As for the cooking vegetables claim to somehow reduce the vitamin and mineral content in vegetables the evidence is mixed. The method of cooking, the type of vegetable etc. all make a difference. According to Masrizal et. al. Microwaving or steaming most vegetables retains most of the vitamin C, iron, and beta-carotene content. Other studies, one such conducted by Leichter et. al. Shows that what reduction there is in boiled vegetables is usually merely leached into the water it's boiled in. My conclusion from this? If you want to keep your cauliflower nutrients make a stew or soup out of it and poof, you still have them.

There are also some good enzyme and vitamin supplements on the market that can help control herpes. Vitamin C, B5, B6, zinc, and magnesium are all good choices.” Or, take your valtrex, and talk to your doctor. If, and only if, you have a vitamin deficiency do you need supplementation and your doctor can help you with that. Otherwise you will merely have at best expensive pee and at worse too much of the vitamin's which can be harmful. Eat a healthy diet, get a bit of sunlight and drink water – the vast majority of people don't need supplements and if anyone other than your doctor (mind you that's a real doctor not a naturopath, herbalist, nutritionist or other such bunk) tells you to take a supplement because you're somehow needing supplementing get a second opinion from your doctor. For some more information about supplements check out the amazing work done by the Science Based Medicine people –  Here,  Here and Here.

As far as the whole “Drinking fresh vegetable and fruit juice can do wonders for the immune system and your overall health.” thing – yeah, fresh vegetable and fruit juice is a great way to get your daily intake of fruits and vegetables but what do they mean 'do wonders for the immune system'? What part of the immune system? How does it help? Does drinking your fruits and vegetables make any difference when compared to eating them? Yes we do need them to help keep up our health but it doesn't do anything different than consuming those particular edibles would anyway. You need the nutrients and your stomach isn't particularly picky about how it gets them. The immune system is complicated and saying things like it 'can do wonders for the immune system' is an immediate red flag for something not to take particularly seriously. Especially without a decent citation.

I took a look at the citations e-how provided (which don't show up on the tumblr story) and they were sketchy to say the least. Is it surprising that “global herbal supplies” is recommending supplements? Or that the naturopath over at herpes coldsores has a whole host of diet changes with no supporting evidence to recommend? Or that a site flogging books and herbs is recommending something similar with a similar level of evidence? I'll stick with the literature. I personally get oral cold sores and have my whole life, I do indeed practice what I preach and go to the doctor (again – a real one, a MD) when I have an outbreak. She gives me Valtrex – my outbreak goes away in a day or two. It's a virus, we have it for life and pseudoscience trying to persuade us to change our quality of life on the abstract hope that we can somehow prevent an outbreak is ridiculous. Go with the evidence, talk to your doctor and work with them to manage your progress. If you think you are deficient in a vitamin – again, talk to your doctor. There are simple tests that can be done to see and if you are a proper, safe supplement can be prescribed. Thanks to the lack of regulation in the supplement industry on the shelf pills may not actually contain what they are claiming. Some have been seen to have more or less of the dosage, some have other contaminates in them, some herbal supplements have even been found to have high levels of heavy metals. You can take your chances – I'll stick to something that is regulated and has been tested. Overall it comes down to your choice – do you go with something that isn't proven, has clear biases in the recommendations, and isn't regulated well or tested, regulated medicine given by a properly trained MD?

Have evidence I missed? Let me know. I would love to be wrong.


Griffity et. al. A multicentered study of lysine terapy in Herpes simplex infection. Dermatologica. 1978;156(5):257-67.
McCune et. al. Treatment of recurrent herpes simplex infections with L-lysine monohydrochloride. Cutis. 1984 Oct; 34(4):366-73.
Naito et. al. Antiviral effect of arginine against herpes simplex virus type 1. Int. J Mol Med. 2009 Apr;23(4):495-9.


  1. You had shared the content of the preferable diet in the period of Herpes which is very necessary to control it, Thank You.


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