Worst Foods to Eat if You Have Herpes
The herpes simplex virus is incurable -- once you’re infected, it stays with you for life. That may be a downer, but many people turn to lifestyle changes to help manage the condition and prevent outbreaks of the two types of herpes -- one that brings on cold sores and one that results in genital blisters. Staying away from certain foods or limiting your intake of them is a good cautionary step, but talk to your doctor about preventing herpes and managing outbreaks. She may suggest medications and supplements to deal with the condition.
Make the Arginine Connection
Foods high in arginine and low in lysine, two of the eight naturally occurring amino acids, may be your worst enemies if you have herpes. The virus needs arginine to grow, reports Michele Picozzi, author of “Controlling Herpes Naturally,” on the Herpes.org website. The worst arginine-rich foods if you have herpes include peanuts, chocolate and carob, wheat and wheat germ, oats, soy foods, some types of nuts, peanuts, and sesame seeds, according to Dr. Deborah Gordon, an integrative medicine practitioner.
Avoid Refined Carbs
Herpes & Arginine
Gordon says heavily refined carbohydrates suppress immunity and can lead to herpes outbreaks when consumed in excess – as they often are in the American diet. Sugar competes with vitamin C to enter the body’s cells, resulting in a reduced ability to resist infection, says Marcel J. Hernandez, a naturopathic doctor. The worst foods in this category include processed baked goods, white pasta and bread, and sodas. Picozzi singles out foods and drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup as especially problematic.
- Gordon says heavily refined carbohydrates suppress immunity and can lead to herpes outbreaks when consumed in excess – as they often are in the American diet.
Other Foods and Beverages to Eliminate
Caffeine and alcohol can also impair immunity and spark herpes outbreaks, says Gordon. Food cravings may indicate possible allergens, which may also cause flare-ups, she notes. Gordon suggests an elimination diet in which you avoid the worst foods for two months. When you no longer have herpes symptoms, you can reintroduce them one by one into your diet to see which might affect your herpes outbreaks.
- Caffeine and alcohol can also impair immunity and spark herpes outbreaks, says Gordon.
- Food cravings may indicate possible allergens, which may also cause flare-ups, she notes.
What You Can Eat
Lysine Herpes Diet
If you're avoiding foods that may cause herpes outbreaks, that doesn’t mean a boring diet. Many nutritious and delicious whole foods, such as grass-fed beef, fish, poultry, dairy products, beans, eggs and most brightly colored fruits and vegetables, have a high ratio of lysine to arginine and should make up the bulk of your meals. Picozzi also cites the benefits of foods like mushrooms, sea vegetables and garlic for managing herpes outbreaks naturally.
Herpes & Arginine
Lysine Herpes Diet
Can Eating Certain Foods Help Heal & Prevent a Herpes Outbreak?
What to Eat When a Herpes Outbreak Happens
Diet for Bacterial Vaginosis
About Blueberries and Gout
Jock Itch & Diet
Do Eggs Cause Acne?
Foods That Can Cause Fever Blister Outbreaks
Diet for Oral Thrush
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Herpes Simplex Virus
- Herpes.org: 10 Things You Need to Know About Preventing Outbreaks Without Drugs
- Dr. Deborah M.D.: Herpes Simplex Type 2
- Pacific Naturopathic: How We Undermine Our Immune System With an Addictive Non-Food
- University of Pittsburgh: Controlling Herpes Naturally
- McQuillan G, Kruszon-Moran D, Flagg EW, Paulose-Ram R. Prevalence of herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in persons aged 14–49: United States, 2015–2016. NCHS Data Brief. 2018;304.
- Tronstein E. Genital Shedding of Herpes Simplex Virus Among Symptomatic and Asymptomatic Persons With HSV-2 Infection. JAMA. 2011;305(14):1441. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.420
- World Health Organization (WHO). Herpes simplex virus. Updated January 31, 2017.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital Herpes - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed). Updated January 31, 2017
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital Herpes - CDC Fact Sheet. Updated August 28, 2017.
- Chun H, Carpenter R, Macalino G, Crum-Cianflone NF. The role of sexually transmitted infections in HIV-1 progression: A comprehensive review of the literature. Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 2012;2013(176459):1-15. doi:10.1155/2013/176459
- Heslop R, Roberts H, Flower D, Jordan V. Interventions for men and women with their first episode of genital herpes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Aug 30;(8):CD010684. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010684.pub2
- Jin F, Prestage GP, Mao L, Kippax SC, Pell CM, et al. Transmission of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 in a prospective cohort of HIV-negative gay men: the health in men study. J Infect Dis. 2006 Sep 1;194(5):561-70.
- Schulte JM, Bellamy AR, Hook EW 3rd, Bernstein DI, Levin MJ, et al. HSV-1 and HSV-2 seroprevalence in the united states among asymptomatic women unaware of any herpes simplex virus infection (Herpevac Trial for Women). South Med J. 2014 Feb;107(2):79-84. doi:10.1097/SMJ.0000000000000062
Paula Martinac holds a Master of Science in health and nutrition education from Hawthorn University, with an emphasis on healthy aging, cancer prevention, weight control and stress management. She is Board Certified in holistic nutrition and a Certified Food and Spirit Practitioner, and has written extensively on nutrition for various websites.