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Herpes results from infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It causes sores or blisters to form in or around the mouth or genitals, as well as some other symptoms such as pain, itching, swollen lymph nodes, fever, fatigue and a general feeling of being unwell.

(Read more: Genital herpes)

There are several food items that can be avoided to control the symptoms and progression of this disease. In this article, we’ll discuss recommendations for foods that should be eaten and ones that should be avoided as well as other diet tips patients should follow during this infection.

(Read more: Herpes Simplex Virus Test)

  1. Diet during herpes flare-up
  2. Diet to strengthen immunity
  3. Foods that trigger herpes recurrence
  4. Diet for healthy weight to prevent herpes flare-ups
  5. Indian diet plan for herpes infection
Doctors for Herpes Diet

During the outbreak of this disease, a patient can experience fever, pain and discomfort in the area of the sore. At this time, try to eat an energy-dense and high-protein diet to avoid weakness, muscle loss and further spread of infection. Split your day into 5-6 small meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and two-three snacks) and plan your meals to be a combination of complex carbohydrates and protein. For example, you could have chicken or paneer sandwich for breakfast, fruit shake for a snack, sambar with brown rice for lunch and soya curry with millet chapati for dinner to keep your energy levels up. You should also ask your doctor if you require any dietary supplements.

There are certain nutrients and food items that help our body control the outbreak. Here are few you can include in your diet:

  • Food rich in lysine: Research says that consuming lysine can help control the severity of this disease. So try to consume foods that are rich in lysine such as meat, specifically beef, chicken, pork and fish (particularly cod and sardines), cheese, soybeans, spirulina (a type of algae), fenugreek seeds, etc.
  • Food low in arginine: Arginine is an amino acid that helps with many health conditions such as heart disease, erectile dysfunction, etc but some evidence suggests that high levels of arginine can make symptoms of herpes worse, potentially leading to flare-ups. This is because the herpes virus needs arginine to multiply. Chocolate, nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc), seeds, canned fish and gelatin contain high levels of arginine. Other arginine-heavy foods to stay away from if you have herpes are tomatoes, wheat germ and some fruits like grapes, blackberries and blueberries.
  • Foods rich in Indole-3-carbinol: Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is a natural component of a variety of cruciferous plants including broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, mustard greens, turnips, etc. I3C is an antagonist of the G1 phase of the cell cycle. It is known that cell cycle factors are required for herpes simplex virus (HSV) to replicate. So adding this vegetable group can help control the cell cycle of this virus.

Low immunity levels are commonly seen during this disease. There are certain food items that help our body to improve the immune system and control the progression of this disease. Following are some such foods:

Have foods high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and Zinc: The vitamins and minerals that boost your immune system may also help you ward off a herpes flare-up and may help you recover more quickly. They include:

Add Herbs and spices to control the disease: Herbs and spices such as turmeric, black pepper, clove, dry ginger, garlic powder, oregano, etc are rich in different types of antioxidants that help our body fight the infection and control its progression during an outbreak. To benefit from these food items, include them in your regular diet by adding them in salad dressings, curries, pickle, etc.

While some foods can aid your recovery during a herpes flare-up, others can increase the chances of a recurrence of this infection. Following are some food items you should avoid: 

Sugar: Sugar is bad for the immune system. Sugar hinders a main component of our complex immune response, slowing down the white blood cells that attack pathogens in the body. Besides the obvious culprits like sugary sodas, sweets, cake and pastries, sugar can hide in many processed foods as well. If you want to boost your immune system to help you fight herpes, lower your sugar intake by reading food labels closely and replacing sugar with natural sweeteners such as fruits, dates, figs, etc.

Unhealthy fats: Saturated fats, which are typically fats that are solid at room temperature, are not good for your body. You can limit their consumption by avoiding foods such as fatty meat, butter and cheese. Coconut and palm oils also have a high saturated fat content. Packaged and preserved foods are also known for high trans fat (also unhealthy) content and bad quality of oil. Choosing low-fat foods or those with unsaturated fat such as olive oil, sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, walnut, etc to boost your immune response and help keep herpes flare-ups at bay.

Processed food: Foods that are low in nutrients, such as ultra-processed foods (soft drinks, packaged bread, buns, chips, store-bought ice cream, boxed cake mix, instant noodles, breakfast cereals, ready to eat food, energy bars) and processed foods (canned, smoked, half-cooked food products), can negatively affect a healthy immune system. They are also harmful for the gut bacteria, causing inflammation in the stomach and weakening of the immune system, and can work as a trigger for this disease.

Alcohol: Alcohol slows your immune system, making it more likely for you to develop herpes and making it harder to recover from a herpes attack. Alcohol disrupts the gut microbiome by killing the “good” bacteria that help us fight infection. It also damages certain structures in the gastrointestinal tract, including the epithelial cells that line the gut, T cells and neutrophils, which can weaken the barrier between our gut and the rest of our body. It’s best to stop consuming alcohol to control the condition and reduce the chances of future outbreaks.

(Read more: Alcoholism)

A research study claims that obesity can work as a trigger for patients who are suffering from this infection. So check your BMI often and if you notice that you’re in the overweight or obese category, try to maintain a healthy weight by watching your calorie intake and eating healthy meals that are high in protein and fiber. For high-protein and high-fiber meals, add lentils, eggs, milk, milk products, lean meat and all colourful fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Following is a sample diet plan, which can be followed during herpes infection as well as after it, to prevent a recurrence of the disease.

  • Early morning: Warm water (1 glass) + walnut (5-7 pieces) + raisin (8-10)
  • Breakfast: Paneer/egg sandwich (2) + strawberry smoothie (1 glass)
  • Mid-morning: Fruit salad (1 plate) with roasted seeds (1-2 teaspoons)
  • Lunch: Spinach chapati (2) / veg pulao (1 bowl) + soya curry (1 bowl) + any seasonal green vegetable (1-2 bowl) + salad (1 bowl)
  • Evening tea: Herbal tea (1 cup) + sprout bhel (1 bowl)
  • Dinner: Chapati (2) + soya curry (1 bowl) + mixed vegetable (1 bowl)
  • Bedtime: Turmeric milk (1 glass)
Dt. Surbhi Upadhyay

Dt. Surbhi Upadhyay

Nutritionist
3 Years of Experience

Dt. Manjari Purwar

Dt. Manjari Purwar

Nutritionist
11 Years of Experience

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Nutritionist
8 Years of Experience

Surbhi Singh

Surbhi Singh

Nutritionist
22 Years of Experience

References

  1. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. US National Library of Medicine. Bethesda. Maryland. USA; L-Arginine
  2. Mailoo Venthan J, et al.Lysine for Herpes Simplex Prophylaxis: A Review of the Evidence. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2017 Jun; 16(3): 42–46. PMID: 30881246
  3. Griffith R S, et al. Relation of arginine-lysine antagonism to herpes simplex growth in tissue culture. Chemotherapy. 1981; 27(3): 209-13. PMID: 6262023
  4. Karjala Zuzana, et al. Association between HSV1 Seropositivity and Obesity: Data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, 2007–2008. PLoS One. 2011; 6(5): e19092. PMID: 21589933
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