It's important to look after yourself when managing herpes. A healthy diet is certainly part of that.
Some people with herpes have found that avoiding foods high in the amino acid Arginine, may reduce recurrences. Higher levels of Arginine are found in foods such as chocolate and many types of nuts. Excessive coffee (caffeine), red wine and smoking are also triggers for some people. Of course, when anything is done in excess it can be detrimental to our health, but it's important not to get into majorly restrictive eating. Some people have problematic symptoms even when they seem to be doing all the right things - so don't beat yourself up.
Maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle makes a difference, but only to a degree. The virus reacts differently in different people's bodies and some people, even with a great deal of attention to wellbeing, continue to have more recurrences than other people. You may want to consult with a registered dietician, nutritionist or naturopath to ensure that you are maintaining a healthy diet.
When it comes to complementary medicines, Lysine is the most commonly mentioned in relation to treating the herpes simplex virus. Lysine is one of the essential amino acids that the body uses to build proteins. While many people living with herpes find taking Lysine helpful, the consensus in the scientific community is that Lysine supplements do not contribute to reducing the number of recurrences of genital herpes.
We recommend treatments that have undergone rigorous trials where there is a proven effect. It would be wonderful if there was a cure-all natural supplement available, but there has yet to be one proven. If you do seek complementary therapy, be wary of any claims suggesting the virus can be eliminated all together, this is simply not possible and may give a false confidence that the virus has been got rid of forever. This may mean that the virus is passed on at a time when it 'sheds' in the absence of symptoms.
It is normal to feel vulnerable after a diagnosis of genital herpes and want to 'throw everything at it'', of course, explore your options but remember that HSV runs it's course and your body's innate healing mechnisms will take care of you. The initial HSV episode is usually the most severe, after that you may have only minor or no recurrences.
The HSV is dormant for much of the time. When it is dormant, it is hidden away in the sacral ganglia (nerve endings located near to the base of the spinal column) where it cannot be reached by any medication currently available. When it reactivates, an antiviral medication is the only treatment currently available that can disrupt the virus in the process of replicating itself before it reaches the skin and causes damage. The body's antibodies also play a major role in limiting the length and severity of recurrences. With recurrences, the virus completes replicating itself within 24 hours and the rest of the time there is evidence of a sore. The sore is simply disrupted cells healing themselves.
Maintaining overall health contributes to a healthy immune system which will enable your body to respond to recurrences. Overall health includes a healthy diet, exercise, enough sleep and the minimal use of alcohol, cigarettes and recreational drugs. The majority of people living with genital herpes do not take antiviral medication either suppressively (on a daily basis) or episodically as the immune system usually limits the duration and severity of symptoms.
A minority of people do experience troublesome symptoms and frequent recurrences and specific antiviral medications can bring tremendous relief and limit recurrences. This medication recognises chemicals that the virus uses to replicate itself and when the virus does try to replicate, it inserts itself and halts transmission. Aciclovir was the first antiviral medication on the market. Since then, several others have become available; famciclovir and valaciclovir. These newer antiviral medications have a higher 'bio-availability' which means that they are used more fully by the body and herefore people often experience greater control of symptoms on these medications. Other health regimes may help the overall health of your immune system but antiviral medications are the only medications that have been shown to stop the virus replicating. These oral antiviral medications are very safe and have very few side effects because they don't not act on human cells just the chemicals that cause the herpes virus to replicate.
Overall, the key is to keep yourself healthy, avoid your known triggers and see a health professional if frequent recurrences are troubling you.
The Guidelines are a consensus opinion of the STIEF Professional Advisory Board (PAB). The PAB has representation from nationwide medical, nursing and allied disciplines involved in the management of STIs. The Guidelines are produced by considering available literature, both New Zealand wide and international, and by basing the medical recommendations on the evidence in the literature or reasonable supposition and opinions of medical experts.