Dietary changes and nutritional supplements can significantly lessen the severity and frequency of herpes outbreaks. One important step for people with genital herpes is to decrease the amount of the amino acid arginine in the body, while increasing another amino acid, lysine. Arginine assists the herpes simplex virus in multiplying, and lysine can help break down arginine and decrease its absorption in the body. One group of researchers gave lysine supplements to people infected with the herpes simplex virus who were showing the symptoms of a herpes attack. After a few days, the symptoms of more than 90 percent of the patients went away.
Lysine supplements are available, but whole foods that are high in lysine and low in arginine can be added to the diet as well. Foods high in lysine include:
- brewer's yeast
- dairy products (including milk and cheese)
- mung bean sprouts
Avoid those foods rich in arginine, including:
- sesame seeds
In general, a sound diet can bolster the immune system, perhaps delaying or blocking future herpes attacks. For example, the guidelines include eliminating most simple carbohydrates (sugars and sweets), avoiding alcohol, and skipping common food allergens, such as wheat and dairy products. In their place, add a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits.
Other supplements that may be helpful include beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, zinc, and the B vitamins (especially vitamin B6). A naturopathic physician may recommend taking lysine supplements each day to prevent future herpes attacks, with higher doses recommended during an outbreak of symptoms.