So what triggers a cold sore?
- emotional stress
- illness or infection (colds, other viruses)
- trauma (or surgery)
- hormone imbalance
There are a number of ways to lessen the frequency and severity of cold sore outbreaks.
1. Limit foods that contain high amounts of the amino acid Arginine
- red meat
- protein shakes (check the label, many "work-out" specific formulas are high in arginine)
-> you may find that you have a tolerance level for certain arginine containing foods (e.g. you can tolerate chocolate once per week but not every day, or if you combine it with a high lysine food)
2. Increase foods that are high in the amino acid Lysine
- fruit (apple, mango, pear, starfruit)
- dairy (if you are not sensitive)
- vegetables (cauliflower)
-> there are many online resources if you look for foods that have a high lysine to arginine ratio, be sure to check those out
3. Lysine Supplement
- Preventatively, Lysine can be taken as a supplement to maintain an appropriate lysine-arginine ratio. The recommended dose is often 1000mg per day.
- With first onset of a cold sore until its resolution, the Lysine dose can be increased to 3000mg per day, or even higher under practitioner supervision.
4. Stress Management
- Techniques and therapies to nourish the nervous system and keep stress levels in check can be beneficial. There are many ways to manage stress, what's important is finding something that resonates with you and do it often. Some ideas are: exercise, deep breathing, yoga, herbal tea, reading, sleep, listening to music, chatting with a friend, journaling, gardening.
- There are herbs and nutrients that can help to improve your stress pathways as well. In this case, I typically choose ones that also have some antiviral activity.
- Discouraging viral replication could be an important part of preventing recurrence of cold sores. L-lysine is an antiviral, but there are also many herbs that fit into this category. Selecting the right one for you depends on your health history and needs to be selected with the help of your provider. Some herbs that show antiviral activity specifically against HSV are: Licorice root (caution blood pressure), Lemon balm, and St. John's wort (caution if taking medications).
6. Use lip balm
- Protect the skin from sun and wind with a layer of your favourite lip balm
7. Notice trends
- If you tend to get cold sores under specific circumstances (e.g. right before your period, or when you get sick) then it might be worth addressing those underlying concerns first. Remember, symptoms are the way that our body communicates with us, and show us that something is out of balance.
In this stressful climate, I hope to offer you useful suggestions. If there's a health topic you'd like to learn more about or you wish to see me (virtually) as a patient, please let me know!
Wishing you and your family a healthy week,