The anti-viral diet -or- living primally with herpes
I have been through a lot of different lifestyles and eating habits over the years, and my HSV2 has been one of the main things I have struggled to control through all of it. I'd like to share my experiences, for those in the same boat, and and anyone else that may have reason to benefit from an anti-viral diet. Please feel free to ask any questions that may arise.
Part 1. Overall dietary choices
I'm going to assume a fair grasp on the basics of primal eating, going into this. The primal eating rule I would like to reiterate the most is: NO GRAINS. Sugars are going to suppress the immune system, impeding your healing process, and the toxins in grains especially will exacerbate/cause a breakout. Now bear with me here, but I feel the need to share the fact that the first time in my life I really got a handle on my outbreaks was while eating grain free and vegan**. What does this mean for you, as a steak loving Grok or Grokette? Simply that you will need to emphasize vegetables, leafy greens especially, in your diet. One of the keys to controlling viral replication in the body is keeping the liver clean. Eating spinach, kale, chard, and broccoli daily will provide lots of detoxifying chorophyll and plant enzymes.
The next most important thing you can do for your diet is consume good quality fats. Remember that this is a skin condition; eating plenty of coconut oil, avocado, and wild caught salmon is going to make your skin softer and more supple, this will minimize the "shedding" period of healing. There has been some research on the affects of zinc, both topical and internal in regards to HSV suppression; I recommend adding pumpkin seeds to your diet as well, they go great on top of salads. I wouldn't recommend dairy consumption during times of outbreak (your mileage may vary - it bothers me), try to choose coconut oil for cooking as often as possible, and ghee or olive oil otherwise.
Despite what I said above about my personal path (see the **footnote), quality protein sources are important - simply because the body is going to heal more quickly if it has the protein it needs to repair. I'd like to simultaneously address the research on arginine and lysine ratios, as your amino acid intake is determined by the proteins you choose; this is probably the first method of thinking about herpes that most sufferers come across in their research. Attempting to ingest more lysine than arginine, as a sole measure, had very little affect for me; I feel like this is something one should try to keep in the back of their mind, but not specifically pursue through diet. Turkey, chicken, salmon, halibut - all high in lysine - sure, chow down on 'em, but don't go to the extremes of ingesting toxic substances like oatmeal, granola, soybeans, etc - just because they contain high lysine ratios. More on lysine in "supplementation." Obvious primal choices like grass fed beef and seafood seem to have very little affect, positive or negative. These are good ways to get your daily macronutrients without causing detriment. I will say that bacon and packaged lunch meats will exacerbate break outs for me, they have never felt like "clean meats" to my system.
The last elements to consider adding to your diet are herbs and spices. Curcumin (contained in tumeric), garlic, onion, oregano, and mint have been shown to have antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Don't forget coconut oil (lauric acid) is also antiviral. I recommend tossing garlic and an onion in every stir fry you make; try to use fresh herbs and season the meats you cook; try to sautee in coconut oil primarily.
One food that deserves specific mention is broccoli. Broccoli contains indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a compound that has been found to significantly interfere with the replication of HSV 1 and 2, as well as some types of cancer. Broccoli sprouts actually contain up to 50x as much I3C as full grown broccoli; consider taking up sprouting if you enjoy them. If you can't get past the taste of either, broccoli supplements are available as well. I can't stress the inclusion of broccoli in your diet enough.
Part 2. Supplementation
Alright, you've got a picture of the diet in your head. You're going to have to do some experimenting yourself to see what works and what doesn't - but you're on the right path. Given the time and discipline, you will heal given nothing more than the above advice. However, proper supplementation will significantly speed up your journey to being outbreak free, and given continued compliance, will significantly suppress the virus in your system. The mentor in my life that introduced me to a lot of these concepts has been outbreak free for 17 years!
Lysine supplementation - as I said above, I don't think aiming for high dietary lysine is particularly fruitful, but, lysine has been shown to make your skin softer, and with the amount of research in favor of this treatment, why not give it a try? 1g doses up to three or four times a day have been recommended.
Grapefruit seed extract - This stuff is a miracle. Probably the most potent natural antiviral you'll find. They do make it in capsules, but it seems to lose some potency in comparison to the liquid concentrate. Take 20 - 25 drops in a glass of water (brace yourself for the bitterness), twice a day during outbreaks, 10 - 15 drops one to two times a day for day to day viral suppression and immune support. This stuff is pretty potent, be aware that overstressing the body will worsen the condition. Be conscious of the affects and adjust dosage if need be, or start low and build up.
Red marine algae - also known as dulse, this is another potent natural antiviral, plus you get the benefits of seaweed, which include lots of iodine and trace minerals from the sea. Short term I have taken 350mg caps up to five times a day during outbreak. You may not want to continue that high of doses of iodine over long periods, one to two a day should work for maintenance doses.
Oregano oil (carvacrol) - another extremely potent antiviral. I've had some success using this short term, but it causes a lot of other systemic irritation (the outbreak would start to fade, and the whole of the skin would turn red and get irritated.) Oregano essential oil actually contains thujone, which is a neurotoxin, detrimental to both the brain and the nervous system. This stuff is kind of like dropping a nuke on a single building. I don't recommend it.
Colloidal silver - I imagine most of us caught this article, but just in case you didn't. This stuff is reputed to be an antiviral/anti-batericial; it isn't safe. Stay away.
Fish oil & vitamin-D - lumping these together because you should be taking them with a primal regimen anyway. Both will help skin quality and reduce systemic inflammation. Exactly our goal here.
Topical application of black tea bags. The tannins found in black tea have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Steep a cup of tea, let it cool until comfortable to the touch, and apply the tea bag to your affected area. Keep it there for 5 - 10 minutes. This one is a little strange, but the results are visible within a day or two, repeat for one - two weeks and you can effectively beat an outbreak, given dietary compliance.
Part 3. Liver support & body alkalinity
I mentioned above that keeping your liver clean is a huge step in preventing viral replication, so I'm going to give this it's own section. Obvious first steps include discontinuing alcohol, drug and tobacco use. Beyond that, you can take a regimen of supplements designed to support liver function. Dandelion root, burdock root, and milk thistle will help detox the liver and prevent damage to it. Yogi Tea makes a "Detox" formula that contains several herbs known to clean the liver and kidneys, I suggest picking up a box.
Body alkalinity isn't exactly the phrase I want to use here - because I'm aware that the body's pH levels are self regulating and you can't really have much affect on your actual pH reading - but, ingesting acidic compounds does seem to have a negative affect on overall health, as well as a direct exacerbating affect on viral replication. Specific irritants include coffee, soda, chocolate, and peanut butter. The tannins and ECGG in green tea will have a positive affect on the condition, substitute it for coffee if need be.
On the subject of caffeine, stress and elevated cortisol levels will cause break outs and prevent you from healing. Mark has written more than I ever could on the subject, but just keep in mind your goals for yourself and your body, next time you find the stress running away with you. Take a moment to take a breath. Yoga and meditation are also detoxifying and extremely relaxing, if that's your thing. I find that gentle exercise (moving slowly, walking, playing, hiking, yoga) is beneficial for the condition. HIIT is also extremely detoxifying - don't be afraid to get good and sweaty.
Part 4. Lifestyle tips
Here are just a few miscellaneous things I've noticed throughout my journey.
Sleeping too much - I don't know if its just due to the area being warm and potentially a little sweaty when under the blankets all night, but I notice if I sleep more than 8 - 9 hours (i.e. those Friday nights when nothing calls for getting out of bed for 14 hours), I'll wake up worse than I went to bed. Keep the area clean, dry, and preferably not overly warm. Washing the affected area before bed may mitigate.
And on that note: wash the affected area two to three times a day during outbreaks. Try to use a gentle, natural soap. I use Chandrika's ayurvedic forumla, its something like 50% coconut oil.
Epsom salt baths can help treat the dry, flakey skin, and will also aid your detox. Take two to three a week maximum, as they pull will minerals and electrolytes out of you as well as toxins.
When using condoms (get used to it, every time - and get used to having that conversation with every partner you have. It's the responsible thing to do), give latex free a try. I noticed significantly less irritation when I switched. I also recommend washing afterwards, leaving synthetic lube on the area overnight will make breakouts worse.
I think this is an appropriate note to end on: I can't say enough good things for intermittent fasting. When the body isn't using energy for digestion, it is healing and rebuilding. See here and here.
**Disclaimer on the vegan thing: I was eating LOTS of vegetables, flax, coconut, coconut oil, avocado, hemp seed, nuts, etc. I attribute my success with this methodology to 1) being grain-free, 2) consuming sufficient amounts of detoxifying vegetables, and 3) eating enough good fats. This way of eating just wasn't sustainable due to hunger and prolonged healing times due to my low protein intake. A typical vegetarian diet (gluten-free grains, legumes, soy) is going to make the condition worse, I know because I've been there.
Last edited by raney; 11-30-2011 at 12:10 AM.
Thank you for this post! Very informative and helpful.
no pumpkin seeds
Any seeds and nuts should be avoided. Shellfish and crustaceans are also very high in arginine levels. There are many charts online listing lysine/arginine ratios. Stay away from the items with large amounts of arginine and don't feed your virus.