Itching, burning, tingling …. Oh no, you feel a cold sore coming on and you’re freaking out. How in the world are you going to cover it up? Maybe it’s better to cancel all plans and stay in.
You’re not the first person in the world to have a cold sore.
Let me teach you about this common virus that affects millions of people worldwide. 80% of American adults carry the herpes virus (HSV-I), which causes cold sores above the waist, also known as herpes labialis. One-quarter of the population has the virus which causes genital herpes (HSV-II), AKA herpes below the waist.
Why do most people look for a place to hide when they get a cold sore going as far as cancelling job interviews and breaking dates?
Although herpes is highly contagious, it is totally harmless in the majority of cases.
Aside from discomfort and mild pain, herpes is nothing to get all paranoid about.
Sure, once you catch it, you’ll have the virus for life, but it doesn’t mean that the disease will be in its active stage, and in many cases the virus remains dormant for years. Many individuals have such mild symptoms that they don’t even know they have the virus. These individuals are asymptomatic.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I’ve helped many of my patients manage herpes (type I and II) – supporting them emotionally, providing them with the right nutritional protocol to support their immune system, and helping them discuss the virus with their partner to avoid transmission.
Sores and blisters only present when your immune system is weak, which makes it extra vital to take care of your immune health – proper diet, balanced hormones, stress management techniques, and daily doses of immune boosting supplements can go a long way.
The herpes virus affects every individual differently and some people are able to fight the virus better than others.
So how can you keep your immune system strong and optimized to deal with HSV?
Here are a few steps that you can take:
1. Stop Stressing … It’s The #1 Cause of Cold Sores
Focusing on the virus is not going to help. It will likely make your condition worse. In many cases, herpes becomes an emotional disease, affecting people’s mood and self-confidence. Fear of being seen with a cold sore can cause a lot of distress.
2. Practice Mind/Body Medicine
Yoga, deep breathing techniques, and guided imagery will surely help with de-stressing. Your thoughts affect your physical health all the way down to your cells, so staying positive is an important part of managing the virus. Working with a Naturopathic Doctor can be very helpful as they understand the mind/body connection. They will support you physically, mentally and emotionally.
3. Eat a Clean Diet
Foods which are alkaline, antioxidant-rich, and nutrient-dense will support your immune system. It is recommended you avoid foods which are high in the amino acid arginine (e.g. nuts/seeds and chocolate).
There is some evidence that increasing your intake of lysine-rich foods can help fight the virus and many healthcare professionals recommend taking 1000 mg of lysine daily. Also, aim to keep your bowel movements regular by eating a diet rich in fibre and low in processed foods and sugary treats.
4. Take Anti-Viral Meds
While this isn’t my first recommendation to dealing with the virus, many people choose to be on suppressive medication to help control outbreaks, particularly those that carry HSV-II, the virus that causes genital herpes. Anti-viral meds that reduce healing time or help prevent outbreaks are hard on the liver and can lead to uncomfortable side-effects.
Although rare, side-effects include rashes, confusion, lethargy, and bone marrow toxicity. More importantly, suppressive medications don’t address the root cause and may create an immune system imbalance in the long-term.
I recommend alternative treatment approaches that address the underlying cause, not just the symptoms.
5. Use Raw Unrefined Coconut Oil
Human breastmilk contains monolaurin, which helps boost baby’s immune system and fight viruses, bacteria, and other invaders. The only food in the world (besides breastmilk) that is rich in monolaurin is pure, raw, unrefined coconut oil. Researchers are currently studying the effects of monolaurin against the herpes virus (both oral and genital herpes). So far, it seems that monolaurin boosts immunity and prevents transmission of the herpes virus, when taken internally and applied topically.
It is important to understand that the virus is manageable.
Take my advice and keep your immune system strong. Eat a nutrient-rich diet. Sleep well. Cleanse your liver, lymphatic system, and digestive system with a detox program. And, stay positive.
Cheers to an optimal immune system!