The Role of Diet In The Management Of Recurrent and Chronic Viral Issues
Herpes is not just a sexually transmitted disease! There is a whole family of viruses called “Herpesviridae” or “herpes viruses.” This family of viruses includes: A. Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1) B. Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 (HSV-2), C. Cytomegalovirus/CMV, D. Epstein-Barr Virus/EBV, which is also called Mononucleosis or “Mono”, E. Human Herpes Virus type 6/HHV-6, F. “Chickenpox” which is also called Herpes Zoster Varicella Virus or “Shingles.”
These viruses can significantly impact our well-being. There is a lot of scientific evidence which demonstrates that the balance of nutrients in your diet can have significant role in regulating these viruses. Studies have shown that the balance between two amino acids, Lysine and Arginine, plays a crucial role in managing these viruses . In this blog post, we will delve into the relationship between Lysine, Arginine, and the family of herpes viruses and explore dietary recommendations to optimize this balance.
The Lysine-Arginine Connection:
Lysine and Arginine are both amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Lysine has been found to inhibit the reproduction of herpes viruses and improve associated symptoms, while Arginine stimulates herpes viral replication and exacerbates symptoms. Striking a balance between these two amino acids is essential for managing herpes infections effectively!
The Importance of a Balanced Diet:
Achieving the right balance of Lysine and Arginine involves making dietary choices that favor Lysine-rich foods while limiting those high in Arginine. However, it is crucial to note that completely eliminating Arginine from the diet is not recommended, as it serves various essential functions in the body. Instead, focus on creating a good balance between the two.
Lysine-Rich Foods to Incorporate:
Dairy - Go for hormone/antibiotic-free, preferably grass-fed and organic products such as yogurt, cheese, and milk. Only incorporate these foods if you tolerate dairy well! Many people are lactose intolerant or have other sensitivities to dairy products. If that is the case for you, don’t force it! However, if you are intolerant of cow or goat dairy, consider trying sheep dairy options like sheep yogurt and cheese (such as Manchego). Sheep milk has completely different proteins, fats and sugars compared to cow or goat milk. It is highly nutritious and is often better tolerated than cow or goat dairy products.
Butter - Choose grass-fed, preferably organic butter. However, do not expect to get this benefit from Ghee. Ghee is only fat and therefore contains no amino acids of any type.
Animal Proteins - Include hormone/antibiotic-free meats like beef, lamb, turkey, and chicken in your diet. High-quality options are always the best: grass-fed, pasture-raised, and organic meats are more nutrient-dense and contain lower levels of toxins. Game meats like venison, buffalo, ostrich, and elk are also excellent choices. You may also consider low mercury content seafood. For a list of the safest seafood options, checkout the Environmental Working Group’s Best Fish List.
Eggs - Always eat pasture-raised, free-range, organic eggs. They are more nutrient-dense and lower in toxins. Just like dairy products, avoid conventionally processed eggs due to their exposure to unnecessary hormones and antibiotics.
Beets, Mangoes, Figs, and Summer Squash (Yellow) - Incorporate these lysine-rich fruits and vegetables into your diet. Most vegetables have about an equal amount of Lysine and Arginine, but those mentioned here have higher Lysine content than most.
Limiting Arginine-Rich Foods:
To manage herpes viruses effectively, it is essential to limit consumption of foods high in Arginine. This does not mean you can never eat these things. Rather, you should have them in moderation, and be sure to balance them out with foods that are high in Lysine. The foods highest in Arginine content include:
Nuts - All types of nuts, including coconut. Be mindful of nut milks, butters, ‘nut cheeses’, and flours. However, nut oils are excluded, as they do not contain amino acids or proteins.
Seeds - Similar to nuts, all types of seeds should be consumed in moderation, including seed flours, butters, and milks. Again, seed oils do not contribute to the amino acid balance. Examples include: hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds (tahini), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.
Peanuts - This includes peanut butter, which should be limited in your diet.
Oatmeal, Corn, and Rice - These grains contain higher levels of Arginine and should be consumed sparingly.
Chocolate is extremely high in arginine. And if you go on a chocolate bender, it can easily trigger a herpes outbreak.
Bone broth, gelatin and collagen products are extremely popular foods, as part of an autoimmune Paleo diet. However, these are very high in arginine.
Protein powders are often derived from nuts, seeds, and collagen. So they are often high in arginine. Be sure to read nutritional labels for protein powder products, which should list the amount of arginine in the powder.
Citrus (oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, etc) tends to be high in arginine. Some people falsely believe that the acidity of a glass of orange juice can trigger a herpes flare. But it is actually the high arginine content of citrus that can trigger a viral recurrence. Both eating the actual fruit or consuming large amounts of juice should be balanced with lysine.
Tips for Vegan Patients:
Maintaining a balanced Lysine-Arginine ratio may pose challenges for vegan individuals. However, there are many vegan foods are rich in Lysine. For some comprehensive lists of vegan foods high in Lysine and low in Arginine check out these resources:
- VegFAQ’s Best High Lysine/Low Arginine Foods List
- This Article from Gabrielle Traub contains a list of Lysine to Arginine Ratios complied by James M. Scutero that is quite comprehensive and contains many vegan options.
Understanding the impact of Lysine and Arginine on herpes viruses can empower individuals to manage their symptoms effectively. By incorporating Lysine-rich foods into your diet and limiting consumption of Arginine-rich foods, you can support your body's natural defenses against herpes viruses. Remember, achieving a balance between these amino acids is key to maintaining overall well-being: it is not an ‘all or nothing’ battle. Consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist for personalized advice based on your specific needs and medical history.