Herpes, chances are you have it even if you don’t know it, or maybe you do know but have been shamed into hiding. The World Health Organization estimates that up to one third of all people under 50 have the virus making it extremely common today. There are two forms of the Herpes Simplex Virus, type 1 which is known commonly as cold sores found around the mouth and type 2 which is the sexually transmitted genital ulcers. Both are very contagious especially when sores are present, but it is also possible to pass on the virus when there are no visual symptoms.
It is extremely easy to become infected; sharing drinks or cosmetics, kissing or even playing contact sport like rugby can increase the chances of becoming infected. It is also possible to get genital herpes by receiving oral sex from someone who has cold sores on or in their mouth. Open communication with sexual partners is essential to avoid spreading the virus further. It is important that we break the stigma around this extremely common condition!
Once infected the virus moves from the skin into the nervous system where it sits dormant until we are run down or energetically depleted. Outbreaks are most often triggered by stress & fatigue, but menstruation, other viral conditions and for some people sunlight or consuming foods like chocolate, nuts and gelatin can prompt the cysts to reappear. An outbreak will start with a tingly feeling, followed by small liquid filled blisters that erupt into ulcers that are very sore, inflamed and can last up to two weeks at a time. During an outbreak you may experience other symptoms of having a virus like fever, fatigue and body aches.
While there is no cure for the virus, there are things you can do once you begin to feel the dreaded tingle to limit the length and severity of an outbreak. If symptoms persist or get worse see your GP.
1. Rest & reduce stress. When your body is fighting off a virus you need more respite than usual. This means cancelling or rain checking plans, saying no to a couple of social outings, taking a break from house chores or personal projects. Give yourself permission to stay at home to get some really good nights of sleep as well as intentionally moving slowly during the days as your body recovers.
2. Build your body and immune system back up with whole foods packed with nutrients. Particular nutrients to incorporate are L-lysine (found in turkey, salmon, lean beef, eggs, apples, mangoes, apricots & pears), zinc (pepitas & oysters) & vitamin C (broccoli, citrus, strawberries, kiwi).
3. Treat topically using a cotton ball/swab or gloves, to avoid spreading the infection with you hands. Use witch hazel and/or tea tree oil for its antiviral properties. Fresh aloe vera also has been shown to improve wound healing in the case of herpes outbreaks. Lemon balm infused cream also improves symptoms by calming the aggravated area down then if pain is persistent use a capsicum based gel or cream to alleviate pain.
4. Use herbal medicine in the form of tea, tincture or spagyric. Herbs shown to improve symptoms of herpes include St John’s Wort for its antiviral activity and Echinacea for its immune boosting actions.
5. Avoid foods that are inflammatory such as anything with refined or added sugar, alcohol and processed foods (most foods that come in a package at the supermarket). Acidic foods, such as tomatoes, vinegar or spicy foods may irritate ulcers. Foods containing L-arginine like chocolate and wheat, may increase replication of the virus.