Diet and outbreaks
July 23, 2011 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Which foods are best for a person with herpes? Also, what about a specific act of sex?

I have an outbreak of herpes that forms on my anus usually before or after my period. I have no health insurance so my meds will run out most of the time. In the meantime, while I find ways to replenish my prescription, what are foods I can consume more of to keep a healthy immune system to decrease flare ups and what foods should I avoid? Also, how unhealthy is anal sex if I have to worry about these flare ups? Is it possible or entirely off limits?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Look up foods that are high in l-lysine and eat those. Avoid foods that are high in l-arginine (I think it's called) which includes, unfortunately, most nuts, especially almonds.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:51 AM on July 23, 2011

You can also take a large dose of over the counter L-Lysine supplements (only a few bucks for a bottle) rather than worrying about the foods you eat. Arginine only triggers outbreaks insofar as an outbreak can occur if there's more arginine than lysine, so you shouldn't need to worry about eating things like nuts if you're supplementing with lysine.

Truly the most important thing is to maintain a healthy immune system the way that any person would, not just a person with herpes. They're called "cold sores" for a reason -- when your immune system is compromised by anything else (stress, fatigue, minor illness, poor nutrition, lack of exercise) you're much more likely to experience an outbreak.

You are more likely to experience these outbreaks if you have anal sex than if you don't: trauma to the infected tissue, even just from friction during intercourse, can trigger an outbreak.

IIRC some of the previous generation anti-virals (e.g. acyclovir) that need to be taken more often than valcyclovir (Valtrex) are on the reduced price list at Walmart, so you should be able to get some medication cheaply. If you are having monthly flare ups you should absolutely be on daily suppressive therapy.
posted by telegraph at 11:08 AM on July 23, 2011

Do you have a Planned Parenthood that you can go to? Their sliding scale is affordable for those without health insurance, you can see them for both treatment and good, non-judgmental advice about preventing/reducing outbreaks.
posted by desuetude at 3:06 PM on July 23, 2011

Some people take Licorice as an anti-viral and claims it works very well.

You would have to get the right brand and not the sweets for children. It also screws with you potassium levels. Eat in moderation!

I don't have herpes, so I have not tried it and can't give a personal recommendation. But I know some people stocked this stuff for the bird fly...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:53 PM on July 23, 2011

I don't know if licorice will help but it seems worth a try. You can buy real licorice roots in health food stores, they look like little sticks, and then you just chew on them, they taste good, kind of sweet. We chewed on them when I was a kid in Europe.

Another thing that might help is to use wet wipes instead of toilet paper to keep yourself really clean, baby wipes are cheap.

Some big chain drug stores, like Walmart, offer very cheap generic drugs. Some pharmaceutical companies will also give needed drugs to people who can't afford them. If you don't have a Planned Parenthood or other such clinic nearby you might consider calling the nearest one and explain your predicament.

If you tell us where you are we might be able to help you find what you need.
posted by mareli at 6:32 PM on July 23, 2011

For herpes the only thing that really works is antivirals. My suggestion is this:

- Go to a walk-in clinic and get a doctor to prescribe you an oral antiviral acyclovir
- Go to your nearest chain pharmacy and sign up for their prescription club. It varies by company, but for instance Walgreens charges $20 per year. The rx will then cost you only $12 for a 3-month supply.
- You are going to have to play around with the dosing. You may need to take a small amount every day for suppression, or maybe just during your period.
posted by radioamy at 10:02 PM on July 23, 2011

YMMV on acyclovir. I found it didn't work better than l-lysine and cost more.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:39 AM on July 25, 2011

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