Herpes and the Vegan Diet (update)

Here is a response I got to the Herpes and the Vegan Diet post that I thought I’d share with everyone:

I have been veg for 24 years and vegan for 20. I have also had Herpes Simplex 1 for (approx) 22 years. I remember reading about it and discovering the same information your questioner found, eat foods high in lysine and low in arginine. This was very discouraging to my new love of veganism, but I was determined to not eat animal products – even if it compromised my health.

So when I had an outbreak, I bought vegetarian L-Lysine pills. It did the trick. I definitely healed much faster than when I didn’t take them, but I didn’t like supplementing. It was expensive and I hate taking pills. So I paid attention to what made an outbreak worse or better or come at all.

What I found was that stress was a huge factor. If I got some rest, slowed down, and focused on the positive, this was the best healing plan. Food was a factor as well, but it really had to do with how junky and processed the food was, not necessarily the lysine content. I did find higher lysine plant foods, but what really made the difference was to stop eating junk and eat whole grains, fruits and veggies in a more natural state, not highly processed, no added sugar/salt etc.

I tried both independently – high lysine foods vs. just cleaning my diet and eating super healthy for a few days and the latter worked the best. So I stopped supplementing and thinking about the lysine all together and focused on living and eating healthy. My outbreaks became fewer and fewer and now I haven’t had one in about 7 years.

Twenty years ago I thought my contracting Herpes was a curse, but now I look at it as a blessing that encouraged me to learn to eat and live healthy. I’m now a vibrant vegan of 40 (had my blood work run recently and everything is great) and I’ve never supplemented with anything else.

28 Responses to “Herpes and the Vegan Diet (update)”

  1. Eric Says:

    20 years of veganism and no B12 supplementation? How?

  2. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Either fortified foods or luck. However, if you plan to continue on the no supplementation (and no fortified foods) path, I would recommend you get your homocysteine levels checked. Most vegans who do not eat fortified foods or take B12 supplements have elevated homocysteine.

  3. Marcelo Galli Says:

    It’s actually hard not to stumble on fortified foods if you’re vegan. I eat a couple of (big) bowls a week of All Bran or All Bran Flakes, which are fortified, and drink some fortified milk (Natura, Silk, Eden, etc.) with and without the cereal, and get plenty of B12 by the end of the week. No supplementation necessary. Some weeks I don’t, but then just going back to my normal gets me quickly back on track. Not much worries there.

  4. Fez Says:

    I’ve had very similar experiences with lysine/arginine and cold sores. As a vegetarian I noticed that eggs, chocolate and nuts in combination with a little stress could cause a cold sore almost immediately. As a vegan, I’ve noticed that my vulnerability to stress and nuts seems to be less (obviously the chocolate/eggs fell away but I eat a lot more nuts than ever before). Taking lysime supplements when I have a cold sore outbreak worked like a miracle cure while I was a vegetarian (seemed to heal twice as fast) but seems to have much less effect since I am vegan. Skin irritation to sun and even wind is now the biggest factor in whether I experience a breakout.

  5. Neu Says:

    I have an herpes outbreak right now, I was looking for more information about this subject and I’ve found this website. I had herpes all my life, but only had like five or six outbreaks ( i am 33 yo), this last one was caused by many hours of solar exposure, I also know about the Lysine x Arginine and I even compiled a very detailed list of foods rich in Lysine. It’s true that peanuts are awful and I tend to overdose on nut butters but besides that I am vegan, eat no processed foods, no sugar, no fried foods, no alcohol (no drugs), only whole vegetables, fruits, beans, cereals, nuts and seeds (and seaweed too), take a b12 suplemment, do sports, try to sleep well, but there is no universal justice, is there? But well, I will survive herpes and I am more worried about the scar it will leave…

    List of foods with a better lysine/arginine ratio, from the top to the bottom>

    Apricot, dried
    Fig, dried
    Soybean sprouts
    Squash, summer
    Peach, dried
    Green beans
    Lentil sprouts
    Lettuce, romaine
    Lettuce, iceberg
    Cabbage, chinese
    Sweet potato
    Turnip greens
    Oat flakes
    Beet greens

  6. Robin Says:

    This is interesting to me … I have had cold sores all my life, but have been having multiple outbreaks since I became vegan seven months ago. I determined that I was eating a very high arginine diet. Nuts, oats, and chocolate were three of the biggest components of my diet! I’m trying to cut back on those and take a lysine supplement and it seems to help.

  7. Sonia Says:

    I found out that I had herpes 3 years ago. Since then I’ve had outbreaks almost every two weeks. I’ve been taking one Valtrex pill when I feel the onset of an outbreak and it usually stops it from progressing. However, I’ve still had to take 1-2 pills a month. Well, I went veg (lacto-ovo, but DRASTICALLY limiting all animals products with the ultimate goal of veganism) a little over a month ago. I haven’t had one outbreak since!!! I’ve been amazed that I have not felt the onset of an outbreak AT ALL since I’ve almost eliminated animal products from my diet. Not sure if the veg diet has anything to do with it…but if it does, I’m STOKED!

  8. Leah Says:

    I feel so frustrated with finding out all the foods I eat are high in arginine. I was just diagnosed in Dec of 09 and since then I have had one OB a month. Usually not too bad, but discomforting none the less. I am struggling with what to eat. I DON”T eat processed foods, and I haven’t for years. I have been a vegan, raw foodist and a now I am primarily a vegetarian (duck eggs and goat milk are so good!) But nuts and and veggies and fruits are what I mainly eat. I am just not sure how to really work all this out. HELP?

  9. Greg Says:

    I’ve had herpes for 10 years (I’m 31 now). Seven years ago I stated eating a vegetarian diet and haven’t had one outbreak. Before that I only had one serious outbreak, when I contracted herpes.But I used to use drugs (weed, alcohole, coke, meth, etc.); and during that time I had frequent mild outbreaks, in the form of mild rashes, redness, and itching.

    But on my vegetarian diet, I never paid attention to hepres suppressing or aggravating foods. I just ate plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts (nuts sparingly). That seems to work just fine.

  10. Georgine Says:

    I suffer from coldsores and had a terrible outbreak in the spring after snacking on nuts all winter. Since then I’ve changed my habits and I believe the best solution is to always counteract nuts with an equal amount of nutritional yeast (nooch). As a vegan I could not fathom giving up nuts. I make dressings with equal amounts of nuts and nooch, plus some vinegar and a clove or two of garlic (and enough water to make liquid)… yummy! I also add nooch to “cheese” sauces made from nuts and to pesto as well. Also I eat peanut butter on toast with Vegemite (another yeast product… I have no idea of the lysine content but many Aussies swear by its effectiveness against herpes and coldsores).

  11. Jonathan Says:

    Odd this stuff. I have had cold sores since I was little. They’ve been quite frequent, two or three times a year ever since. Until about two years ago when I chose veganism. Haven’t had another to date.

  12. superwoman Says:

    i just found out yesterday that i have herpes(22yo), the doctor said by looking at my OB that i’ve had it for awhile and this was not an initial OB, although i feel that it is; but after doing research, i noticed that recently i’ve been eating a lot of all the foods i shouldn’t of been eating had i been following within the lysine/arginine guideline. also i had been consuming an extreme amount of alcohol due to a lot of personal trauma physical and mental trauma.my ex-boyfriend beat me up pretty bad about two weeks ago, she said all the stress and alcohol consumption was most likely the trigger. so i’m wondering if that’s what brought this OB on or who knows maybe it is initial, looking back theirs been a few times where i remember being really itchy down there but i just never really paid attention and one time i had went to the doctor and she said it was trich, it doesn’t matter either way i have it. i was prescribed acyclovir 3x a day for 5 days. so here i am now reading and trying to figure out what i shouldn’t and should eat my OB isn’t extreme at all just a few sores and they were pretty much healed up 5 days later(probably why the doc thinks its not initial), some websites say fish, eggs, dairy products are good. i have to eat what my family eats, so i’m trying to adjust my diet to where its not noticeable and doesn’t limit my family especially since i can’t tell them. i know that i have not been eating meat and i had been trying not to since before my diagnoses i noticed when i cut out meat i actually lost a lot of weight, but tuna is relatively cheap. i know to cut out bread, nuts, chocolate, but i’m confused i saw some people still eat seeds? also it’s posted on many websites the lysine/arginine ratio content table. does that mean i can eat the things listed on that table but stick to the items listed more towards the top because i’ve been eating brussel sprouts and i read to eat them but i noticed they were lower on the list than crab and i read that you shouldn’t even eat shell-food, so i’m really confused a lot of the veggies weren’t on the high end of things either. as of now i don’t want to go vegan, i can do vegetarian but if i can benefit from eating chicken and fish (which i read were good) then i’ll eat chicken and fish. i don’t know i’m just really confused would someone mind clearing the air for me and preferably giving me a shopping list of do’s and don’t. also what about exercising, i started lifting weights and doing crunches pretty basic activities, what kind of exercise regimen should i follow. thank you.

  13. Mrs. J Says:

    I have tried many times to convert to a vegan diet, but almost all the sources of protein are high in arginine, which we all know needs to be avoided. I have tried eating ‘organic’, raw, and alkaline, yet still my body is extremely sensitive to anything with arginine and I will become sluggish, I’ll become little woozy, and get a MIGRAINE.

    I have actually been using Lysine supplementation for many years (approximately 10 years) in high doses when I eat something that is higher in Arginine than Lysine, yet it seems I have to take high doses of Lysine in order for it to work well. Taking 500-100 mg daily would never, ever work for me. Perhaps that is why some people say it does not work….they are not taking enough. I take sometimes four 500 mg. Lysine tablets with a high arginine meal. If I eat two meals higher in Arginine, than that means I take eight 500 mg. Lysine in a single day. I have actually done this with 3 meals per day at times (2000 mg three meals/day) I don’t know of anyone else who has such frequent problems with herpes and is so extremely quick to break out!

    All this to say, a low arginine diet is a MUST for me, because although I still eat mostly organic and try to eat healthy, take vitamins and supplements, and exercise, I fight it constantly. I wish I could just eat a ‘ cleaner’ diet like a writer above and have it work so well, but I have eaten a clean diet for many years and it does not stop the herpes if what I am eating is higher in arginine than lysine. Ahhhh…..such limited food sources. I’d love to be a vegan, but it is impossible for me.

  14. Mrs. J Says:

    OOps…that should have read:

    “Taking 500-1000 mg. daily would never, ever work for me.”

  15. Margaret Says:

    I eat a diet high in arginine (nuts, chocolate, vegetables) and used to get fever blisters once a month. I even took the L-lysine supplements with no success. Probably not high enough dosage. I don’t want to give up my diet and eat cheese and meat because that will bring it’s own side effects. THEN I discovered Red Marine Algae and NO MORE OUTBREAKS! I went 2 whole years without one, and then I had 1 last year and 1 this year — both brought on by not going out with sunblock. I use both the RMA capsules as well as the ointment.

  16. Mrs. J Says:

    I excitedly tried the Red Marine Algae, but unfortunately it only raised my blood pressure. I discovered in researching it, that it affects the blood pressure, & I normally have *low* blood pressure. I wish it had worked for me!

    Glad to hear that it worked for someone else. 🙂

  17. JENNA Says:

    Since eating a vegan plant based diet i hardly go a month without an outbreak. Sometime twice a month. On my former animal and vegetable diet i had outbreaks once a year. It’s debilitating and nothing works. I guess its the grains and nuts or something else. Anyway i am going to replace the grains and beans with some animal products for a trial to see how that works. I spend so much time feeling so wiped out every time i have an attack. Hope it works.

  18. Mrs. J Says:

    Me too, Jenna! I can’t go vegetarian or vegan because it involves lots of nuts, seeds, beans, and sometimes even soy. The nuts & seeds are WAY too high in arginine. The soy is not good with my thyroid (as well as high in arginine) and the beans far too acidic. They all cause problems for me. So I went back to a meat eaters diet with meat and dairy. I have to be careful of whole grains too, though, because they are high in arginine. Dairy, albeit mucousy, works best for being break-out free.

  19. Bernard M Says:

    I have had herpes simplex since childhood, outbreaks seemed to coincide with exhaustion and stress. However I haven’t had an outbreak since I started plant based diet 1 year 3 months. I used to get very bad hangovers when I ate meat but I havent had one since changing diet. I haven’t had any headache or physical ailments neither. However last month I had to eat some meat beacause friends and family were complaining that I had lost a lot of weight (Most of the bad weight lost was because there were days I wouldnt eat but just drink coffee and smoke, not because of vegan diet). I was “run down ” the other day due to working night shitfs and not being able to sleep during summer day and those cold sores reappeared. The only explanation I can give is the animal/meat/poultry/fish I recently ate. However, looking at it from another point of view (Ehret) the body may actually be getting rid of toxins, we offend by consuming those toxins and it tries to detoxify (cold sore) and we reoffend e.t.c.

    I response to miss J, MIGRAINES and feeling oozy may be the toxins stinging on their way out. Ehret called it the magic mirror, basically you were “rationally fasting” when you were on a vegan diet because you were avoiding the previous toxic “foods” and now that your body is doing hosuekeeping, they sting on their way out. Most people give up at this stage balming the Vegan die. I recommend reading “Mucusless diet, healing system” by Arnold Ehret.

    Peace and Love.

  20. L Says:

    I was a vegan for over twenty years, I would get terrible outbreaks of cold sores. I supplemented with massive doses of lysine but still got sever outbreaks. I have become paleo .no real outbreaks ,a tiny dot. It was a nightmare that I do not wish to re-enavtpt. I used vaslttex,laser machine everything? The balance or arginine \kysine in vegan foods does not suppress the virus….

  21. A. Clark Says:

    This is really interesting to read. I am 28 y.o and I have coldsores all my life. I ate well and avoided processed foods. I was aware of lysine/arginine and had supplements also had a aclicivor cream in every bag, and pockets of every coat I own!
    It was common at stressful times to have one followed immediately by another. 5 months ago I became a vegan, not even thinking of the effect it may or may not have on coldsores, but, I have not yet had one outbreak. No coldsores at all.
    I personally think it is less sugars and chocolate that has done it for me, and generally feeling happier and healthier. Interesting to read all the accounts of different experiences here.

  22. J Crow Says:

    Hello all. I am a vegan with Ménière’s disease, an inner ear disorder that will make your life a living hell and supposedly has no cure. What some people have realized is that it is caused by the herpes virus that finds its way into your ears, therefore the best treatment for is to follow the herpes protocol, the whole lysine arginine thing. Following the advice of a man named “John from Ohio”(you can google his regimen, I have been able to suppress the disease while still eating my vegan diet, however low sodium is specific to menieres for the reduction of fluids in ear so I watch that as well. Anyhow I eat oatmeal daily, chocolate when I want, nuts, coconut milk etc. The two main components I suggest to you are a Lysine supplement, 3000 mg daily, until you have gone several months without symptoms, then you can gradually reduce to 500 a day. Take these as 1000mg 3 times a day as evenly spaced as you can. You must take on an empty stomach for best absorption, at least 2 hours after eating and at least 20 min before you eat again. The second is vitamin c, 1000mg time released vitamin c twice a day with food. If this is two much, 500mg buffered twice a day may be sufficient as well. I’d recommend still watching your arginine for the first few weeks or month after starting on these supplements to allow the virus to fall back a bit. It’s also important to mention, starting these supplements during an active outbreak yields the best results. Hope this helps!

  23. Jack Norris RD Says:

    For what it’s worth, I just posted about a study that showed vegans to have lower arginine intakes and blood levels, on average, than meat-eaters, but also lower lysine intakes and blood levels.


  24. Jennifer Says:

    Like so many others that are commenting here…this is SO dang interesting. I am a 41 year old healthy woman who had suffered from cold sore outbreaks on the regular since I was two years old. I barely remember a school picture taken when I wasn’t cursed with one of those miserable outbreaks. I thought I had them under control around the age of 30 by avoiding any trauma to my lips (i.e. Sunburn, windburn, allowing them to get chapped) AND by making sure I was well-rested & avoiding stress. During this time they were under “control” I was still suffering from outbreaks 3-4 times a year with extreme diligence. Because of ethical reasons, I quit eating meat two years ago & quit most dairy a month after (I am not a perfect vegan when it comes to dining out). I could never imagine the health benefits that would come along with it…..less anxiety, clear skin, & I haven’t had a cold sore since I gave it all up!! I shake my head some days with the regret of not giving up animal products sooner. It’s baffling how different each of our bodies reacts to what we nourish it with. I’m thankful to have found what’s “right” for me. I wish all of you the same!

  25. M Says:

    Jack Norris, when you did your blood work did your herpes test come back negative?

  26. Jack Norris RD Says:


    I’m not sure what you’re referring to—have I said I’ve been tested for herpes? I actually was tested about 10 years ago and it was negative and I’ve had no signs of having herpes.

  27. N Says:

    So you never had herpes to start out with 24 years ago? I am confused.

  28. Jack Norris RD Says:


    I’m sorry—I see your confusion. When comments come through I see only the title of the post that someone is commenting on, but I don’t see the text of the post and I hadn’t remembered the details of this particular post (I originally posted it 8 years ago). But now that I checked out the content, I see that it wasn’t clear to you that I was posting an email I received from someone else. I’ve now indented the email to make it more clear that I didn’t write the message, someone else did. I don’t know what their blood work showed regarding their herpes—my sense is that they weren’t testing for herpes but rather general blood work, but I can’t say for sure.

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