Herpes Simplex outbreaks are a frustrating reality for millions of Americans. The lesions they cause can be painful and embarrassing. Although there is currently no cure for the herpes simplex viruses (HSV1 and HSV2), there are several methods to reduce the number of outbreaks.
The herpes simplex viruses, after the initial infection, travel up nerve fibers to an area of the nerve called the dorsal root ganglia. In these areas they are safe from the immune system which does not patrol this part of the nervous system. The main objective for a virus, however, is to spread to other organisms: something it cannot do while tucked away in a nerve fiber.
When the immune system becomes weakened (usually by stress, sleep deprivation, or certain medications), the herpes virus travels back down the nerve and resurfaces through the skin. Once the virus leaves the nerve and enters the skin it becomes fair game for the immune system, which recognizes and attacks it as a foreign invader. Herpes lesions are the result of this attack, not the virus itself.
Why Recurrences Happen
Anything that weakens the immune system can cause a herpes outbreak. Preventing the immune system from becoming compromised is therefore one way to prevent herpes outbreak recurrences. We do not understand the herpes simplex viruses completely, however, and it is likely that outbreaks can occur from yet unidentified reasons.
The immune system is a powerful bodily force and as such requires a lot of energy to be completely functional. Things like malnutrition and sleep deprivation can quickly impair the immune system and increase chances of a herpes outbreak. Mental stress can also wear out the immune system. Although its physiology is less understood, stress likely upsets the balances of chemicals and mechanisms within the body, first affecting delicate and energy-hungry systems like that of immunity. Simply taking care of your body by eating plenty of natural, unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables, getting consistent and restful sleep, and relieving stress with things like breathing exercises or otherwise enjoyable activities are the first things you should do to decrease the frequency of herpes simplex outbreaks.
In addition to avoiding things that suppress the immune system, it is also helpful to enhance the immune system through natural methods to reduce herpes outbreaks. Vitamin C is a very active immune agent, possessing antiviral and antifungal properties, as well as performing antioxidant functions. The use of zinc in herpes outbreak prevention has also been notably effective. Its exact mechanism is unclear, but it is thought to inhibit the reproduction of the herpes virus as well as helping immune cells to be more effective in fighting off the virus. Herpes simplex viruses require the amino acid arginine in order to replicate. Diets low in arginine and high in lysine (another amino acid which can block the action of arginine) have been shown to reduce the amount of herpes outbreaks. Legumes, such as peanuts, kidney beans, and soybeans, often have high lysine and low arginine content. Keep your immune system healthy and your herpes outbreaks at a minimum with well-balanced nutrition, plenty of sleep, and the natural remedies described above.
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