Coping With Cold Sores Naturally
Twenty percent of the United States population should consider themselves extremely lucky. Because as astonishing as it may seem, it has been estimated that eighty-percent carry the virus that causes cold sores, with over thirty-percent suffering from recurrent outbreaks. If you’re one of them, you already know what an embarrassing and isolating experience it can be. Considering that sun, heat and wind trigger many outbreaks, we thought that this would be a good time to review some of the best ways to help manage and cope with them.
Cold sores, or fever blisters, are caused by the herpes simplex 1 virus (HSV1), and affect a large number of US adults and children. Researchers now believe that many of these cases stem from the childhood years, after inadvertent contact with an infected adult. The virus is extremely contagious and can be spread via skin-to-skin contact, such as kissing or touching, as well as the sharing of utensils, towels, toiletries, beverages, telephones and a long list of other triggers.
Outbreaks come fast and are triggered by stress, sun, heat, high sugar intake, wind and immune system suppression. Most sufferers experience an itchy, warm, tingling feeling on or near the lips (known as the prodrome phase) that can last anywhere from a few minutes to several days. Shortly thereafter, blisters form that eventually break, weep, crust, and heal themselves within a period of 10-14 days without scarring. There is currently no cure for HSV1. Once you contract it, the virus lies dormant in the nervous system for life.
Prevention is key
With no cure in sight, preventing the initial exposure to the virus and expediting the body’s natural defense are the primary concerns. Based on the volume of individuals who carry the virus, HSV1 research has steadily increased over the years. The following dietary supplements and products have shown promise in helping manage and cope with them.
In order for cold sores to grow and replicate, the HSV1 virus must have a generous supply of the amino acid L-arginine. Lysine, another amino acid, inhibits the virus’s ability to replicate. In the eyes of many researchers, this appears to be an effective way to help manage and shorten the duration of those that do surface.
Essential oils, such as tea tree, bergamot, lemon balm, basil, oregano and geranium, have been shown to help dry cold sores during the weeping phase. Keep in mind that many essential oils are highly concentrated and may cause irritation. Diluting and patch testing is strongly recommended, especially for anyone with sensitive skin. If you’re new to essential oils, pick up a copy of the book Aromatherapy for Everyone, by PJ Pearson and Mary Shipley. It’s a great guide for both new and experienced users.
Taking a Stress B Complex and B-12 can help support a healthy nervous system and both have been used by millions to help cope with many forms of stress. Since the HSV1 virus lies dormant in the nerves between attacks, this can be a great additional support nutrient.
Immune System Support
How fast a person recovers from a bout with cold sores has a lot to do with how responsive their immune system is. Antioxidants, especially Vitamins C and E, Zinc, Selenium and Alpha Lipoic Acid, can eliminate free radicals. Probiotics work at the gastrointestinal level to help boost immune system response, and mushroom-based formulas stimulate the production of immune-boosting beta-glucans. Zinc Gluconate has been shown to disarm the virus’s ability to replicate.
If you’re among the millions of Americans who suffer from recurrent outbreaks, you may be able to reduce your number of annual episodes by taking the following measures:
- Avoid foods high in Arginine (nuts, chocolate, and wheat) and replace them with foods rich in Lysine (potatoes, milk, beef, chicken, cheese, and yogurt). Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.
- Never touch a cold sore with your bare hands. If you need to apply any drying or healing agents, do so with a clean cotton swab .
- Throw away toothbrushes used during outbreaks, and wash any linens or towels that were used at the time.
- Get lots of sleep. If your outbreak is making this difficult, supplementing melatonin or GABA at bedtime may be able to help.
- Do whatever you can to avoid stress. It is one of the most common triggers.
- Use high SPF sunscreen and lysine or zinc-based lip balms every day, even during the winter months.
- If you’re one of the fortunate who don’t suffer from outbreaks and would like to keep it that way, the following may be able to help. The HSV1 virus is a relentless survivor, and can live on surfaces for several days after exposure.
- Don’t allow any item that has been out of your possession to touch your mouth. Office pens and pencils are two perfect examples. Use straws in restaurants when possible.
- Wash your hands often - not just when you’re sick, dirty or after using the washroom, but several times throughout the day.
- Even in family and platonic situations, be mindful of who you kiss. Be even more mindful of who greets and/or kisses your children. If you know (or even suspect) that a relative or close friend of the family has a history of cold sores, mention it politely. If that’s too embarrassing, have them read this article. You can blame me for even suggesting it.
- Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in a convenient location, and use it after touching anything that gets high volume public use such at ATMs, gas pumps, debit/credit card authorization devices, and coffee cup/lid dispensers. Avoid the temptation to reach for a handful of unwrapped after-dinner mints.
Health Disclaimer. Content provided by NOW Foods. Copyright ©2006-2019. Published with permission. Jayson Kroner is a health and fitness journalist, a certified sports nutritionist, and co-author of the book 7-Syndrome Healing.
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