Antiviral or antibacterial medications usually treat infections. However, one such viral infection that is never cured but remains dormant in an infected individual is herpes. While an individual remains free of symptoms during dormant periods, studies suggest that avoiding arginine may lead to shorter outbreaks and more extended dormancy periods than a diet with it. So, what is the connection between arginine and herpes?
What is Herpes?
Before heading into that, it is essential to understand what herpes is as well as its causes. Herpes is a viral infection primarily caused by the herpes simplex virus or HSV. It infects the skin, mucosal surfaces, anal region, and external genitalia. This infection is a long-term condition where some individuals may not even show symptoms of it but act as carriers of the virus.
HSV is continuously present on the skin of an individual infected by the virus. It quickly spreads to another individual through contact with the moist surfaces of the genitals, anus, and mouth. HSV may also spread to the developing fetus of a mother who is a carrier of the virus. Infection can also spread in the following methods.
- Unprotected Anal or Vaginal Sex
- Oral Sex with an Individual with Cold Sores
- Use of Sex Toys Used by Infected Individual
Some infected individuals may not manifest symptoms for months or even years. On the other hand, some individuals infected by HSV manifest symptoms after four days. The symptoms are classified as primary and recurrent.
Symptoms of Primary Infection
The outbreak of HSV affecting an individual first infected by it is referred to as primary infection. The symptoms of the primary infection are severe and include the following.
- Cold Sores Around Mouth
- Pain and Itchiness
- Pain Felt During Urination
- Red Blisters on Skin
- Tender and Enlarged Lymph Nodes
- Ulceration and Blisters on Cervix, Vagina, or External Genitalia
- Vaginal Discharge
Symptoms of Recurrent Infection
The symptoms that manifest in an individual with recurrent infection are less severe than primary infection. Furthermore, these symptoms occur for a short period like ten days or less. Such symptoms include the following.
- Burning Sensation Around Genitals Before the Appearance of Blisters
- Cold Sores Around Mouth
- Red Blisters
- Ulceration and Blisters in Cervix
Despite advances in medicine, research has yet to provide a drug that can effectively destroy the virus that causes HSV. An antiviral drug may be prescribed, but this only helps by preventing the HSV virus from proliferating. Moreover, antiviral drugs are used to clear and reduce the symptoms caused by the infection.
Antivirals are prescribed for primary infections. However, antivirals are usually unnecessary for recurrent infections since the symptoms are not as severe and last ten days or less.
Suppressive and Episodic Treatment
For individuals who experience six recurrent infections in a year, doctors recommend episodic treatment. This involves the use of antivirals for five days when symptoms manifest.
Some home remedies which may help in reducing pain include the following.
- Use painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Use of ice packs to the affected area.
- Use of loose clothing, especially around the area affected.
- Warm baths with the use of salt.
- Application of petroleum jelly to the area affected.
Aside from the methods mentioned above, an individual who experiences symptoms of the infection must avoid sexual activity. Moreover, he or she must practice hygienic habits such as washing the hands with soap and water after touching the area affected by the virus.
Avoid the spread or risk of getting HSV by practicing safe sex with the use of condoms. Also, when the symptoms of HSV are present, avoid sexual activity as well as kissing an individual with a cold sore present on the mouth.
For individuals with multiple partners, the use of a condom for sexual activity is highly recommended. Also, get checked regularly for other sexually transmitted infections.
Arginine and Herpes
The replication of a virus is highly dependent on amino acids. Amino acids are organic compounds needed by the body for various functions. They serve as protein’s building blocks for muscle growth, immune function, and more. However, amino acids are also needed for viral infections. Viruses need amino acids for the synthesis of proteins.
When it involves HSV, arginine plays an important role. According to studies, the amino acid is vital in the production of complete infectious virions and the synthesis of viral coat proteins. Evidence claims that arginine consumed at high levels leads to worsening symptoms in an individual with HSV.
Food to Avoid
In this regard, an individual with HSV should eradicate arginine from the diet. The sources of arginine include nuts, seeds, meat, and legumes.
The highest amount of protein is sourced from meat. It contains all the vital amino acids which include arginine. White meats like chicken and turkey offer the highest amount of arginine. While chicken contains 2.790 grams of arginine, turkey offers 16.207 grams.
Other white meats that are rich in arginine include pork loin, approximately 2.661 grams. Beef also contains arginine, approximately 4.131 grams. An individual with HSV may opt to go vegan or choose other sources of protein to avoid arginine completely.
2. Seeds and Nuts
These are rich sources of amino acids. For the highest concentration of arginine, is found in pumpkin seeds, approximately 6.905 grams. Watermelon seeds contain 5.289 grams while sesame seeds offer 4.875 grams of arginine. Other nuts that offer arginine include pine nuts (3.258 grams), almonds (3.525 grams), and dried walnuts (4.522 grams).
These include pulses, peas, and beans which are plant-based sources of arginine. Some legumes high in arginine include soybeans which offer 5.965 grams. Raw peanuts may be healthy due to their unsaturated fat content, but these carry 4.567 grams of arginine. Other legumes include garbanzo beans or chickpeas which carry 3.878 grams of arginine per cup.
It is best to speak with a dietician regarding food to consume to avoid the frequency and duration of HSV symptoms. Also, consult with the primary healthcare provider regarding antiviral medications for recurrent or episodic infections.