Lysine for Cold Sores: Benefits and Risks

Lysine regulates arginine absorption of the intestines, thus, interfering HSV-1 duplication. Though it may not completely treat a cold sore, it may significantly hinder virus replication.

Cold sore

What is a cold sore?

Fever blisters or commonly called cold sore is a viral infection caused by a type-1 herpes simplex virus or in simple terms oral herpes (HSV-1). It’s characterized by fluid-filled patches that may appear anywhere in your body. But the patches usually show up around the mouth area which could make a person self-conscious. When the blisters break up, the person may notice a yellowish crust around the scabs that fall off when it dried out. The blisters are mildly painful and may persist for one week. The patches are contagious until they dried out. The infected person may not know he has a cold sore until certain instances activate the virus. Such events may include:

  • High-stress situations
  • Menstrual periods
  • Allergic reaction
  • Specific foods
  • Influenza
  • Sunburn

About forty percent of American adults are said to have recurring cases of cold sores. In general, cold sores aren’t serious conditions but may become life-threatening to someone with AIDS infection or immune system-related disorders. It may also become serious when the infection gets into the eyes causing vision problems or if it reaches the nervous system causing encephalitis or meningitis

It’s usually transmitted through intimate contacts like kissing, oral sex, or sexual intercourse. Another mode of transmission may include shared items like hygiene kits, utensils, razors, or towels.

There are no known cures for cold sores. However, it can be managed through antibiotics like acyclovir or valacyclovir. In addition to medications, an individual might also consider a lysine-rich diet or it can be taken orally through food supplements to reduce cold sore symptoms. Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning that our body does not produce them. It’s naturally found in most animal proteins.

Lysine for cold sores

The herpes simplex type-1 virus remains dormant in the spinal nerves until a certain event triggers it. For instance, a high-stress situation or disorder that weakens the immune system may trigger HSV-1. When it surfaces, it appears as blisters filled with fluid that causes pain and tingling sensation. In addition to physical discomfort, it could also make you feel more self-conscious about your overall appearance.

The virus replicates itself by a compound called arginine. However, arginine is also a type of amino acid needed by the body. It converts itself into nitric oxide, which supports blood vessel health and blood flow improvement.

Lysine regulates arginine absorption of the intestines, thus, interfering with virus duplication. Though it may not completely treat a cold sore, it may significantly hinder virus replication. One study claims that not only lysine can reduce the reoccurrence of symptoms; it may also lessen recovery periods. In that study, they observed that almost ninety percent of participants with lysine intake have shortened their recovery period from an average of three weeks to only six days.

Research on lysine supplements efficacy in treating cold sores

According to some studies, the recommended dosage of lysine taken orally is about 1,000 to 1,248 mg per day. However, some scientists do not agree and even claim that supplementary lysine may not help at all.

An article published by the Archives of Dermatology in 1984 tests the effectivity of supplementary lysine in twenty-four participants with recurring cases of cold sores. They were given a dosage of three mg three times a day. The study showed no conclusive evidence to suggest that it may treat or prevent cold sore reoccurrences.

This may be the case, there are also studies showing promising results about lysine supplements for treating cold sores. An example is one research made recently on twenty-six volunteers with recurring cases of cold sores. They were given a daily dosage of 1,000 mg of lysine. The study showed that the frequency of breakouts has decreased significantly when the lysine level in the bloodstream is maintained above 165nmol/l. On the other hand, when lysine level drops, breakout frequency increases.

In another study that was conducted in 2015, thirty participants were each given cream that contains lysine, vitamins, zinc, and herbs (scientists named this combination Super Lysine Plus). They are to apply the cream daily. Scientists observed that about forty percent of participants were cleared of cold sores in three, while an estimate of ninety percent was cleared in six days. Though this research showed promising results, the scientists didn’t specify how much cream was used in each application.

In recent years, numerous studies have been made to test lysine effectiveness on cold sore and not all of them showed conclusive results and some even showed ineffective results. For this reason, it’s still advisable to talk to your doctor if you have cold sores.

Potential risks

According to studies, lysine is generally safe, either those taken by mouth or applied as an ointment. And there are no serious cases linked to lysine intake or application. Several scientists even suggest that you may even exceed three grams of lysine dosage a day and may experience no side effects.

According to reports, cases of side effects happen to individuals taking a dosage from ten to fifteen grams a day. They reported mostly digestive problems like diarrhea, stomach cramps, and nausea.

Health experts also do not recommend lysine supplements to individuals with kidney problems. It is also not advisable during pregnancy and breastfeeding periods.

Other health benefits of lysine

Lysine is a type of essential amino acids that our body needed daily to function properly. Since our body doesn’t produce them naturally, we can acquire them on most meat-based proteins and certain plant-based foods.

Some examples of foods with rich amounts of lysine:

  • Poultry meat – beef, chicken, pork, and turkey
  • Eggs
  • Sardines
  • Codfish
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Soybeans
  • Yogurt

Other than easing symptoms caused by cold sore, lysine also offers numerous health benefits, it includes:

  • Enhances calcium absorption
  • Supports collagen formation
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Supports hormone, antibodies, and enzymes production

Some studies observing the following on individuals with low lysine intake:

  • Anemia
  • Persistent feelings of tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Appetite loss

Research suggests that the recommended daily allowance of lysine may depend on the individuals’ size. For example, a person who weighs seventy kilograms should consume at least 800 to 3,000 of lysine a day.

  • Three to six months old infants may need 97 mg/kg.
  • Ten to twelve years old children may need 44 mg/kg.
  • For adults, they may need 12 mg/kg.

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