Nutritional Considerations

Reduce Arginine and Increase L-Lysine

In vitro evidence supports increasing dietary lysine and decreasing dietary arginine to prevent recurrent herpes outbreaks. Arginine is necessary for replication of herpes simplex virus; it may actually stimulate cell replication, whereas L-lysine blocks arginine activity. L-lysine is shown in studies to decrease the severity of outbreaks and reduces recurrence, although it does not necessarily have an impact on healing time. Supplementation of 1 g daily is recommended preventatively or 1 g three times daily during an outbreak in addition to dietary modification. Because of concerns over prolonged lysine supplementation and the risk of developing atherosclerosis, dietary adjustments may be optimal to regular lysine, supplementation that can be reserved for acute need. However, nuts provide important and healthy fats to the diet; therefore, it is not desirable to eliminate them entirely, especially during pregnancy. Therefore, moderation is advisable. Pregnant women should consult with their midwife or obstetrician when modifying their diet to ensure optimal health for themselves and their babies. See Food Sources of Lysine and Arginine for foods high in arginine and lysine. Lysine supplementation is not contraindicated during pregnancy.

Food Sources of Lysine and Arginine

Foods high in lysine (emphasize these foods in the diet):

  • • Fresh fish
  • • Canned fish
  • • Chicken
  • • Turkey
  • • Milk
  • • Beef
  • • Cooked beans
  • • Eggs
  • • Cheese
  • • Soybeans

Foods high in arginine (minimize consumption of these foods):

  • • Chocolate
  • • Nuts and nut products:
  • • Brazil nuts
  • • Hazel nuts
  • • Peanuts
  • • Walnuts
  • • Almonds
  • • Cashews
  • • Sunflower seeds
  • • Peanut butter
  • • Gelatin
  • • Brown rice
  • • Wheat
  • • Oatmeal
  • • Raisins
  • • Coconut


Supplementation with 25 mg daily has been shown to inhibit herpes simplex virus replication in vitro and clinically has led to complete suppression of an outbreak or resolution within 24 hours and stimulates cell-mediated immunity decreases frequency, and reduces severity of outbreaks. Supplementation is suggested for 6 weeks with 250 mg vitamin C. Topical use of zinc sulfate solution (0.01% to 0.025%) improves healing of herpes simplex virus-1 blisters and prevents recurrence. Internal use of zinc as a supplement is not recommended during pregnancy.

Vitamin C

Supplementation with 1000 mg vitamin C with bioflavo-noids daily during the prodromal phase and then 5000 mg divided into five doses daily for 3 days after the onset of symptoms was shown to reduce blister. Healing time in herpes labialis from 10 days in the placebo group to 4.4 days in the group receiving supplementation. Pregnant women should not exceed 4000 mg vitamin C supplementation daily, including vitamin C that is in a prenatal vitamin.

Vitamin E

Topical use of vitamin E oil shortens healing time and significantly reduces pain associated with herpes simplex virus-1 lesions. Apply two to four times daily with a cotton swab.