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HSV & The Immune System

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

The HSV virus (also known as herpes)


Ready to dive into the HSV virus!? Let’s go! The HSV virus (also known as herpes) has got a bit of a reputation for itself, and it has become quite a confronting and judged word. It is important that as a modern society we work to reverse the taboo around this subject!

As so many people are living with this virus today (1 in 10 people, here in Australia!) and as our modern lifestyles have progressed to include sexual freedom (thank you Tinder), it’s important not to judge those who contract and live with STIs. If you are sexually active it could easily be you next!

This series will pick apart what you need to know about the virus, and if you do have it, some tips on how to make living with it better.

Spoiler alert: nutrition and lifestyle play a HUGE part in flare ups!

I hope that those suffering with HSV are comforted and inspired through this read and realise that you can manage your symptoms (with help from us at The Nutrient Collective if needed of course). Click here to shoot us an enquiry and we can keep those flare ups at bay together.

The Basics

There are two strains of herpes simplex virus; HSV-I and HSV-II. HSV-1 is the most common strain and it appears as cold sores or blisters. HSV-2 appear on the genitals.

Once you are infected with the virus it lives in the nervous centre at the base of your brain. It lies dormant here until your immune system is weak. When your immune system is down it thinks ‘’HURRAY this is my get out of jail card, lets party!’’ It then it infiltrates a host cell and replicates it’s DNA. The sneaky virus then retraces it’s steps, passing down your nerves, into the skin where it outbreaks into lesions. Worst party ever ☹

WHY do they appear on the lips and genitalia? Well the skin in these areas are thin, sensitive and without protection against disease.

When you have outbreaks, the virus is extremely infectious and can be spread from exchanging body fluids i.e. kissing or sexual contact. When it is lying dormant, and you have no remnants of a flare up, you are less likely to spread it - however there is still a possibility.

HSV & The Immune System

So, the HSV virus and the immune system are connected. What does this mean for you? If you live a fast life, with not much sleep, inadequate water and nutrient intake, high stress and too much alcohol this is the exact lifestyle which will be causing herpes outbreaks to turn up to the party. We need to support your immune system to make it healthy and strong, so not to give the virus a fast-track entry pass to wreak havoc. HOW you ask? Well, here at a consultation at The Nutrient Collective we will make a plan that will maintain optimal functioning of your immune system. This plan will focus on minimising all of the triggers (listed below) which compromise your immunity. This can be challenging, as it will be overhauling bad habits however it will be worth it, improving your overall quality of life.

Things that affect your immunity:

Firstly, let’s focus on stress. Stress suppresses the function of the immune system, decreasing its ability to fight infections. This is why as soon as your immunity is compromised, then BAM hello herpes! In clinic we will support your stress response by making lifestyle changes and through prescribing specific supplementation to support the body’s stress mechanisms.

Next up in things decreasing your immunity is….alcohol! I know *sigh* everyone loves a few voddy sodas or wines on the weekend...but your immune system does not ☹. Alcohol depletes vital nutrients in the body, namely vitamin Bs. A couple of B vitamins are integral to immunity and also the stress response (see a link here?).

Alcohol also damages the immune cells so they can’t work properly, which means they slack on the job…decreasing your immunity. It also kills off the good bacteria in your gut – the bacteria which has an intricate relationship with the immune system…kill them and you’ve compromised your immunity.

Getting 7-8 hours sleep per night is a key factor in a well-functioning immune system. Without enough sleep you’re more likely to get an outbreak, and it will also take you more time to recover. Sleep and immunity go hand in hand.

Gut Health & HSV

70% of the immune system is located in the intestinal tract - aka our gut. Our gut houses a diverse community of bacteria, which have signalling pathways to our immune system. This is why if you have poor gut health, without this bacterial community - it has a detrimental effect on your wellbeing. Alcohol, smoking, poor diet and stress all negatively impact your gut bacteria! You can replenish your bacteria through probiotic foods such as kefir, yoghurt, tempeh, fermented products such as sauerkraut and kimchi; and prebiotic foods such as asparagus, garlic, onions and leeks.

Diet and HSV

Protein is made up molecules called amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids in total. However, for those who carry HSV there are 2 particular amino acids you need to care about.

These are Lysine and Arginine. These two amino acids compete for absorption through the same pathway in the body. The HSV LOVES arginine. It’s like arginine’s fuel for replicating and worsening your outbreak. Lysine however, it HATES. Lysine has been shown to inhibit outbreaks. Therefore, consuming more Lysine and less Arginine has been shown to be positive in encouraging the virus to lie dormant. Don’t worry you don’t have to completely forgo lysine…as that would be almost impossible! However, creating your meals with a higher arginine ratio to lysine, will tip the herpes balance back in your favour. This may seem complicated, but I can give you the tools to know what foods are herpes friendly. This diet is particularly hard for vegans, as vegan dietary habits are usually very high in arginine. With our help in clinic this can get easier. 😊

Supplementation and HSV

When you live with something like HSV, supplementation is crucial in keeping good immunity. Modern lives are usually nutrient depleting, with late nights, stressful days, complimented with high intakes of coffee or alcohol.

Nutrient depletion = Suppressed immune function.

If you see us in clinic at The Nutrient Collective, there are some particular supplements which are very helpful in keeping herpes outbreaks at bay. It’s crucial to have a maintenance dose and if you do experience an outbreak, we increase this dose to combat the flare up. We will also suggest certain probiotics which are vital in gut health and immunity. This will support your immunity and will prevent flare ups from reoccurring.

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