Cold sores can be truly annoying. If you’ve ever had the telltale tingling appear on the side of your lip, only to be followed 24 hours later by a cold sore, you know all too well what it feels like, what they look like and how badly you want to get rid of them. Here’s what you need to know about the commonly occurring virus:
What is a cold sore?
A cold sore is a lesion that occurs, typically somewhere around the mouth, nose or on the lips and is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus. It presents as what looks like a white-topped pimple, before scabbing over into a sore. They occur in varying sizes and can come one at a time, or as several smaller ones in one cluster together. Some people have very infrequent breakouts of cold sores, while others have them quite regularly, and they can affect adults and children equally.
What is the Herpes Simplex Virus?
The herpes virus is a non-curable, contagious virus, which lies dormant in the body. Once an individual contract the herpes virus, he/she has it for life and it remains in the body. There are two types of Herpes Simplex to take notice of:
- Herpes Simplex 1- causes cold sores
- Herpes Simplex 2- is responsible for genital herpes
Both versions can cause sores in both the mouth and genital areas should either area come into contact with an infected sore. The virus is passed by direct contact with an active sore and enters the body. From here, it remains in the body until an opportunity arises that it becomes active and causes an outbreak. This outbreak is the resulting cold sore.
What causes cold sores?
Because cold sores originate from a virus, which lies dormant most of the time, they watch for the opportunity to strike and act as an opportunistic virus. Essentially, when your immune system is compensated and is unable to easily fight an invader or virus, the herpes virus is able to thrive, causing a cold sore to form.
This is why for example, you may find that you get cold sores most often when you are stressed, extremely tired, sick, or just getting over an illness or a stressful life event. During all of these instances, your immune system is not functioning to its full capacity and doesn’t engage to fight the virus when the Herpes comes out to play!
How can I prevent cold sores?
Because there is no cure for cold sores or no way to get rid of the virus once it is in your body, the only option is prevention. The most efficient method of prevention is simply looking after yourself:
- Go to bed on time and get plenty of sleep;
- Rest your body, both from work and exercise;
- Practice methods of de-stressing. This includes things like meditation and deep breathing or simply engaging in activities that are stress relieving for you
- Think of your favorite hobbies or spend time with people who make you happy.
If you aren’t sure what can help relieve your stress, simply going outside, taking a walk or listening to some calming music can go a long way.
Alternatively, maybe you need to listen to some upbeat music and have your very own in-house dance party! Put some time into figuring out what helps you de-stress. This will help you out a lot not just in preventing cold sores, but also in boosting your happiness, health and overall well-being.
2. AVOID ARGININE-RICH FOODS
It is also worth noting that while you have a cold sore, you should avoid arginine-rich foods. Arginine is found in foods such as oats, turkey, whole wheat, and chocolate. Arginine is an amino acid, essential for the building of proteins within the body. It also, however, promotes the outbreak of cold sores. This is because arginine suppresses lysine, and the two work in opposition to each other.
3. EAT LYSINE-RICH FOODS
Lysine is actually the amino acid that retards herpes viral growth. Individuals who are prone to herpes, or virus outbreaks can benefit from reducing their overall arginine intake and increasing their intake of lysine. Lysine is found in high concentration in foods such as eggs, fish, yeast, poultry and dairy products. That said, supplementing with lysine is also an option, especially for vegetarians who may struggle to find lysine rich foods.
4. MAINTAIN AN OVERALL HEALTHY DIET
In addition to eating lysine-rich foods and reducing arginine foods, it is also important to maintain an overall healthy diet, rich in whole foods, and free from processed foods and refined sugars.
Processed foods and especially refined sugar foods create an added burden on the systems of the body, whereby the digestive system often has to rob the body of essential vitamins and minerals to process these foods since they are so nutrient deficient.
When the body is compensated nutritionally to start with, as displayed by illness, viral outbreak or diminished immune system. Further robbing the body of important nutrients will simply further exasperate said issue.
5. LOOK AFTER YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Finally, prevent cold sores by looking after your immune system! Consume foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as bright green leafy vegetables and brightly colored fruits. Consider foods high in vitamin E, like almonds. Antioxidants help reduce the free radicals in our body.
Free radicals accumulate from toxins and chemicals as well as when our body and the immune system are not functioning optimally to eliminate its own self-produced free radicals. That said, when they accumulate in the body to excess, research has shown that they can cause cancer and other debilitating diseases.
Vitamin C is also essential for a healthy immune system, and in addition, is also an antioxidant! Vitamin C is a key component of several immune system reactions and plays a big role in helping the body fight free radicals.
How do I get rid of a cold sore?
Perhaps the biggest question when the unwanted cold sore visitor shows up is how to get rid of it. The truth though, is that while you can help speed along the healing process and do things to make sure it doesn’t get worse or linger around. Cold sores essentially just have to take their course. They essentially occur in three stages as follows:
- Initial stage-where they are still under the surface, when you likely start to feel the tingling sensation;
- Breakout stage-where you will see the cold sore form, often as what looks like a large pimple, with a white exterior;
- Scabbing stage, where the cold sore will dissipate and you will see a scab form over the top of the sore
The important part of healing cold sores is not to rush any of these stages. When you feel the tingling sensation, and you know the cold sore is coming. This is when you should start applying over-the-counter agents. These agents are typically made of lysine-based ingredients. This will hurry along the cold sore to the breakout stage. Once it breaks, continue applying the cream until it scabs over.
What to do during the outbreak stage?
During the breakout stage, you can also apply rubbing alcohol regularly. Another option is to press a wet, green tea bag against it. These are the two other methods to promote healing. Regardless, it is very important that you keep your fingers and hands away from the sore at this time. Be aware of what else touches it (such as toothbrush, drinking glass, lip balm etc.). It is during this time that it is contagious and you could pass the virus on to someone else.
Once the cold sore has broken out, it will start to scab over with time and regular care. Do not try to break the sore like a pimple, or this will prolong the breakout stage. Once the sore has scabbed over, let the scab come and go on its own. Resist the urge to pull the scab off. Doing so before it is time will simply make your sore bleed and another scab will form.
SPEED IT UP WITH LYSINE OR ZINC CREAMS!
You can also help speed up the healing process by getting cold sore specific lysine creams as well as zinc creams. Furthermore, consuming anti-viral ingredients and supplements such as garlic, licorice and olive leaf extract can all play a powerful role in helping to eliminate the cold sore. These approaches also help reduce the potency of the virus so that it will go back to being dormant and not cause another outbreak.
LIVE A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
It is possible for one outbreak to follow immediately after another if you do not take proper measures. These preventive measures such as reducing stress, boosting immune health and improving overall health make the body well enough to fight off the virus.
While they may be a pain, and even downright embarrassing, with the proper preventative methods and simply looking after your health and well-being regularly and efficiently, you can easily prevent a cold sore outbreak from regularly occurring!
Nutritional Pathology; Dr. Brenda Lessard-Rhead
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