The virus that causes herpes needs a specific amino acid to spread and breed. This amino acid is none other than arginine, which is found in dairy, meat, and wheat. So, how exactly does arginine in herpes work? Learn this and a whole lot more here.
What is Herpes?
Before jumping into what arginine is, one should first understand what herpes is. This is an infectious, contagious, and incurable condition caused by the virus called herpes simplex virus. It results in sores that appear around the genitals or mouth.
As mentioned, it is incurable, but it goes into a period of dormancy. During such time, an individual affected with herpes appears to have no symptoms. They still, however, are carriers of the virus.
The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is continuously present on the mucosal surface of an infected individual. These areas include the genitals, anus, and the mouth. You are unlikely to get infected with HSV if you touch an object which was initially held by the infected person. However, you can get infected in the following methods.
- Sharing toys used in sex.
- Getting into contact with an infected person’s genitals.
- Having oral sex with an infected individual.
- Engaging in anal or vaginal sex with an infected individual without protection.
A mother infected with genital herpes is also highly likely to pass the infection to her child.
The symptoms of an individual infected with HSV are categorized into two, namely primary infection symptoms and recurrent infection symptoms. The signs of a primary infection refer to the outbreak of herpes that affects an individual for the first time. Such symptoms are severe. On the other hand, the symptoms associated with a recurrent infection last no more than ten days and are less severe.
A. Primary Infection
- Cold Sores Surrounding the Mouth
- Painful Urination
- Discharge from Vagina
- Ulceration and Blisters in the Cervix, Vagina, or External Genitalia
- Enlarged and Tender Lymph Nodes
- Red Blisters Appearing on the Skin
B. Recurrent Infection
- Tingling or Burning Sensation Felt Around Genitals Right Before the Appearance of Blisters
- Ulceration and Blisters in Cervix
- Cold Sores Appearing on Mouth
- Red Blisters
HSV is still incurable, and treatment methods are aimed at reducing the severity of the symptoms. The medications usually prescribed are called antivirals and prevent viral multiplication. These medications are also commonly given to individuals with primary infection.
As for infected individuals who have a recurrent infection, daily antiviral treatment is usually given which is to prevent future recurrences. While a suppressive therapy can significantly reduce the risk of spreading HSV to an uninfected individual, there is still the risk of getting the infection.
With regard to the pain brought about by the appearance of ulcers and blisters, some remedies can help alleviate it. These home remedies include the following.
- Painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Lightly-salted bathwater
- Petroleum jelly which is applied to areas where blisters appear
- Loose clothing, especially in areas where blisters and ulcers appear
What is Arginine?
It was mentioned in the introduction that arginine helps the virus that causes HSV to spread and multiply. So, what is arginine? This is one of the 21 amino acids needed by the body. Amino acids are categorized as essential and non-essential. Non-essential amino acids are those that are naturally occurring in the body. On the other hand, essential amino acids are absorbed from the food one eats.
Arginine is categorized as a semi-essential amino acid. This means that the body can create sufficient amounts of this compound. However, supplemental arginine is still required.
How Does Arginine Affect Herpes?
Amino acids are vital in the replication of viruses since they help in protein synthesis. Moreover, amino acids regulate metabolic pathways which also include gene expression. So, if there is an absence of amino acids, it is likely to result in an incomplete virus particle – the absence of viral nucleic acid (RNA or DNA).
One of the essential amino acids that help in the progression of viral infections and replication of viruses is arginine. Moreover, it is significantly vital in the replication of HSV since it results in the appearance of cold sores and genital herpes. Simply put, arginine exacerbates the viral replication of an ongoing or impending outbreak of herpes.
Once arginine is insufficient, HSV present in cells become unable to complete the cycle of single replication. This, in turn, leads to cell damage in cells that are already infected.
Apart from herpes, arginine is also a critical amino acid in the replication of the virus that causes the common cold. In addition, it plays a part in the production of a functional protein which is vital in virion maturation.
Food to Avoid
Food that is high in arginine should be avoided if you are infected with HSV. The sources of arginine include coconut, gelatin, dairy products, meat, soybeans, oats, wheat germ, and white flour. Below are some of the most potent sources of this amino acid that should be removed from the diet of an individual infected with herpes.
1. Seeds and Nuts
Seeds, particularly pumpkin seeds, should not be included in the diet. One cup of pumpkin seeds offers around 6.905 grams of arginine, which is the highest concentration of the compound compared to all food sources.
The most complete source of protein is found in meat, only because it contains all of the amino acids required by the body. The best source of this amino acid arginine is white meat, particularly turkey meat. Other than turkey, the meat products mentioned below offer high quantities of arginine.
- A cup of chicken offers approximately 2.790 grams of arginine.
- A chop of pork loin has around 2.661 grams.
- Per pound of beef provides 4.131 grams.
High levels of arginine can also be found in seaweed, especially the dried version. One cup offers 4.645 grams.
This food group includes pulses, beans, and peas. Such food sources contain high amounts of arginine as well.
Before eradicating arginine from the diet, it is best to talk to your doctor, especially if you have the severe form of HSV.