You feel the tingle on your lip, you stop what you are doing and race to the mirror to look for hints of a cold sore. You can’t see anything yet but it’s coming- a big, gross and unsightly cold sore. Your stomach fills with dread as you think of what you will be missing in the next few weeks. You wonder, “Why is this happening to me and what can I do to make it stop?”
There is a way to keep that cold sore in check, but first, let’s talk about why you got that cold sore in the first place. Herpes simplex is a common virus that many adults have. Most adults are latently infected with this virus, which lies dormant until activated by various stimuli. (1)
What Causes a Cold Sore?
Stress, ultraviolet light, hormonal changes, increased blood sugar are all stimuli that can trigger the virus to replicate and travel to the skin’s surface, resulting in a lesion. The primary trigger is increased blood sugar, which is brought on by increased sugar intake and increased stress.
The two often come together. We eat “comfort foods” when we get stressed. When we feel a cold sore coming on we get more stressed and eat more. Sound familiar?
Sugar alters the function of your immune system and the primary amino acid, lysine, that prevents the herpes virus from activating. When sugar enters the body, it bonds to the lysine, rendering it completely disabled. That is when you end up with that embarrassing, bright-red cold sore smack dab in the middle of your lip!
As the virus sheds, it can be transmitted to others until it heals and the viral replications ceases. If the body undergoes another trigger, the process starts all over again. (2) So even when you can’t see that cold sore when you look in the mirror, when you feel that tingle you may see your calendar of events spiraling down the toilet.
For many people the virus never activates. Maybe they are not exposed to triggers that modify the lysine. It is possible that their body regulates the stimuli so it does not damage the lysine. If you made it this far into this article you probably aren’t one of those people.
What can I do?
So, you triggered that cold sore with too much sugar or too much stress. Does it mean you need to hide from family gatherings and work meetings on your calendar for a few weeks?
Not necessarily. Your body has lots of lysine. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids like lysine. If your stores are depleted because they have been damaged, you can take a lysine supplement to prevent or minimize the severity of your cold sore outbreak.
Taking a lysine supplement will be a short-term fix. If we’re deficient, we can build up those stores. In the long term, you are going to need to change your habits. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you are getting.
So, unless you make the lifestyle changes, as well, it’s going to keep happening. Let the lysine in your body do its job to protect you from this virus and avoid triggers like sugar.
Sugar also weakens your immunity and can damage two other protective amino acids. The weaker you are the stronger the bugs can get. That keeps us down and out longer. That means missing work and missing time with families, which causes more stress. Nobody wants that.
Stop the sugar and stress cycle. Stop eating sugar and don’t get cold sores. Nobody wants the dread of cold sore wreaking havoc on their schedule and health.
Do you want to know more about your sugar levels and how they are impacting your immune system? See a qualified practitioner to have your blood sugar levels tested and to learn how they are impacting your health.
Written by: Dr. Jason Nobles