A 3 Step Approach to preventing a herpetic recurrence

Dr Veerle Van Tricht MD

There is no need to feel embarrassed about herpes.

When I talk about herpes most people cringe and immediately think of a sexually transmitted disease. But there are a lot of herpetic viruses and they get transferred in different ways. Some are transferred through the air and others such as Herpes Simplex 1 & 2 are transferred through skin to skin contact such as cold sore to eye, it does not have to be sexually transmitted although that does happen.

Types of Herpes Virus:

The Varicella Zoster virus causes chickenpox in children and shingles in adults.

Another type is the Cytomegalovirus (CMV) virus. I have seen a lot of this flare up in Africa in people with HIV who have a low immune system which enables CMV to become prominent in their bodies causing a lot of damage. In my early days as an Ophthalmic Registrar I would inject Ganciclovir on a weekly basis into the eyes of 10 something young men, aged less than 25. Ganciclovir is an anti-viral drug ideal for intravitreal treatment (you can inject it in the jelly of the eye or get it intravenously through a cannula).  Its siblings are Aciclovir which many of you put on cold sores on your lips which is an anti-viral medication into the eyes of HIV patients who were going blind because the CMV virus was destroying their retina. Now we have a better system for treating HIV systemically. This keeps the immune system activated to suppress those dormant viruses that many of us have been exposed to during our lifetime.
The Epstein-Barr virus which you can get from kissing girlfriends and boyfriends can make you ill for several months. I had it at around 13 years of age when it was transferred from my cousin at a family party when we must have accidentally taken each other’s glass. The virus causes the glands in your neck and your spleen to swell up and some people think it is responsible for long term medical problems such as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

There are other herpes viruses, but today I want to talk to you about Herpes Simplex 1 & 2. Type 1 generally affects the face and type 2 affects the genitals – although they can swap around and affect any part of your body. For example, if you have the virus on your finger, you can transfer it to another part of your body or to another person.

 How do you get infected with the herpes virus?

Around 70% of us is a carrier for Herpes Simplex and as I have mentioned, skin to skin contact is the most common. You can get herpes if you kiss someone who has a cold sore.  Even kissing your grandmother or a child can transfer the virus. Genital herpes is transmitted during sex and a condom will not stop it being transmitted as the herpes virus is all over the skin. It is estimated that 60% of people under 50 years of age are affected with the herpes virus. A lot of people do not even know that they have the virus.

How do you avoid infecting others with the virus?

Hygiene is extremely important because when you have a flare-up you are shedding the active virus. So don’t share towels etc. It is also very important to stay away from babies when you have a cold sore or herpes virus infection as a baby’s immune system is not ready to deal with the virus and it could ultimately even lead to seizures. Pregnant women with active genital herpes will not usually be able to have a natural birth as this will risk infecting the baby. Depending on the trimester that the virus was attracted by the mother, oral antivirals will be given to the mother for the duration of the pregnancy to avoid a flare-up. Discuss this with your obstetrician.

My 3 Steps to Prevent a Herpetic Recurrence:

Once you have the virus it settles in the sensory neurons of the body which are the nerves we feel with such as the trigeminal  nerve in your face. Some people get the virus on their top lip, some on their jaw and others in the eyes. The virus makes a copy of itself and unfortunately sticks with us forever but if we have a good immune system the virus does not stand a chance. A flare-up or recurrence of herpes is triggered by skin damage, physical or emotional stress or illness.

Step 1: Things to avoid:

  • Lack of sleep – Insufficient sleep is bad for your immune system and I think people need 6 to 9 hours sleep every night, preferably during hours of darkness. Check out my blog The 10 commandments of sleeping well
  • Arginine rich foods – People who eat arginine rich foods tend to get more recurrences. Food to avoid include nuts, seeds, beans and lentils, soya, tofu, gelatine, canned tuna, chicken, egg, wheat, raw garlic and onion, chocolate and syrup.

Step 2: Things to do:

  • Boost your immune system with foods rich in lysine such as wild fish, red meat, cheese, and a wide range of fruit and vegetables, I call this ‘Rainbow Food’. Try to incorporate all different coloured food in your daily diet in order to Ghent a wide variety of nutrients and anti-oxidants.
  • Vitamin C – Research has shown that if you feel a herpes tingle coming on taking 1000 mg of vitamin C might stop a recurrence breaking through. Some integrative doctors recommend 1 tablet each hour until the symptoms subside. The extra vitamins C will get excreted with your urine.
  • As soon as you wake up in the morning, before doing anything else wash your hands in warm soapy water. In case you unknowingly have scratched yourself in the night, the virus may be on your hands and fingers.
  • Keep a food diary for a month to see if any particular food or situation (or person) triggers a recurrence of the virus.

Step 3: Stress-less:

  • Remove stressful situations and people from your life. If you need help managing stress, whether at home or at work, do get in touch with me as I have a Stress Management Programme and I can teach you techniques to reduce stress. Also, if you know you are going to be in a stressful situation such as an exam, you can take higher doses of vitamin c beforehand.
  • Meditation – I love guided meditations and if you go on YouTube you will find some beautiful guided meditations with music which will help you sleep. I also include 6 powerful MP3s that will change your life forever in my online program available from www.burnoutexpert.co.uk
  • Exercise – any exercise such as yoga, running, walking will help to flush the stress hormones like cortisol out of your body.
  • Essential Oils – If you want good quality oils, I recommend Doterra Essential Oils. Lavender, oregano and eucalyptus oils – I put a few drops of the lavender oil in my hands and smooth it on my and wrists and neck. I use only a tiny bit of oregano oil in food as it is very strong (use the tip of a toothpick to stir a small amount in your sauce). The eucalyptus is best mixed with a coconut massage oil and used on the body. Both oregano and eucalyptus oils have anti-viral properties.
  • Supplements – Amino Serene contains all the Vitamin B’s in the correct dosage with Ashwaganda which is a Ayurvedic herb that is used to balance your IMMUNE system. This together with the Vitamin B helps you to relax and reduces stress. Here is a link to purchase my Immunity Pack

So these are my tips to help you to reduce stress and prevent recurrences of the herpes virus.

My ‘10 Commandments of Well Sleeping’ is on my website where you will also find Burnout Resuscitation Program which you can buy. It has 6 modules covering different topics including time management, how to boost your energy, improve your relationships and discover your hidden talents.

My free eBook ‘How Professional Women can avoid burnout’ is available to download from my website.

You may also be interested in reading more about my own Burnout Recovery Journey in my book ‘My Surgeon Talks to Angels: A Journey From Science to Faith’ which is available from Amazon

If you have enjoyed my blog, please do comment and share it as there are so many people with the herpes virus and I really want to help them live a better life.

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