What is a herpes trigger?

Author :- Rich Mancuso June 10, 2020, 9:54 a.m.
What is a herpes trigger?

When I was first diagnosed many years ago (before the internet or cell phones), the many questions I had about herpes were never answered. I can't even tell you how annoying that was, but I suppose a good comparison of this aggravation would be losing your phone and internet service for a few months, after you twisted both your ankles. 

Luckily for many of us we live in an era of answers. Still, we must be wary of accepting any answer just because it sounds great. Especially from anyone who claims to have heard this answer from a french model on the internet. It seems like everyone is a model these days, and definitely not a scientist.

People who are newly diagnosed with herpes will have many questions. One of these is very common. "What triggers my outbreak?" {1} This seems like an easy question, right? While the most significant percentage of the people with herpes are entirely clueless to their HSV positive status, this has much to do with their immune system's response to the very first exposure to the virus and any re-occurrences of the virus attempting to emerge. These individuals clearly have a favorable response to the virus. Their immune system was able to identify most, if not all, of the 75 proteins that make up the virus, create the proper antibodies, and now has the best protection possible. That's great, but what about people who keep experiencing symptoms?

Why, Why, Why?

Herpes has many immune evasion strategies {2,3,4} that it employes during the infection process. In the simplest of terms, herpes has exploited the way that human beings communicate with one another; a process that has taken over six million years to perfect. It utilizes our close physical interactions with one another as a very accessible mode of infection, and it has done so with pinpoint accuracy and diabolical perfection. I absolutely despise herpes, but even I have to admire its lack of prejudice and its viral tenacity. 

Herpes has perfected this creepy entry into our bodies so that it can hide, reproduce, and reinfect other hosts at its convenience. This ease at which herpes can perform this is why herpes is everywhere and continues to propagate its viral progeny throughout the animal kingdom, unimpeded. 

In people who are immunocompromised or have autoimmune issues, their immune response to infections may be lacking. So much so, that it may have the inability to identify herpes with any accuracy (in order to create a favorable response), thus not being able to provide the proper life long protection. These individuals will often succumb to frequent outbreaks and may be sensitivity to specific triggers. These triggers can allow an imbalance between the immune system and the virus. These would be foods that do not help the immune system or feed it with the proper nutrients that the body may need or is lacking.

There is a constant battle between the herpes virus and the immune system, a scale if you will. When there is an outside force or internal force that throws off this balance (list below), the virus is allowed to emerge. It will make its way through the original nerve branch of infection to the outer layer of the skin (or mucosal membrane), so that it can reproduce and infect others. 

 While not all episodes of herpes will be the same for every single person, many triggers are quite common. Examples of these are;

  •  Emotional or physical stress {5,6}
  •  Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light {7,8,9}
  •  Friction in the genital area
  •  Poor diet
  •  Illness
  •  Steroidal medication {10}
  •  Bodily injury or surgical trauma {11,12}
  •  Alcohol consumption {13,14}
  •  Fatigue {15}
  •  Hormones, menstrual cycle {16,17,18}
  •  Interactions with other viruses {19,20}
Source NIH

As you can see, there is a great deal of scientific data to show that triggers are factual, but there is a great deal more to understanding triggers and the saying "you are what you eat."

Please note that I am not a nutritionist and many of the suggestions found on the web are anecdotal. This is from many of us becoming in house scientists who have experimented on ourselves with trying different supplements and foods. As always, before purchasing supplements or changing your diet, always check with your doctor or medical professional before trying suggestions or anything off the internet.

Everyone knows that eating healthy will keep you healthy. This means fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables, not processed foods. Foods low in processed sugars and low in fat and foods that are highly acidic should be a no-brainer. Even if you're a vegan, you have already done a simple search on what is beneficial and are staying on top of your protein intake.

 The biggest concerns for many who suffer from chronic outbreaks are food triggers. Some of the foods that may cause issues for you are know as;

  •  Coffee
  •  Chocolate
  •  Peanut butter
  •  Processed baked goods
  •  Alcohol
  •  White pasta
  •  Peanuts
  •  Raisins
  •  Wheat
  •  Oats
  •  Soy
  •  White bread
  •  Sodas with high-fructose corn syrup

These can - and will, (in some people) trigger an outbreak. Why does this happen? While there can be many contributing factors, such as age or even a compromised immune system, the biggest culprits are Amino acids and foods that are highly alkaline or highly acidic.

 One of these common core beliefs on the subject of triggers is on the difference between L-Lysine and L-Arginine. Arginine is a chemical building block called "an amino acid." It is obtained from the diet and is necessary for the body to make proteins. L-Arginine is found in red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. It can also be made in a laboratory and used as medicine. Arginine is converted in the body into a chemical called Nitric Oxide. Nitric Oxide causes blood vessels to open wider for improved blood flow. Arginine also stimulates the release of growth hormone, insulin, and other substances in the body. Many studies have found that foods high in Arginine will empower and trigger the herpes virus, which allows it to emerge in a very strong way, thus making it difficult for the immune system to fight it back. 

For a more in-depth look at foods that may help, {21} please see my article here.

 In the end, finding a happy balance is going to take some work, and many will see that while some food triggers may be quite common, many of these triggers (with any luck), may not even affect you. I hope you found this information as useful as I have.

 Happy Hunting.


{1} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6330347/

{2} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2194497/

{3} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4782282/

{4} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20303681

{5} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5469259/

{6} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC22787/

{7} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1323616

{8} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/187729

{9} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3873108/

{10} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4342818/

{11} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/205629

{12} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK47449/

{13} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/

{14}  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11869923

{15} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3250620/

{16} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4418527/

{17} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6289656/

{18} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3158742/

{19} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3243940/

{20} https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3142679/ 

{21]  https://askingforafriend.us/articles/f/herpes-what-foods-can-i-eat-to-stop-the-outbreaks

When we get cold sores, the reason is likely related to stress. For the first time, researchers discovered a cellular mechanism that allows the herpes simplex virus to reactivate. They also found how brain cells are duped into allowing this to happen so that the virus can cause disease. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151209143105.htm


  1. Anna R. Cliffe, Jesse H. Arbuckle, Jodi L. Vogel, Matthew J. Geden, Scott B. Rothbart, Corey L. Cusack, Brian D. Strahl, Thomas M. Kristie, Mohanish Deshmukh. Neuronal Stress Pathway Mediating a Histone Methyl/Phospho Switch Is Required for Herpes Simplex Virus ReactivationCell Host & Microbe, 2015; 18 (6): 649 DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2015.11.007


"How did you get herpes? It's really quite simple. You're a human being and you're alive. Welcome to the planet."

Originally Posted on askingforafriend.us