There I said it.
These nasty little lip blisters have plagued me since I was a kid. Over the last several years I’ve done a lot of research about the connection between fever blisters and food, immune system health, and stress and as a result I’ve managed to avoid a few ‘episodes’. While I know that these little guys are really common they are also embarrassing, painful, and long-lasting. I wasn’t jumping with joy at the chance to share my cold sore history with you but I am hopeful that by sharing the following information I can help some of you prevent that painful and annoying little blister from ever forming.
Cold sores are the result of a virus and like most virus’ it’s opportunistic. The fever blister lurks just below the surface of the lip waiting for the right combination of low immune system, sensitive skin (usually from sun exposure or chapped lips), and the presence of an abundance of Arginine, a non-essential amino acid.
The blisters feed off of Arginine so the first step in avoiding a breakout is to minimize your intake of it. Unfortunately Arginine is high in a lot of my favorite foods!
High Arginine Foods
- all nuts (including coconut) and seeds
- most grains
Luckily the antidote to Arginine is the amino acid Lysine and it is abundant in many tasty foods.
High Lysine Foods
- dairy, especially yogurt and cheese
- nutritional yeast
- white potatoes
- most vegetables and fruits (especially apples)
- most meat
- most beans (except chickpeas)
Lysene is also available in tablet and cream form at most health food and drug stores. I take Lysene internally 3-5 times a week and in the winter I use a chapstick that contains Lysene.
Ever since I started making the connection between diet and the occurrence of blisters I’ve been able to see that the tell-tale tingle always occurs after a week or so of more stress, peanut butter, chocolate, and wheat than usual. Immune system also plays a huge part in whether a blister develops so if I’m feeling that tingle I make sure to get a little more sleep, cut down on refined sugar, take extra vitamin C, eat lots of fermented food, and drink lots of water.
These days when I feel the tingle I cut way back on high Arginine foods. My normal high-Arginine breakfast of oats is replaced with yogurt with chopped apple and some sort of eggs. I miss the oats for a few days but I don’t mind the opportunity to eat potatoes and cheese as ‘medicine’. If I catch the tingle early enough I can usually avoid a blister at all by sticking to a high Lysine, low Arginine diet for a few days.
I generally get a fever blister once a year or less but it lasts for nearly two uncomfortable and embarrassing weeks so even once a year is too often. I still eat high Argenine foods regularly but try to avoid eating lots of chocolate, nuts, wheat, and oats all in the same day and I balance it with lots of yogurt, eggs, beans, and nutritional yeast.
If you have any miracle cures for preventing or reducing the length of a fever blister, please share! I know they are totally gross but they are an evil to contend with for many of us so let’s fight ’em together!