Living with Herpes? Everyone has a different experience with HSV, and various factors may or may not affect certain people, so each person should pay attention to the factors that affect them. But there are certain common lifestyle, diet, and environmental factors that many people have found can influence the severity, number, and duration of outbreaks… and whether you have a horrible time of it, or an easy time of it.
There are 3 Keys to Living with Herpes:
Physical Health, Emotional Health, and Environmental Elements
Physical Health and a Strong Immune System
A strong immune system is key to keeping Herpes in check and reducing the number and severity of outbreaks. Managing stress, getting good rest, exercising, and eating a healthy diet are all factors that contribute to overall health and wellness. HSV1 and HSV 2 can be triggered by the same immune factors, so these tips apply whether you have genital or oral herpes.
Many HerpeSite members and friends find it especially beneficial to maintain healthy sleep and rest patterns, to eat a diet rich in fresh, whole, live fruits and vegetables, and to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco products. Others report beneficial effects from yoga, aerobic exercise, and other forms of physical enhancement. These can benefit both your physical and emotional well-being.
Many people notice that Herpes outbreaks coincide with or follow a bout of illness such as a cold or flu. (Hence the origin of the term “Cold Sore.”) We all want to avoid being sick, but most of us get a cold or two a year. There are many resources available on how to avoid colds and flu, but the basics bear repeating: Consciously build and support your immune system, take good care of yourself, consume plenty of anti-oxidants, and wash your hands frequently. We love the powder electrolyte/anti-oxidant supplement Emergen-C (www.emergenc.com) and have used it for over 20 years with great results.
Take great care of your body and health by eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of water- rich and green foods, good sources of protein (such as organic meats and wild-caught fish), and anti-oxidant fruits and vegetables. A good quality supplement routine that includes red, purple, and yellow anti-oxidants, vitamins C and E, and a balanced blend of Omega essential fatty acid oils can be extremely beneficial.
Eating as healthy as possible not only supports your heath and immune system, but just knowing that you’re doing great things for yourself makes you feel good, and the “feel good” hormones get released! Avoid foods containing hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils, as the trans-fats in them are toxic to the body and create an unhealthy physical environment. Stay away from processed, fried, and high-fat, high-sodium foods as much as possible. Eat green, clean foods but also let yourself have a few indulgences if that’s what makes you happiest.
Emotional Health and Maintaining a Positive Outlook
Because it’s considered a sexually transmitted disease and has a huge social stigma associated with it, a diagnosis of Herpes, especially Genital Herpes, can be a shocking, life-changing event. People often go through the 5 Stages of Grief, and often get stuck in the Anger & Depression stages. The physical symptoms are often far less difficult to deal with than the emotional roller-coaster of hurt, anger, fear, shame, sadness, and hopelessness that can last for weeks, months, or even years.
A first outbreak is usually the most difficult physically as well as emotionally. Once a person has dealt with the physical aspect, it’s important to focus on the positive as much as possible. At first, that’s easier said than done! Some people cut themselves off from others and avoid new relationships. This is understandable at first, but is ultimately detrimental to the healing process. It’s important to get support from others, whether through sharing with family, friends, a significant other, a therapist, or a Herpes-specific group.
Participation in a support group, either “live” or online, can help by increasing social contact, providing access to information and encouragement from others who’ve “been there.” Talking about it may seem difficult at first, but it really does help… and it’s a surprise to discover how many others will say, “hey, I’ve got it too, and it’s OK!”
A course of personal development can help to reframe a person’s experience, give them additional emotional resources and strength, and renew a sense of purpose in life. Books, audio programs, and live workshops can all be valuable. Some authors to consider are: Wayne Dyer, Mark Victor Hansen, Deepak Chopra, and Anthony Robbins. Links to books by these and more can be found on the Reading Page of HerpeSite.
Relaxation techniques, deep breathing, yoga, exercise programs, meditation, and/or self-hypnosis have helped many to successfully control pain, strengthen the immune system, and gain a sense of well-being that may lead to fewer, less severe outbreaks.
Do something nice for yourself every day! Light candles, take a bubble bath, workout, go for a walk in the fresh air, put on fast music and dance, watch funny movies or TV shows, get a manicure, put on your favorite happy songs and sing along, eat your favorite guilty snack… yes, even chocolate!!!
Environmental Elements That Can Affect Herpes Outbreak Reactivation
One of the most effective ways to care for HSV is to pay attention to “environmental” considerations to the body and particularly to areas of infection.
Avoid extreme environments that could cause irritation. Protect yourself from sunburn. UVA/UVB, PABA-free sun screen can be effective in protecting infected areas and body in general from sunburn which can aggravate and initiate HSV recurrences. It’s important to protect your skin, as well as your lips and mouth. Sunburn causes an inflammatory reaction in the body, and the immune system gets diverted to deal with it rather than sustain and protect the body as a whole.
When a having a particularly painful outbreak, some people find bathing several times a day in cool water to provide temporary relief. Soap can be irritating, so use a very mild non-detergent soap such as California Baby Super Sensitive Body Wash which is available online at at various stores, including Target.
Many women with Genital Herpes who experience extreme pain while urinating find pouring body-temperature water over the area, or urinating while immersing the area in lukewarm water, alleviates the pain. Also, drinking plenty of liquids helps to dilute the urine.
Experts recommend keeping actively infected areas clean, dry, and exposed as much as possible to air, but not direct sunlight.
Avoid irritating the area by wearing loose-fitting cotton undergarments when possible. Rough fabrics, sharp edges (such as certain laces), hard seams, and ill-fitting garments can cause irritation and possibly initiate an outbreak. For men, this recommendation often includes trading briefs for boxers, unless boxers are irritating to you.
Some people recommend that women avoid the use of tampons due to the possibility of scratching of the area from the hard applicator. Some women feel that using a natural, unbleached cotton feminine hygiene product is better, less irritating, and healthier than a bleached and synthetic product, and we agree. Try a mild, more natural product line, like Boulder, Origins, Earth Mama, or Seventh Generation, available at many health food stores, or find Seventh Generation and others at DrugStore.com. (*)
The good news is that with time and taking good care of yourself, most people find that outbreaks tend to reduce in both number and severity. So that’s something to look forward to! More tips on how to improve your physical and emotional well-being to support a healthy and strong immune system can be found on the Health & Wellness page of HerpeSite.
“Wounding and healing are not opposites. They’re part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to to find other people or to even know they’re alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of. ” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen