Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Of Cold Sores And Kidney Stones--Got Milk?

So there was a time in my life when I seemed to get a cold sore at least every two weeks.  Just as one would barely heal, another would emerge.  If you've dealt with cold sores, you know how painful and debilitating they can be.  Stressful life events, sun exposure, and even wind on my face pretty much guaranteed an outbreak.  That was before I discovered the Department of Agriculture's online list of foods to eat and foods to avoid to prevent cold sores (and some types of kidney stones).  Since then, I have not had a cold sore for years at a stretch.  Quite a spectacular cure for me personally.  Thought it was time to share this life-changing information, in case someone else doesn't yet know about it.  I found the Department of Agriculture's list copied here:

It is common knowledge that cold sores are caused by a herpes virus.  Turns out though, that the herpes virus uses an amino acid (the building blocks of proteins) to grow.  In particular, they must have the amino acid arginine to thrive.  In the wisdom of mother nature--all things in balance--the amino acid lysine opposes the actions of arginine.  Both arginine and lysine provide good things in our bodies and are unavoidable and necessary, but for those of us prone to cold sores and kidney stones, giving lysine the upper hand in the lysine-arginine ratio will offer us protection. 

So, you want to eat foods that will keep the levels of lysine slightly higher than the levels of arginine.  Basically, foods on the 'good' list, that contain more lysine are from the dairy group (and many types of fish as well--see the list).  I am lactose intolerant, so used to eat very little from this group, which set me up for the frequent outbreaks I used to get.  I had to sort out which dairy items I could tolerate, and add them back into my daily diet.  Now I enjoy kefir, yogurt, frozen yogurt, and all kinds of wonderful cheeses.  I still avoid milk, ice cream, and sour cream wherever possible.

On the 'bad' list--foods that are higher in arginine (that support growth and development of cold sores and kidney stones)--are chocolate, nuts, raisins, and whole grains.  Interesting that my favorite breakfast used to be oatmeal with walnuts and raisins.  Does the herpes virus drive our appetite?  Seems it did mine.  I still crave chocolate and nuts.  However, I have so far found that I can  prevent cold sores (and kidney stones) and enjoy the foods I love, as long as I make sure that I've had enough dairy (foods higher in lysine).  I also have developed a habit of taking an extra 1000 mg of lysine in pill/capsule form every day--just to make sure to tip the lysine-arginine scale in favor of lysine being in charge.  Don't underestimate diet though just because you can take a pill--a serving of peanuts has about 5000 mg of arginine (per the list), so taking 1000 mg of lysine via capsule will be insufficient protection (the contribution seems to be 1:1) if you haven't ingested enough from the 'good' list (dairy, fish, see list). 

As if frequent outbreaks of cold sores isn't bad enough, we've been hearing for quite some time that people who get frequent cold sores are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.  A precursor of lysine has been shown to be protective of brain function--and it follows that because arginine and lysine oppose each other (and perhaps their precursors do as well), that keeping that ratio tipped in favor of lysine's precursors would also offer protection for your brain. 

Kidney stones also run in my family, although thankfully, I've not yet experienced any, and am hoping that cold sores are an alternate form of this genetic gift.  Doctors used to tell people prone to calcium oxalate kidney stones to avoid dairy products, because they thought that calcium in the diet was contributing directly to development of that type of stones.  In recent decades though, this thought has emphatically reversed (lysine may help to retain calcium, rather than it being excreted and contributing to stone formation), so dairy has since been touted as protective and preventive.  In fact, the 'good' and 'bad' food lists for preventing cold sores align very well with those for folks prone to calcium oxalate kidney stones.  Yet another reason to 'drink your milk!'

*and for those times when I take for granted my enjoyment of chocolate and walnuts, without attending to my dairy intake, I suffer the consequences.  However, a bit of powdered myrrh (available at health food stores) dissolved with a drop or two of water in the palm of my hand, and applied to the affected area provides soothing, healing relief.