What foods should you avoid if you have herpes?

Whether you’re a herpes veteran or a freshly minted member of the club, food can play an important role in managing your outbreaks. We’ve done our research to give you the lowdown on what foods to avoid and why.

The Herpes Diet: Why It Matters

Herpes is caused by two types of viruses: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). These viruses cause cold sores and genital herpes respectively, but both have one thing in common: they thrive in acidic conditions.

What does that mean for your diet? Well, it means that consuming certain foods can increase the acidity of your body, making it easier for these little buggers to set up shop on your face or genitals. By avoiding these foods, you can create an alkaline environment that makes it more difficult for the viruses to survive.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a magic bullet when it comes to preventing outbreaks – everyone’s triggers are different. But taking steps toward a healthier diet is one way to arm yourself against those pesky flare-ups!

Forbidden Fruits

Fruit may seem like a healthy option – after all, we’ve been told since childhood about the importance of getting our daily dose of vitamins from apples and oranges. But not all fruit is created equal when it comes to herpes management (we know, life isn’t fair).

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruits…you get the idea – any fruit with ‘citrus’ right there in its name, contain high levels of citric acid (surprise!), which will only serve to make things easier for HSV-1 and HSV-2. If you must drink lemon water every morning as part of some trendy wellness routine, be warned: you might not like the outcome.

Other fruits to avoid include:

  • Pineapple
  • Mangoes
  • Kiwi

All of these contain high levels of bromelain, an enzyme that’s been shown to increase both inflammation and acidity in the body. So if you’re into tropical fruit salad, it may be time to start branching out (pun intended).

Dried Fruit

If you’re looking for a healthy snack on the go, dried fruit may seem like a good option – after all, no refrigeration required! But unfortunately, dried fruit is often loaded with added sugar (and sometimes sulfur dioxide), which can spike your blood glucose level and make things easier for herpes.

Some common culprits include:

  • Raisins
  • Apricots
  • Figs

So unless you’re hiking up a mountain at this very moment or need something sweet but are nowhere near civilization (we won’t judge), it’s probably best to steer clear.

Meats and Dairy Delights

Okay carnivores and cheese lovers (foodies unite), we know this one’s gonna hurt.

The truth is that diets high in animal products have been linked to increased risk of herpes outbreaks – sorry guys (not really) . Here’s why:

Red Meat

As delicious as steak can be (agreed!), it contains high levels of arginine – an amino acid that actually stimulates HSV replication (gasp!). That doesn’t mean you need to give up meat completely (unless you want to – again, different strokes…), but it does mean being mindful about your intake. The recommended ratio?

2 parts lysine : 1 part arginine

Lysine is another amino acid found in most protein sources; unlike arginine however, lysine has been shown to suppress viral replication. Some options with higher lysine concentrations than argenine concentrations include:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey Breast
  • Lean Beef


Similar to red meat, dairy products also contain high levels of arginine. But there’s another sneaky detail here – dairy products often carry a hidden double whammy


(Hear us out). Lactose breaks down into glucose and galactose (another surprise!), which can further increase your blood sugar and make things easier for HSV-1 and HSV-2. And if you’re thinking that lactose intolerant people are probably safe from this one, we have some bad news: most lactose intolerant individuals still produce enough lactase enzyme to digest small amounts of the stuff (ugh) .

So what should you do? Opt for non-dairy alternatives like almond milk or vegan cheese made from nuts rather than soy (which carries its own baggage in terms of hormonal imbalances).

Sweet Treats

Sugar is usually a no-no when it comes to any kind of healthy diet (sad but true), but especially so when dealing with herpes outbreaks. Consuming too much sugar can lead to increased inflammation in the body as well as an acidic environment that makes it easier for viruses to thrive.

Here are some common culprits that may be secretly sabotaging your otherwise noble attempts at healthy eating:


We know, Halloween was yesterday and nobody wants their candy taken away (unfair though!). But unfortunately, all those little brightly colored nuggets pack quite the punch in terms of inflammatory ingredients – artificial coloring being one such culprit.

Other sweets best left on shelves include:

  • Gummies
  • Starbursts
  • Skittles

(Those three just happen to rhyme coincidence?! We think not..)

Baked Goods

Finally, baked goods like doughnuts, muffins …you get the idea ,are packed with refined flours and sugar, which can spike your blood glucose level and make viral infections even worse. To keep inflammation levels low, stick to whole grain flours or alternative flours like almond flour.


Well folks, we hope this article gave you some insight into the complicated dance between herpes outbreaks and diet choices – knowledge is power, after all! Remember that everyone’s triggers are different; what works for one person may not work for another (so true), but by reducing your intake of acidic foods and increasing alkaline ones such as lysine-rich meats you can at least take a step in the right direction.

So here’s to a healthier future (cheers) !

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