The vegan diet can be a cold sore trigger. Due to an amino acid called arginine, the food staples of vegans can awaken the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and also prevent active blisters from healing as quickly.

When non-vegans carry HSV-1, it’s necessary to make specific dietary adjustments. Consuming foods that are high in lysine, an amino acid that can slow the growth of the herpes virus, can be beneficial. Unfortunately, vegans do not have the luxury of being able to turn to meat and fish dishes to their dietary regime.

We will share with you the importance of proper diet and nutrition, menu adjustments that can be made, and the importance of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids (L-lysine).

Vegan Diet and Cold Sores

Finding a vegan diet that supports your immune system is critically important.

Making the wrong dietary choices will sharply increase the likelihood of experiencing back-to-back cold sores. That’s why vegans tend to get cold sores more often than non-vegans.

The core of your diet involves the consumption of a high percentage of foods that should be avoided with cold sores. Furthermore, many of the forbidden foods for vegans are the ones that are known to help prevent cold sores from appearing.

We’ll now look at the most critical amino acids and explain why you need an alternative.


L-arginine (arginine) is an amino acid that helps the body to build protein while improving blood flow. According to the Mayo Clinic, excessive intake of arginine can trigger HSV-1 outbreak.

While your body naturally produces arginine, it is also found in a host of foods. Although fish, red meat, and poultry contain arginine, many items that fall under the vegan diet include a large quantity of arginine.

Some examples include:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Peanuts
  • Grapes
  • Onions
  • Corn
  • Squash
  • Peas
  • Broccoli

Unfortunately for vegans, the items noted above are only a sample size of the foods. Cucumbers, peas, carrots, and eggplants also have high percentages of arginine.

Although beneficial in a variety of ways, including the treatment of medical ailments, arginine is no friend to carriers of herpes simplex one.


Lysine (L-lysine) is an amino acid that is critical for the development of protein within the body.

It can be taken as an oral supplement and used as a topical cream. You can even get a lysine lip balm to take with you to work. It is also found naturally in a wide assortment of foods (fish, beef, poultry, and pork).

Foods that are rich in lysine are beneficial in your fight against cold sores. Ideally, the best sources are those that are rich in lysine and low in arginine!

In the simplest terms, lysine is everything that arginine is not for cold sore sufferers. Arginine can be a trigger while lysine is considered (by some experts) to be effective at halting the formation of cold sores.

Lysine-to-Arginine Ratio

Although the United States Department of Agriculture has a detailed chart noting hundreds of food options, the task of deduction can be exhausting.

The best way to manage your needs is to consult your physician or talk with people who share your choice of lifestyle. If you have a friend who has HSV-1, that would be an invaluable source of help.

The table is top-heavy with various meats and dairy products. This makes it much more difficult to form a vegan meal plan without third-party assistance.

Lysine Supplements

High arginine levels can be partially offset with a lysine-friendly diet. Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to be getting enough lysine through your diet. You need to take lysine supplements.

  • Pro Tip: For the treatment and prevention of cold sores, a 1,000 mg daily dosage is recommended over the course of a year. For a shorter duration, it is safe to consume 1,000 mg 3 times per day for 90 days.

If you currently have active cold sores, you can also apply a topical lysine cream, if that’s your treatment of preference. For best results, you should seek a cream that contains zinc oxide.

The best lysine supplements aren’t defined by brand names and cost. While lysine can reduce the number of outbreaks and aid healing, it will not work for everyone to the same degree.

Berkeley Wellness has challenged the premise of whether lysine is as beneficial as many health experts claim. While many medical outlets acknowledge the benefits of lysine, some do not subscribe to lysine’s healing and preventative capabilities.

Berkeley notes that lysine has the potential to keep fever blisters at bay, but many studies have been inconclusive. The outlet also notes that some sample sizes have been small and poorly structured.

Berkeley Wellness did not recommend lysine as a treatment but did note the importance of over the counter cold sore medications. The use of medication alone remains a problem for vegans unless a dietary overhaul is applied. The best way to increase your nutritional needs is through supplements.

Talk to your primary care physician about lysine and cold sore healing (and prevention). For lysine to work, it must be used in tandem with the right diet plan. Once you’ve used lysine for long enough, you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions regarding cold sore prevention.

Does Lysine Have Side Effects?

If taken orally at the recommended dosage, lysine is considered to be safe. The same applies for topical lysine cream if applied during the prodromal stage (tingling sensation on the lip or near the mouth). Only minor side effects such as stomach pain and diarrhea are potentially troublesome.

You are at a greater risk of issues if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is advisable to avoid lysine due to a lack of understanding and research. At this time there is not enough information to suggest that consumption or application is safe, so it may be best to abstain.
  • If you suffer from kidney disease, it is critical that you consult your physician.
  • The consumption of lysine in tandem with calcium can increase calcium absorption. This is an essential factor if you suffer from a bone condition, such as osteoporosis.
  • Lysinuric intolerance can cause diarrhea and stomach issues in children.

Vegan-Friendly Foods

If you are a strict vegan, even a painful cold sore outbreak will not compel you to eat meat or dairy products to increase your lysine intake. You need a different type of meal plan.

Select compatible foods that have a high amount of lysine, such as:

  • Beets
  • Mango
  • Apricot
  • Apple
  • Pear

Vitamins and minerals are critical for people who abide by a strict vegan lifestyle.

Vegans are more likely to consume foods that cause cold sores. While some modifications can be made, it is tough to balance the requirements of the lifestyle with avoiding the activation of cold sores.

You need to take specific supplements to optimize your immune health. The better your health, the more likely you are to keep the virus in a dormant state.

You need to provide your body with the nutrition that’s needed to counteract many of the problems associated with an arginine-rich diet.

You should increase your intake of the following vitamins and minerals:

  • Iron
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Vitamins C, D, and E

Do Herpes Antiviral Drugs Work for Vegans?

Antiviral cold sores drugs can be effective for vegans, but not in the long-term. Unless dietary adjustments are made, or supplements introduced, antivirals will only provide minimal relief. Make sure that you tell your physician about your vegan lifestyle as it will enhance his or her understanding.

Does arginine trigger cold sores?

Immune Health and Fitness

Adding lysine to your diet and making no other lifestyle modifications is unlikely to be insufficient to keep cold sores away. You need to improve your health. One of the best ways to achieve that goal is through getting more exercise. For example, walking around your neighborhood after work.

Physical activity can help to reduce stress. Because stress is a known cold sore trigger, exercising can be beneficial. If you’re less stressed, you’re likely to sleep better at night. A good night’s sleep keeps your immune system healthy. You can likely see how everything fits together.

Drinking plenty of water will keep you healthy. Water not only hydrates your body and flushes toxins away, but it also keeps you alert and healthy. It also has a positive impact on your skin. Given that lip dryness is a cold sore trigger, this can also be helpful.

Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire way to prevent cold sores. The best thing you can do is make some simple lifestyle adjustments and take action as soon as you sense that a cold sore is coming on.

When you experience a tingling sensation, try applying the Virulite Cold Sore Device to your lips. This will shorten the recovery time to just couple of days or even stop cold sores from forming completely. Being prepared for an outbreak is always recommended.

Last update on 2024-04-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API