Foods to Avoid With Cold Sores

Updated April 17, 2017

Cold sores are blisters that can appear anywhere on the body but are especially characterised by the open sores at the side of the mouth, which may ooze fluid. A cold sore is a symptom of the herpes virus, specifically Herpes Virus Type 1, and can be prevented or can heal faster by avoiding foods during breakouts or when your body sends a signal an outbreak is near. If you have had a cold sore, such a signal from the body may be a hard lump on the lips that is itchy or tingly; eventually this bump becomes a blister known as the cold sore.

The Arginine and Lysine Battle

Arginine is an amino acid that some medical experts believe accelerates the growth of the herpes virus and thus, cold sores. According to Prevention magazine, before people started using the popular cold sore and herpes drug, acyclovir, lysine, another amino acid, was taken to counteract arginine. In short, during an outbreak avoid foods rich in arginine and indulge in foods rich in lysine. Foods to avoid include nuts, milk, shellfish, chocolate, grains, seeds (such as sunflower seeds and flaxseeds,) and some soy protein powders. For an in-depth list of foods, see the Additional Resources section. Lysine rich foods help cold sores heal and these include fish, meat, yoghurt and cheese.

Avoid Acidic Fruits

Cold sore blisters grow in acidic environments. According to WebMD, a medical reference guide, acidic foods such as oranges, grapefruits and tomatoes are to be avoided during outbreaks. Sometimes these foods trigger or offset the recurrence of a cold sore. Pay close attention to what your body is receptive to, and if these foods irritate the sore or do not promote healing during outbreaks, avoid them.


Beer and other forms of alcohol may weaken the immune system and also contain high levels of arginine. Being that viruses usually attack the immune system, it is best to moderate alcohol, as it may be a trigger, but also to avoid alcohol during outbreaks. According to the Herpes Viruses Association in the U.K., too much alcohol is a common reason for the recurrence of cold sores and should be avoided.


Consuming foods high in arginine and citrus fruits, as well as the occasional alcoholic drink, could prove unhealthy if done daily. Herpes outbreaks occur when there are significant changes in a person's diet and during high stress periods. A healthy balanced diet is therefore important to prevent outbreaks. In addition, increasing the daily intake of lysine foods such as yoghurt, fish (especially flounder) and cheese during outbreaks is good for the diet and can promote rapid healing.

Sample Meal Plan

The foods in this sample meal plan combine recommended foods to eat during an outbreak. For breakfast, try a combination of chopped apples, sliced bananas and about a cup of yoghurt with some honey and add two boiled eggs on the side. For lunch try a meal of 113gr. of steamed flounder with steamed vegetables. For dinner try beans soup with a serving of grilled chicken or steak. Avoid corn and carrots, as they contain arginine as well.

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About the Author

Adekemi Sijuwade-Ukadike has been writing online since 1996, covering general news, entertainment, lifestyle, beauty, fashion, health and fitness. Sijuwade-Ukadike has worked for CBS, Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine Magazine, Newsday, the N.Y. Times, Thirteen, PBS and MSN. She graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and psychology.