The first time I ever heard of lysine was many years ago. I had no idea what is actually was, I only knew it was a substance that could help people get rid of cold sores both on the skin and inside the mouth (canker sores), during cold sore season.
So what exactly IS lysine? And what is this relatively inexpensive supplement actually useful for? Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning it is an amino acid that must be present in the body for it to function correctly and produce required proteins.
While it is essential, the important distinction is that the body does not actually make its own lysine, this amino acid must be taken in through the diet and synthesized by our bodies to do their job. In supplement form, it is labeled mainly for the purpose of assisting in collagen synthesis but has a secondary and well-known following for treating cold sore breakouts.
Some claim this amino acid has been their magic bullet for fending off these breakouts, while others say it doesn’t do much for them in this arena. In any event, you may need to supplement with it for a while before discerning any benefits. Related: Kick Cold Sores Before They Even Start
Cold Sores – What causes them?
Many people who begin to experience cold sores and other related symptoms often do not realize this is more than just a bout of extreme dryness and cracking until it drags on for a while. Many only discover they have a persistent issue when the symptoms begin to recur time and time again after seemingly clearing up spontaneously. Related: Red Light Therapy for Boosted Collagen and Potential Blister Treatment
This is a lot more common than you think. The herpes viruses that cause these flare ups aren’t limited to any one gender, race or age – everyone can get it and it is a lot more common than most people think. Some people just think they have chronically chapped lips, but it really may be this virus.
Cold sores or “fever blisters” are an uncomfortable and often embarrassing and disquieting manifestation of the herpes virus. It is estimated roughly half the population, including children, are infected with the two variations of the herpes virus responsible for oral breakouts.
A Common Virus....
Two strains of the herpes virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2, are thought to be the primary contributors. Oral herpes breakouts are defined by tiny fluid filled blisters clustering on and around the lips, inside the nose, and occasionally inside the mouth or on the chin.
These blisters can often be painful and uncomfortable, with a hallmark burning sensation along with tingling. One can usually tell when the onset of a flareup is coming simply by recognizing the beginning symptoms. Often these are a burning or very dry sensation on the lips, and a deep redness almost like a sunburn. Related : Herbal Relief Lip Balm – Calms, Soothes and Neutralizes Cold Sores
One may think they simply have extremely chapped lips at first as no amount of lip balm seems to soothe the total lack of moisture. They may even notice painful cracking and redness on the skin immediately surrounding the lips. The beginning stages of a flareup is the best time to begin treatment – no matter what your treatment option (including lysine and antiviral medications).
This is when a lot of people turn to lysine in both oral supplement form as well as a multitude of lip balms and salves that contain lysine as a topical treatment. However, at least anecdotally, most people experience the best results using lysine internally.
Conventional Treatments for Chronic Cold Sores AKA Fever Blisters
There are two primary antiviral medications that can help reduce and treat these herpes simplex breakouts, but they must be taken at the beginning stages to be most effective. Otherwise, one can typically expect a breakout to subside after about two weeks so long as their immune system is functioning properly.
The interesting thing about the herpes viruses that cause cold sores is that some people can harbor the virus and be totally asymptomatic. Some people may break out several times a year. Others may have one breakout, and then never really have any more problems with it. It depends on the person.
The virus does remain dormant the majority of the time, which is why people usually don’t experience constant breakouts. The bad news is, once you have the virus, there is no way to get rid of it. It will remain in the body for life, it’s really a case-by-case basis how often one will have the virus break out again.
Why Does Lysine Work to Help Suppress Cold Sore Breakouts?
While it does not work in every individual, lysine can help shorten the duration and severity of a cold sore breakout. Some people may respond to it immediately, while others find little or no benefit in treating with lysine. Like any other treatment though, it is most helpful to use it at the first recognition of the symptoms.
Lysine inhibits the production of another amino acid called arginine. Arginine is required by the herpes virus in order to thrive and spread. When you begin hitting your body with lysine, it essentially cuts off part of the blister’s growth enabler. That's the theory of the mechanism behind why it works for some people anyway.
Lysine is a fairly inexpensive supplement, so trying it out will not put too big a dent in your wallet. The potential side effects are fairly mild as well. As long as you keep your dosage at the recommended level and don’t go too high, side effects should be minimal. Oh, and there’s also the side benefit of lysine stimulating collagen production – which naturally decreases as we get older.
What Triggers Fever Blister Outbreaks the Most? Stress, Anxiety and Hormonal Fluctuations
Periods of stress, anxiety and hormone imbalance are linked to cold sore outbreaks. Much like other inflammatory types of afflictions, cold sores are more likely to show up during internal chaos. Keeping stress and anxiety levels at a minimum will be helpful in reducing breakout frequency.
Whatever happens to be your own magic bullet - exercise, meditation, yoga, or other stress reduction techniques, utilizing these methods of stress reduction more often can come in very useful to reduce breakouts.