Soy as a Food Trigger for Herpes
Herpes is a viral infection caused by one of two types of the herpes simplex virus. In his 2007 book, "Integrative Medicine," University of Wisconsin professor David Rakel writes that one of the unique features of the herpes simplex virus is its ability to remain inactive for long periods of time. According to Rakel, the virus may emerge only occasionally to produce symptoms in response to specific triggers such as fatigue, illness, sunlight and food allergies. Although food allergies are uncommon -- occurring in less than 8 percent of the population, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, or NIAID -- among food allergies, soy is one of the most common.
Soy is a legume that humans have been consuming for more than 5,000 years, according to MedlinePlus. Unlike most plant foods, soy is rich in high quality protein, comparable to animal foods such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs. However, unlike most animal foods, the University of Michigan Health System says, soy is also low in fat and provides an "excellent" source of fiber.
Food allergies cause cold sores through "local immunosuppression," according to University of Washington professor Lawrence Corey in the 2008 edition of "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine." The immune system mistakes allergens such as soy for harmful substances, so it attacks. While the immune system is busy "fighting" the allergen, the herpes virus is able to grow unchecked. NIAID says soy is one of the most common food allergens for children, after eggs, milk, peanuts and tree nuts.
If you notice you or your child experience herpes outbreaks after you consume foods that contain soy, you should should see a doctor. A doctor can perform blood or skin tests that confirm the diagnosis of soy or other allergies. People usually develop allergies to foods they eat regularly. So, suspicion of soy allergy is increased for children who received soy-based infant formula, people who consume traditional Asian or Indian cuisine and vegetarians. In addition, the absence of a life-threatening reaction does not rule out the presence of a food allergy. NIAID says life-threatening allergic reactions are more common with peanut and tree nut allergies than other kinds of allergies, such as soy.
If you experience herpes outbreaks in response to eating soy, you should stop eating it. Soy is found in foods labeled as soy, including soy milk, soy yogurt, soy nuts and soybeans, also known as edamame. Tempeh, tofu and miso are soy foods that have been fermented for additional flavor. Soy flour or purified soy protein is added to many processed foods such as nutrition bars, protein powders and nutritional supplements. You can identify products that contain soy by reading the labels. Many labels feature specific warnings for people with allergies. If you continue to experience frequent, severe or prolonged -- longer than two weeks -- outbreaks, even after you change your diet, you should see your doctor.
For people who are not allergic to soy, soy contains nutrients that may actually help fight herpes. In the August 2009 issue of "Nutritional Biochemistry," a team of researchers from the University of Arkansas reported chemicals in soy called isoflavones inactivated the herpes simplex virus in test tubes. Soy also offers other health benefits. For example, MedlinePlus says soy lowers cholesterol, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, decreases menopause symptoms and may even prevent certain types of breast, endometrial and prostate cancer.
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