This blog post looks at the relationship between iron and herpes and how improving your ferritin levels (should you have a deficiency) can stop recurring cold sores and herpes.
Herpes and Cold Sore Outbreaks
Painful herpes blisters and cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-2 and HSV-1). There is no cure for the herpes simplex virus. Conventional topical and oral treatments are widely available and can treat herpes and cold sores with various degrees of success. But why do some people get mild occasional outbreaks while others suffer from more severe and frequently recurring outbreaks? Why do some people with the virus get no outbreaks at all?
Iron’s relationship to the herpes simplex virus
A 1995 study in the “European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases” looks at the impact of ferritin levels (iron stores) on recurring herpes simplex outbreaks compared patients with cold sores to those without cold sores and found that patients with cold sores had lower ferritin levels.
A 2010 medical study in the journal “Cell Biochemistry and Function” suggests that the reason why some people get cold sores and others do not can be partly explained by genetic differences in the way our bodies handle iron. This is due to differences in the protein haptoglobin which is important to iron metabolism. There are three types of haptoglobin two of which lead to lower levels of iron in the blood. People with one of these two kinds of haptoglobin are more likely to get herpes outbreaks.
How iron prevents herpes outbreaks
In order to infect new cells and cause an outbreak, the herpes virus needs an enzyme called ribonucleotide reductase. Iron is an essential component of this enzyme. Our immune system (T-cells and B-cells) also relies on iron to fight the herpes simplex virus. Unfortunately, the herpes simplex virus binds iron more effectively than our immune system so when iron stores (ferritin levels) are low, the virus wins out, and we get herpes and cold sore outbreaks.
Iron treatment for herpes
Iron treatment for herpes is simple and straight forward: take iron to improve your ferritin levels. Because it can be dangerous to take iron when you don’t need it, we urge you to get a blood test to determine your ferritin levels and take advice from a health practitioner about how much and what kind of iron you should take to improve your ferritin levels.
If you suffer from recurring herpes or cold sore outbreaks and your ferritin is low, you will very likely experience a dramatic improvement when you increase your ferritin levels. Be sure your doctor checks your ferritin levels as opposed to your hemoglobin, the level of iron in your blood.
Many find relief from the pain of herpes blisters by applying DMSO. For more on this click here.
“Cell Biochemistry and Function”; Iron Metabolism Markers and Haptoglobin Phenotypes; Luisa Gennaro, Ph.D. et al.; Mar. 2010
“European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases”; Relationship Between Iron Status and Recrudescent Herpes Labialis; Philip-John Lamey, D.M.D. and Paul A. Biagioni, D.M.D.; Jul. 1995