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Can Too Much Vitamin C Cause Cold Sores

What Are The Symptoms

Cause of Cold Sores

The first symptoms of cold sores may include a spot that tingles, burns, or itches around your mouth and on your lips. You may also have a fever, a sore throat, or swollen glands in your neck or other parts of the body. Small children sometimes drool before cold sores appear. After the blisters appear, the cold sores usually break open, leak a clear fluid, and then crust over and disappear after several days to 2 weeks. For some people, cold sores can be very painful.

Some people have the virus but don’t get cold sores. They have no symptoms.

Responsible Eating Can Heal Cold Sores

Now that you understand the pitfalls of acidic foods you can manage and prevent cold sore with confidence.

While placing your favorite food or drink aside for a couple of weeks might be difficult, it will be rewarding. Although that hint of lime in your tea will not cause a cold sore, it can worsen an existing blister. Be mindful of that example, and others like it, as you move forward.

Cold sore food triggers can be pesky. Navigate the field with caution.

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How Much Vitamin C Is Too Much

Since vitamin C is water-soluble and your body excretes excess amounts of it within a few hours after you consume it, its quite difficult to consume too much.

In fact, it is nearly impossible for you to get too much vitamin C from your diet alone. In healthy people, any extra vitamin C consumed above the recommended daily amount simply gets flushed out of the body .

To put it in perspective, you would need to consume 29 oranges or 13 bell peppers before your intake reached the tolerable upper limit (

19 ).

All the adverse effects of vitamin C, including digestive distress and kidney stones, appear to occur when people take it in mega doses greater than 2,000 mg .

If you choose to take a vitamin C supplement, it is best to choose one that contains no more than 100% of your daily needs. Thats 90 mg per day for men and 75 mg per day for women .


Its nearly impossible to consume too much vitamin C from food. However, if youre supplementing with this vitamin, you can minimize your risk of getting too much by taking no more than 90 mg per day if youre a man, or 75 mg per day if youre a woman.

Vitamin C is generally safe for most people.

This is especially true if you get it from foods, rather than supplements.

Individuals who take vitamin C in supplement form are at greater risk of consuming too much of it and experiencing side effects, the most common of which are digestive symptoms.

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Foods With Higher Lysine

  • butter
  • fish, chicken, beef and lamb
  • apples, mangoes, apricots, papaya, beets
  • dried beans
  • nutritional yeast

This doesnt mean you have to completely avoid foods that are high in arginine. I love nuts, coconut, oats and chocolate and I still eat them. Im just mindful about the fact that they are high in arginine and make sure I balance things out by eating foods that are high in lysine as well. Its also important to remember that while fish, meats and dairy products are high in lysine, eating too much of these high protein foods can make the body too acidic, which can also cause a cold sore outbreak. As always, moderation is the key.

What Are The Best Foods For Cold Sores

How to treat cold sores

Honey, lemon, rhubarb and beyond: many foods are touted for being a cure for cold sores. Unfortunately, there is no magic food you can eat to prevent you from ever developing a cold sore ever again. Likewise, you wont find a food that can make a cold sore disappear immediately. Cold sores are a tricky condition to manage. Sometimes, even with effective treatment, cold sores need additional time to heal.

Luckily, eating a healthy diet can still help support cold sore recovery. As you read above, nutrition helps supports immune health, which in turn can help with cold sore outbreaks. A nutritious diet offers other benefits as well. Eating well can give you energy, improve your mood and help you sleep betterall of which is important when you have cold sore and feel less than 100%.

Some studies report that L-lysine, an amino acid commonly found in food, is an effective treatment for cold sore infections.5 Foods with lysine include chicken, salmon, beans, tofu, and more. You may hear people suggest to eat these foods to get rid of cold sores, but take this advice with a grain of salt. Research is contradictory as to whether or not lysine, either from food or a supplement, can help cold sores. However, talk to your doctor if youre interested in more information. Besides, you may want to eat some of these foods with lysine for nutritional benefits or even great flavorcold sore benefits aside.

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Arginine Or Amino Acids

Amino acids, such as arginine, can trigger cold sores if you have the herpes simplex virus. Arginine is used by the cells to make nitric acid, which is essential for the cardiovascular system and the blood flow. However, arginine can lead to frequent outbursts of cold sores, so it should be avoided as much as possible.

There are several foods that contain the arginine amino acid: rice, peas, gelatin, beer or chocolate. Reducing these from your diet can decrease the frequency of cold sores.

When To See A Doctor

Common canker sores usually heal without the need for medical treatment. More severe or recurrent cases may be eased by prescribed treatments, although these do not cure the ulcers.

As a general guide, canker sores should be brought to the attention of a dentist or doctor when they:

  • Persist for more than 2 weeks without improvement.
  • Get worse including while being treated with home remedies.
  • Recur often or are particularly numerous or severe.
  • Are accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, diarrhea, headache, or skin rash.
  • Are thought to be part of another condition.

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Are You Overdosing On Vitamins

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead a host of heath complications, and maintaining a well-balanced diet can ensure that youre getting everything your body needs.

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Some people, however, like to boost their vitamin-and-mineral-intake by taking supplements. While there is nothing wrong with meeting your daily nutrient requirements with supplements, taking too many tablets can lead to negative consequences. An excessive build-up of nutrients in the body may have its own side effects some may be temporary while others may have some seriously debilitating effects.

While some vitamins, such as the water soluble vitamins B and C, are generally harmless even in excess quantities , other vitamins and minerals can become toxic in larger doses. With regards to the water soluble vitamins, research has concluded that some of the variants of these vitamins can be harmful in excess quantities.

Arginine Can Trigger Cold Sores

Why you need to be careful with Vitamin C

Worthy of its own section due to its importance, foods rich in arginine can also pose a serious issue. Known as a potent amino acid, arginine can serve as a healing agent. However, this protein can worsen cold sores.

Arginine carries the potential to aid HSV-1 and not only cause it to thrive but to spread. This essentially means that certain foods can work directly against you. Quite obviously this is not conducive to cold sore healing.

It is also important to note that HSV-1 is contagious as soon as you experience the symptoms. Including arginine in your diet can not only make things worse for you but also introduce potential issues for others.

Noted below are some prominent foods that contain high levels of arginine.

  • Almonds
  • Gelatin

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Vitamin C Might Protect Against The Common Cold In A Restricted Subgroup Of The General Community

Although vitamin C has not influenced the average common cold incidence in the general community trials , some of them found that there was a subgroup of people who had obtained benefits from vitamin C. In a Canadian trial, Anderson reported that in the vitamin C group there were 10 percentage points more participants with no days confined to house because of colds ). Thus, one in 10 benefited from vitamin C in this outcome. In a trial with Navajo schoolchildren, Coulehan found that in the vitamin C group there were 16 percentage points more children who were never ill on active surveillance by a medically trained clerk or the school nurse ). A more recent study in the UK by van Straten reported that vitamin C decreased the number of participants who had recurrent colds by 17 percentage points ). Thus, the statistical evidence of benefit for a restricted subgroup in these three trials is strong.

How Can You Prevent Cold Sores

There are some things you can do to keep from getting the herpes simplex virus.

  • Avoid coming into contact with infected body fluids, such as kissing an infected person.
  • Avoid sharing eating utensils, drinking cups, or other items that a person with a cold sore may have used.

After you have been infected with the virus, there is no sure way to prevent more cold sores. But there are some things you can do to reduce your number of outbreaks and prevent spreading the virus.

  • Avoid the things that trigger your cold sores, such as stress and colds or the flu.
  • Always use lip balm and sunscreen on your face. Too much sunlight can cause cold sores to flare.
  • Avoid sharing towels, razors, silverware, toothbrushes, or other objects that a person with a cold sore may have used.
  • When you have a cold sore, make sure to wash your hands often, and try not to touch your sore. This can help keep you from spreading the virus to your eyes or genital area or to other people.
  • Talk to your doctor if you get cold sores often. You may be able to take prescription pills to prevent cold sore outbreaks.

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Vitamin C May Decrease Common Cold Incidence In Special Conditions

Vitamin C halved the incidence of colds in five RCTs during which the participants were under heavy short-term physical activity . Three of the studies used marathon runners in South Africa as subjects, whereas one study used Canadian military personnel on winter exercise, and the fifth study was on schoolchildren in a skiing camp in the Swiss Alps, i.e., the Ritzel trial . Thus, three studies were conducted under conditions of a hot environment and profound physical stress and the other two were carried out under cold environments and physical stress .

Another group in which vitamin C has prevented colds is British men . Four trials found that vitamin C decreased the incidence of colds by 30%, and in another set of four trials, the proportion of men who had recurrent common cold infections during the study decreased by a mean of 46%. All these studies were carried out in the 1970s or earlier, and according to surveys, the intake of vitamin C in the United Kingdom was low when the studies were carried out, 0.03 to 0.06 g/day, and three of the U.K. trials specifically estimated that the dietary vitamin C intake was between 0.015 to 0.05 g/day . In particular, Baird administered only 0.08 g/day of vitamin C yet they observed 37% lower incidence of colds in the vitamin C group, indicating that it was the marginal deficiency and not a high dose that explained the benefit .

Infections Increase Oxidative Stress

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Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Therefore, any effects of vitamin C may be most prominent under conditions when oxidative stress is elevated. Many infections lead to the activation of phagocytes, which release oxidizing agents referred to as reactive oxygen species . These play a role in the processes that lead to the deactivation of viruses and the killing of bacteria . However, many of the ROS appear to be harmful to the host cells, and in some cases they seem to play a role in the pathogenesis of infections . Vitamin C is an efficient water-soluble antioxidant and may protect host cells against the actions of ROS released by phagocytes. Phagocytes have a specific transport system by which the oxidized form of vitamin C is imported into the cell where it is converted into the reduced form of vitamin C .

Influenza A infection in mice resulted in a decrease in vitamin C concentration in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, which was concomitant with an increase in dehydroascorbic acid, the oxidized form of vitamin C , and in vitamin C deficiency influenza led to greater lung pathology . Respiratory syncytial virus decreased the expression of antioxidant enzymes thereby increasing oxidative damage . Bacterial toxins have also led to the loss of vitamin C from many tissues in animal studies .

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What Evidence Is There To Support Taking Vitamin C For Covid

There have been hundreds of studies investigating vitamin C, many of which have conflicting results. One of the biggest problems with vitamin C studies is that most do not measure vitamin C concentrations before or after supplementation. Supplementation is unlikely to show an effect in people whose vitamin C levels are already high.

COVID-19 is a new disease, and we are still learning about it. But several studies in other infections or conditions suggest it may be beneficial in certain groups of people, particularly those already deficient in vitamin C who develop COVID-19. Currently, at least two trials are underway specifically investigating the use of vitamin C to treat severe COVID-19, one in New York and one in China.

Beneficial effects of vitamin C supplementation have been reported for

  • Elderly people with acute respiratory infections
  • Recurrent acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Reducing the severity and duration of the common cold
  • Reducing the length of hospital stay and symptoms in elderly patients with pneumonia
  • Reducing the duration of mechanical ventilation in people in ICU
  • Preventing the common cold in people who are vitamin C deficient
  • Preventing the incidence of pneumonia in people who are vitamin C deficient.
  • Studies have shown that excretion of vitamin C is decreased during infections, such as the common cold, suggesting that more is utilized during times of need.

Inhibition Of Reverse Transcriptase

Quercetin has been investigated in vitro as an antiviral agent for HIV due to its ability to inhibit crucial enzymes: reverse transcriptase , integrase , and protease . Quercetin significantly reduces HIV viral replication and, when added to peripheral blood mononuclear cells infected with HIV and compared to HIV infected controls, quercetin reduced the levels of p24, Long Terminal Repeat gene expression, and viral infectivity together with an inhibition of TNF- and upregulation of IL-13 .

Quercetin has also been shown to inhibit non-HIV RT activity in vitro, including avian myeloblastosis reverse transcriptase , Rous-associated virus-2 , and Maloney murine leukemia virus . Quercetin displayed a dose-dependent inhibitory action: at 50 M, 23% inhibition of both AMV-RT and RAV-2-RT, and at 10 M inhibition of mammalian MMLV-RT of almost 60% were reached . HIV-RT was inhibited completely at 2 g/ml quercetin in a partially-competitive mode . These antiviral effects of quercetin are believed to be related to the five hydroxyl groups on 3, 3, 4, 5, and 7 as the inhibitory activity is lower for baicalein, quercetagetin, or luteolin which lack these groups .

Interestingly, Harakeh et al. studied the dose-dependent effect of ascorbic acid on HIV-infected T-lymphocytes in vitro and reported that > 99% reverse transcriptase and nearly > 90% p24 antigen suppression and a 93% inhibition of syncytia formation, a marker that correlates with viral infectivity and cytopathic effects .

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How Much Vitamin C Should I Be Taking

Recommended intakes of vitamin C have been developed by the Food and Nutrition Board. These are much higher than the amount required to prevent deficiency:

  • Infants, 0-6 months: 40mg
  • Infants, 7-12 months: 50mg
  • Children, 1-3 years: 15mg
  • Teenagers, 14-18 years: 75mg , 65mg
  • Adults: 90mg , 75mg
  • Pregnant women: 80mg , 85mg
  • Breastfeeding women: 115mg , 120mg .

Whenever we have an infection or inflammation, our bodies require more vitamin C so your general intake should increase to cope with the extra demand.

Many factors can impair the absorption of vitamin C or increase a persons requirement for it. The following people should include an extra 50-100mg of vitamin C per day in their diet or in the form of supplements:

  • People with cancer or who have a compromised immune system
  • People who drink alcohol daily or excessively
  • People with diabetes
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • Smokers.

Rates of vitamin C deficiency vary around the world with rates as low as 7.1% in the United States to nearly 74% in India. Total vitamin C deficiency manifesting as scurvy is rare.

Vitamin C And Complications Of The Common Cold

Vitamin C and your health

Given the strong evidence that regularly administered vitamin C shortens and alleviates common cold symptoms, it seems plausible that vitamin C might also alleviate complications of the common cold. One frequent complication is the exacerbation of asthma .

A systematic review identified three studies that provided information on the potential pulmonary effects of vitamin C in sufferers of common coldinduced asthma . A trial conducted in Nigeria studied asthmatic patients whose asthma exacerbations resulted from respiratory infections. A vitamin C dose of 1 g/day decreased the occurrence of severe and moderate asthma attacks by 89% . Another study on patients who had infection-related asthma reported that 5 g/day vitamin C decreased the prevalence of bronchial hypersensitivity to histamine by 52 percentage points . A third study found that the administration of a single dose of 1 g vitamin C to non-asthmatic common cold patients decreased bronchial sensitivity in a histamine challenge test .

It has also been proposed that vitamin C might prevent sinusitis and otitis media , but to our knowledge there are no data from controlled studies.

A further complication of viral respiratory infections is pneumonia this is discussed in the section on pneumonia.

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