Foods To Eat and Avoid When Taking Acyclovir For Herpes & Cold Sores

Herpes is a common condition that can happen to both adults and children.

There are different types of the herpes virus, but not all are sexually transmitted. 

In fact, one of the most common types is called herpes zoster (commonly known as shingles). 

According to the CDC, on average, one out of three people in the US will develop herpes zoster at one point during their lifetime. 

While most people might have only one episode, the virus stays dormant until the next possible episode. 

Currently, there is no cure for herpes, but there are medications that can help reduce recurring symptoms and help sores heal faster. 

One commonly used treatment for herpes is called acyclovir. 

Acyclovir is an antiviral medication used to treat viral infections such as shingles, chickenpox, oral herpes, or genital herpes. 

It works by slowing the growth of herpes by affecting its DNA. As a result, it is more difficult for it to reproduce and spread throughout the body. 

If you’ve been recently prescribed acyclovir, you might have some questions regarding the medication and possible food interactions. 

Here, we’ll go over everything related to acyclovir and nutrition. We’ll talk about foods to avoid while taking acyclovir, foods to eat, and possible side effects you might get from the medication. 

4 Foods To Avoid While Taking Acyclovir

Currently, there are no known interactions between any foods and acyclovir. This means you can keep a normal diet when starting or taking this medication. 

However, it’s important to understand what foods can weaken your immune system and cause a possible herpes outbreak. 

Remember that acyclovir doesn’t cure herpes, but it decreases its reproduction and symptoms. 

Ultra-processed foods

Highly processed foods such as white bread, cookies, cakes, pastries, chips, and sodas are typically high in sugar and saturated fats. 

These are foods that, when eaten in large quantities, can increase inflammation, which can weaken immune function. 

In addition, ultra-processed foods can increase the risk of weight gain since they can increase caloric intake. 

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Foods high in caffeine

There is a possible interaction that might occur between acyclovir and caffeine. It seems that caffeine might affect the metabolism of acyclovir. However, still, more research is needed to determine its possible interaction. 

Therefore, other foods to avoid when taking acyclovir are those rich in caffeine. While having a cup of coffee every day won’t cause any negative effects, the problem is that when there is excessive consumption. 

Since caffeine is a natural stimulant, it can make your body work harder. In the end, it can lead to the body feeling tired, which can decrease immune function. 

High-arginine foods

Evidence shows that consumption of high-arginine foods might increase the risk of cold sores. Arginine is an amino acid that might contribute to the reproduction of herpes. 

Some foods you might want to avoid while taking acyclovir are flaxseeds, chocolate, spinach, whole grains, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts. 

However, keep in mind that the research is still inconclusive regarding the relationship between arginine and cold sores. 


Citric foods

Finally, while citric foods are not going to increase the risk of triggering herpes, it’s best to avoid them when having cold sores. 

Citric foods and spicy food might increase the risk of pain, so it’s best to avoid them until the symptoms have cleared. You might want to avoid lemons, oranges, vinegar, pickles, and tomatoes. 

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4 Foods To Eat While On Acyclovir

High-lysine foods

Research shows that consuming high-lysine foods can help reduce the risk of herpes. It seems that lysine can help decrease arginine activity. 

Foods you want to include in your acyclovir diet are dairy, apricots, apples, pears, and fish. 

There are no other foods shown that can decrease the risk of herpes appearing or causing symptoms. However, you can focus on foods that boost immune function. 

High-antioxidant foods

High-antioxidant foods such as fruits and vegetables can help reduce inflammation and boost immune function

Make sure you are adding at least three different colored fruits and vegetables throughout the day to get different nutrients. 

antioxidant foods

Vitamin C foods

If you don’t have any cold sores, high vitamin C foods such as lemon, oranges, and berries can decrease inflammation and enhance immune function. 

Probiotic foods

Finally, evidence suggests that the gut can help modulate immune function. Adding high probiotic foods such as kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, and kefir can help promote good gut health, which can help improve immune function

If you are not a big fan of high-probiotic foods, you can always include a probiotic supplement. Just make sure to ask a health professional before taking them. 

Foods to avoidFoods to eat
High-arginine foodsLysine-rich foods
Ultra-processed foodsAntioxidants
CaffeineVitamin C 
Citrus foodsProbiotic foods

Other Things To Consider While Taking Acyclovir 


Some medications might interact with acyclovir. For that reason, make sure you talk with your doctor and disclose all the medication you are taking to ensure there won’t be any possible side effects. 


There are no interactions between alcohol and acyclovir. However, even if you are able to consume it, ensure you drink in moderation. The CDC recommends only one drink for women and two drinks for men. 

Remember that alcohol provides empty calories, meaning it only provides calories without nutrients. 

So, keep the drinking to a minimum, and when drinking, avoid sugary drinks such as juices or soda. 


Another thing you need to consider when taking acyclovir is good hydration. Water is important when taking medication. 

If you don’t drink enough water while taking acyclovir, it might increase the risk of kidney problems. 

If you are unsure how much to drink, divide your weight (pounds) in half to get the total ounces of water you should drink daily. 

For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you should be drinking at least 90 oz of water every day. 


Finally, stress can increase the risk of herpes symptoms appearing. Search for proper techniques to help you cope with stress, such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, and journaling. 

If you are still struggling with stress, consult with a health professional for some guidance on what is the best way to cope with stress based on your situation.  

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Should You Take Acyclovir With Food?

You can take acyclovir with or without food. When taking the medication, make sure you drink plenty of water to make it easier to swallow and help your kidneys function properly. 

If you are having trouble swallowing the pill, ask your doctor if there are other ways to take the medication without impacting its effectiveness. 

What Are The Side Effects of Acyclovir?

Acyclovir is usually safe and well-tolerated. However, like any other medication, it can cause certain side effects. 

Here are some of the most common side effects of acyclovir:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting 
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue 
  • Changes in vision 
  • Joint pain 
  • Hair loss

There might be other serious side effects such as fever, stomach pains, blood in urine, seizures, and fast heartbeat. If you feel you are getting any usual symptoms, make sure you talk with your doctor.


Herpes is a common condition that happens to both adults and children. Keep in mind that currently, there is no medication that can cure herpes, but there are medications that can decrease its reproduction and reduce symptoms. 

One medication that is often prescribed is acyclovir. It is an antiviral that is typically safe and well-tolerated. 

Currently, there are no known interactions between acyclovir and food. So, you can have a normal diet when taking it. 

However, make sure to focus on antioxidant-rich foods to help enhance immune function and help the body fight the virus, and prevent any possible reappearances. 

Make sure you talk with your doctor to determine if there are any interactions you should be aware of or what is the best way to take this medication.

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  1. CDC. Shingles (Herpes Zoster).
  2. Kimberlin DW, Whitley RJ. Antiviral therapy of HSV-1 and -2. In: Arvin A, Campadelli-Fiume G, Mocarski E, et al., editors. Human Herpesviruses: Biology, Therapy, and Immunoprophylaxis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2007.
  3. Griffith RS, DeLong DC, Nelson JD. Relation of arginine-lysine antagonism to herpes simplex growth in tissue culture. Chemotherapy. 1981.
  4. Mailoo VJ, Rampes S. Lysine for Herpes Simplex Prophylaxis: A Review of the Evidence. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2017.
  5. Wu HJ, Wu E. The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut Microbes. 2012.
  6. CDC. Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol.

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