Coeliac disease and cold sores – your secret weapon to fight them!

Coeliac disease and cold sores – your secret weapon to fight them!

I used to always suffer from cold sores – nasty, painful, horrible things that would strike when I was feeling at my lowest and make me feel miserable and hate leaving the house. Whenever I felt that familiar tingle on my top lip it would strike a pit of dread in my stomach and I’d race out to the nearest pharmacy to stock up on Zovirax.

When I started eating really healthily, I suddenly realised I hadn’t had a cold sore – which I normally had around once a month – for well over six months. Suddenly, by changing my diet, cleaning up my lifestyle and exercising instead of stressing and worrying about things, I had finally defeated the beast! But now, after being struck by the worst cold in history on Boxing Day, those mean little things have returned with a vengeance…

I had often wondered if coeliac disease was linked to these horrible cold sores I was getting. And in a way, it does make sense. This Live Strong article (click here to read it) explains it well, when it says:

“Because side effects common in gluten intolerance, such as stress, chronic illness and dietary problems can cause cold sore recurrences, you may have an increased risk of developing cold sores if you’re gluten intolerant.”

And it hit me – every time I get ‘glutened’, it triggers an autoimmune response. My body attacks itself. I become ill and stressed, and BOOM, the cold sores strike as my immune system is down and get me once again. So what’s the best away to attack these little buggers? Well, I’ve discovered what could change the lives of those who suffered for so long like me…

L-lysine – the miracle cure?

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When my Mum’s friend came back from Australia, she brought with her some cold sore PILLS. That’s right, PILLS. What on earth are these, I heard myself cry. It turned out they were L -lysine – an amino acid. Not convinced, I popped a few when I next had an outbreak and like a miracle, my cold sores receeded in record timing. It was like these miracle pills had stopped them in their tracks.

Not available in the UK, I did some Googling and found out I could buy L-lysine in Holland and Barratt. Unfortunately, these pills are the size of horse tranquilisers, but taken with food I can just about get them down and they did the trick. However, I have discovered My Protein sell it in powdered form, which is what I am going to try next. Now, when I feel that familiar tingle, I whack on the Zovirax and pop one or two of these with every meal and my cold sore is gone in a couple of days – unlike the usual week or two I spent with that disgusting scabby blister on my face. Yuk.

And doing more reading, there is plenty to back this theory up. This article on The Telegraph explains a bit more about how lysine helps, and this article from the University of Maryland explains how lysine helps the body absorb calcium – important to prevent osteoporosis which is one of the side effects of undiagnosed coeliac disease.

It would seem this little gem could become a coeliac’s best friend – and it’s readily available in health food shops and online. Lysine is also prevalent in meat and fish (see this handy list here) which could explain why, when I was eating a diet high in meat and protein sources, I was fending off any cold sore attacks.

What else can I do?

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Of course, eating healthily helps if you are affected by cold sores or any other such nasty bugs which strike when your immune system is down. I always turn to kiwi fruits when I am feeling run down – they have more vitamin C than an orange! Or a smoothie packed with berries never fails to give me a boost.

You can also try Zovirax or Fenistil – which is not found as often but I have found works better. I have also tried a little infrared gadget which is supposed to zap them, but I’ve never found this works very well for me. And learn what triggers them – stress, sun shine, chlorine and being run down are my big ones so I have to try and make sure I apply high factor sunscreen and have a stash of cold sore fighting-goodies on me when I go on holiday!

Taking supplements has also helped me maintain a healthy lifestyle – I am hoping to do a more comprehensive blog on this soon, but a good multi-vitamin is essential, and zinc is a powerful supplement to take which helps boost the immune system. Stay tuned for more on this coming soon though!

I also try to eat super healthy if I feel an attack coming – sugar is known to suppress the immune system and I feel it makes my cold sore attacks worse, so I try to avoid eating so much of it. Though when you feel like crap, it’s normally the first thing you want!

Does anyone else with coeliac disease find they suffer from cold sores? I’d love to know if anyone else has the same problem, as I feel there must be a link there and it can’t just be me! Get in touch or comment below if you have any problems linked to coeliac disease too…



  1. January 2, 2014 / 21:44

    I don’t have coeliac disease but I do get cold sores. Thanks for the tip. My sister also told me over the holidays that rubbing alcohol applied multiple times starting at the first tingle has helped her fight the dreaded things.

    • Sarah H (GF Blogger)
      January 2, 2014 / 21:45

      Thanks that sounds like a tip worth remembering! Lysine has been like a revelation for me and I will be taking it daily as a new year’s resolution!

    • Gill Robinson
      November 24, 2019 / 11:56

      I have coeliac disease and was very prone to cold sores also and since taking lysine tablets daily (I chew before swallowing or would choke in it! ) The frequency has also reduced although just trusted in eating 3 samosas that I was assured were totally gluten free and sure enough now 3 days later I am totally paying the price with a nice cold sore as well just to prove the point.
      I also use lysine lip balm daily and put lemongrass oil on straight away when I get the tingling and it works better for me than zovirax

  2. isaytomaat
    January 3, 2014 / 13:45

    Hi Sarah, thanks for your advice! I’ll be looking for Lysine in my local shops (in The Netherlands).

    I also have coeliac disease, and I’ve also had less cold sores since switching to a strict gluten-free diet. I got glutened in December while I had a mild cold. The cold quickly turned into a nasty sinus infection, and would you believe it… a cold sore. I agree with you: there must be a link between gluten, a weakened/over-active immune system, and cold sores.

  3. January 4, 2014 / 01:44

    I used to get one once a year, but since changing my diet I haven’t (knock on wood!) had one in over 2 years. Yay! They are nasty and you literally want to hide in your house for 2 weeks. I did however find something that worked! You need a prescription from your doctor though. Ask them for Valtrex, yes, the kind they prescribe for genital herpes. It can also be used on cold sores and it works! You have to be prepared though and have a dose on hand or a prescription as the moment you feel it come on is when you take it. I was able to literally stop it from surfacing.
    Thanks for the tips!

  4. susans
    February 4, 2014 / 08:15

    I am a coeliac, and have got cold sores for nearly 30 years. Get cold sores every year, gluten free diet since 2006. Some years I get more cold sores 2 or 3.
    I think it’s stress, Sun, wind or the sugar?
    thanks for your information.

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  7. Greg
    May 24, 2015 / 11:28

    I’m so glad someone else noticed this. I thought I was the only one and have been scouring the internet for months now to see if there’s a link. I have suffered with cold sores since junior high. I just turned forty last month. When I became an adult it seemed the cold sores were worse and even appeared on my nose, not just around my mouth and on my lips. I seemed to get a cold sore every month. When one would go away, another would appear a day or week later, during my late twenties/early thirties. I was seriously depressed, but I have a cheerful disposition that outweighs that. (It’s a curse.) I started eating the paleo diet several years back and noticed that when I cut out grains I never got cold sores. (I even found out after starting paleo that I’m wheat intolerant.) I went a year without getting a cold sore once. One of the happiest years of my life. Was this my cure? But a few times within those four years I had inadvertently ingested wheat. BAM! Cold sores. I started to then think there was a link between wheat and cold sores. Since herpes is a virus, maybe the virus is found in wheat itself. I’ve studied cold sores/herpes my whole life. Never done personal research until now, though. Read everything there is to know about cures and why we get them. I’m to the point now that I think I have to find my own cure and doctors don’t know what they’re talking about, since nothing works for me. I know it’s not gluten. It’s wheat exclusively, because the last time I got a cold sore it was from starch (wheat straw) which has no gluten in it. I had taken enzyme pills which I thought were wheat free. The ingredients listed starch on the label and I thought “corn starch”, no biggie. Two days later a cold sore outbreak.

  8. Jenna
    March 8, 2016 / 16:12

    Thanks for a very interesting post and comment conversation. I had cold sores for a few years. I noticed that whenever i feel weaker than normal, like when i am ill or feeling tired and stressed for longer periods, i tend to get nasty cold sores. When my health is good i dont get the at all. This fact peaked my interest and i read som websites about herpes.According to the information i read it seems like the body supresses the herpes-virus, and the herpes-virus causes cold sores and other syntoms when the body are in a weaker than normal.

  9. Lauren Sanders
    February 27, 2018 / 21:21

    I find that oregano oil applied with a carrier oil and in a pill form drastically reduce the rate they stick around.

  10. Jen
    March 29, 2018 / 21:05

    Long time sufferer here – have tried everything listed here (rx or otc, vitamins, natural remedies, went vegan for a long time..), and most seemed to lose all effectiveness as time passed and my body became used to it. At one point in a high stress job, I was getting them 2x month.. up to 4 on my lip at a time. I got to the point where I was using topical zovirax and popping 11,000mg lysine daily. Daily 500mg valcyclovir did nothing to prevent it. One day, a dermatologist suggested crushing prednisone (10 mg) with a benadryl, adding a tiny bit of water to make a paste – and applying to the tingle. I use 1/2 tab each to get me through 1-2 breakouts. I never get them externally anymore!!! And if I neglect to apply it, it still cuts blister life cycle down to days, barely noticeable. WHY they don’t develop this is beyond me. It’s a life saver!!! I do this coupled with 1000mg valcyclovir twice a day for 2 days at first tingle. Talk to your doctor if nothing else helps you, it make take some convincing. This, however, doesn’t stop the internal viral symptoms I feel when this strikes (fatigue, throat pain..) but I’ll take not having to suffer the external nightmare anymore. I do pay attn to argenine amts in my diet as well as stress, etc. Google trigger foods – you’ll be surprised how much of your diet consists of these foods. Good luck my fellow sufferers <3

    • Gill Robinson
      November 24, 2019 / 12:06

      Thanks for your comments, really interesting about the prednisolone I need to try it. I’ve cut my attacks down with lysine, was getting them continually at one point as one just about faded the next appeared and as you mentioned the internal symptoms are horrendous. I get really achey back, bad head flu like symptoms and very lethargic. I know the main way to avoid them now is to never eat gluten but when someone doesn’t know how serious your symptoms can be if you do and you are just trying to enjoy a meal out with friends it still happens occasionally

  11. April 9, 2019 / 10:42

    Thank you for this, I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease 2 years ago and have managed to stick with my new life diet very well. However I seem to get cold sores every couple months and they are bad. I have never had one before diagnosed. The first one i got made my lip inflame up to triple its size then after this they always come to the same area of my lip and down my chin. I have clusters of around 8-10 blisters and they are not only sore and tingly but very embarrassing. I am really fed up with these now so after reading some tips here I am going to try find the powder form and add to smoothies for my breakfast.

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