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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…

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About Sarah Howells

Hi, I'm Sarah! Diagnosed with coeliac disease 20 years ago, I'm on a mission to create the best gluten free recipes since sliced bread. No fruit salads or dry brownies here.


  1. 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.