Natural health: Ocular herpes and heartburn during pregnancy

Megan Sheppard says ocular herpes manifests as an infection on the cornea.

Q. I have ocular herpes in one eye and it is near impossible to find information on what I can do to help it. The other eye is completely fine. What do you suggest?

A. Ocular herpes, which also goes by the name of herpes simplex virus keratitis (typically shortened to HSV keratitis or herpes keratitis), manifests as an infection on the cornea. 

It’s common for it to only affect the one eye, and most cases heal without any scar tissue. 

There are a small number of individuals, around 6%, for whom the scarring affects the deeper corneal layers and causes some eyesight damage.

Most people are familiar with herpes as being related to cold sores (HSV-1), which is the form of the virus affecting the face and eyes. 

It is HSV-2 that primarily produces genital sores. 

Most people are exposed to HSV-1 at some stage during their childhood with no obvious symptoms, and it then lies dormant in the nervous system until something triggers or activates it.

Research suggests that the strain of virus, innate host resistance, and adaptive immune response are all important factors in determining whether or not the virus is activated or reactivated. 

Unfortunately, the exact triggers and risk factors determining who will display symptoms, and how/where the virus expresses itself are largely unknown.

Anything that you decide to do in terms of treatment, should always be discussed with your specialist. Also, any infection needs to be treated by your specialist, who will likely prescribe antiviral eye drops or similar.

There isn’t much that I can offer you in terms of natural health advice when it comes to ocular herpes, since there have been very few clinical trials for herbal or natural remedies to treat this condition. 

It might be worth investigating homeopathy, since this modality is a popular choice for sufferers of other HSV-1 related outbreaks, and evidence suggests that homeopathic preparations are safe to use alongside prescribed medication.

Again, please do discuss this with your specialist to be on the safe side.

The most up-to-date research of HSV keratitis concentrates on the role of T-lymphocytes (T-cells) in destroying viral infections. 

T-cells work by regulating the immunopathological response, which could be why the virus is latent in some, mild in others, and severe in a few. 

The adaptogenic Oriental mushrooms work to support the thymus gland — responsible for T-cell production — so you may also benefit from a medicinal mushroom supplement.

Q. I am in my last trimester of pregnancy and everything has gone smoothly (it’s my third child). However, this time around I seem to be getting a lot of heartburn. 

I find it helps to reduce my intake of fats, avoid rubbish foods, and only ever eat about a half portion at any one sitting. Is there anything else that I should be doing to relieve or prevent the heartburn?

A. It sounds as if you are already using most of the tips I would recommend in this situation. It can be very difficult during the final weeks when your stomach is being pushed upwards. 

In fact, all of your internal organs have limited space to do their respective jobs as effectively as usual.

Hydration is key, although with the aforementioned bladder pressure, this does mean that you always need to be close to the bathroom. 

I find that simple herbal infusions, such as spearmint, lemon, or ginger can really help — particularly if you add a small pinch of fennel seeds to settle your digestive system. 

Raspberry leaf tea, often taken during the third trimester to help prepare the uterus for labour, also has a reputation for settling the stomach.

Beginning each meal with a small green salad, or simply a handful of leafy greens, will help kickstart the digestive process and it also supports energy levels — which you will no doubt be needing around now.

Taking time to focus on mindful breathing can do wonders, and will also work to reduce any sensations of stress you may be feeling.


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