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Herpes is a widespread chronic infection with no known cure. After the initial infection with herpes simplex virus (HSV), outbreaks may recur with varying frequency. Physical, emotional or psychological stress can trigger an outbreak, as can changes in immune function caused by stress or another infection, such as a cold.

Some of the physiological changes that occur during stress, primarily cortisol secretion by the adrenal glands, have been shown to suppress a broad spectrum of both humoral and cellular immunological responses. Suppression of the immune system can lead to activation of herpesvirus, and both stress (increased cortisol) and adrenal fatigue (decreased cortisol) can suppress the immune system.

Research has shown that herpes outbreaks increase in frequency with stresses such as strong emotions, trauma, sunburn, illness and the prolonged use of corticosteroid drugs, especially when adrenal function is low (as it is during adrenal fatigue). The stronger the adrenals are, the better the body handles stress and the less immune suppression there is. This, in turn, lessens the likelihood of a herpes outbreak being precipitated by stress. For these reasons, people experiencing adrenal fatigue are likely to suffer more herpes outbreaks.

Conversely, as a chronic infection, herpes is a continuing body burden that can contribute to adrenal fatigue. This may lead to more frequent outbreaks and increased susceptibility to infection, as well as other difficulties associated with adrenal fatigue. Adequate adrenal support, including a healthy lifestyle, and effective stress management can be important factors in minimizing stress-related herpes outbreaks.