Shingles Diet: Foods to Love and Avoid During Outbreak
Published Nov 16, 2020
“Let food be thy medicine.”
Whether or not Hippocrates actually said this is debatable, but what isn’t debatable is nutrition’s place in our lives. The foods that we do or do not eat directly and almost immediately impact how our bodies feel. This is especially the case when we’re sick and feeling the effects of an infection.
Shingles is a viral infection that a third of the American population will contract at one point in their lives. With a virus that widespread, it’s best to stay prepared and informed about how to deal with it. To help you with that, here’s a diet you should follow when you have shingles.
Shingles and Diet
What is shingles?
Herpes zoster (shingles) is a viral infection caused by the varicella zoster virus. When the varicella zoster virus enters our body, the first notable problem it causes is chickenpox. We’ve all heard or maybe even experienced chickenpox before, but after it runs its course, the virus retreats to nerve tissues near your spinal cord and brain. There it stays for up to a few decades before it “wakes up” and becomes shingles.
Typical signs and symptoms of shingles historically affect only a small portion on one side of the body. These symptoms include:
- Burning, numbness, and tingling
- Stabbing or shooting pain
- A red rash that follows a few days after the pain
- Fluid-filled blisters that will burst and crust over
- Fever, chills, and headache
A weakened immune system aggravates shingles. As with most infections, a few dietary changes are in order when you have this condition. There are specific foods made to strengthen your immune system and prevent the shingles from spreading to the rest of your body. But of course, there are also other foods you should avoid at all costs, as they can worsen your symptoms and make shingles last longer than it should.
Foods you should be eating
A shingles diet should consist of foods rich in different vitamins (A, B, C, and E) and the amino acid lysine. Foods that you should include are:
- Fresh green and yellow vegetables
- Fresh fruits
- Raw chopped garlic
- Red meat
- Wild-caught fish
- Deep-sea scallops
- Whole grains
- Sweet Potatoes
- Bell Peppers
Foods you should avoid
Coming down with shingles can be an extremely exhausting experience. For that reason, many people find comfort in certain foods that aren’t exactly the best for us. But while these foods make you feel great at the moment, they actually work against your body in healing you. Here are the foods you should avoid with shingles:
- Foods high in arginine – arginine is an amino acid that helps in replicating the varicella zoster virus. This category includes nuts and seeds, chocolate, and gelatin.
- Sugary foods and drinks – sugar is downright bad for your immune system, as it slows down the white blood cells that defend against pathogens in the body.
- Refined carbohydrates – refined carbohydrates are high on the glycemic index, which means our body digests them much faster than other foods. This rate of digestion expends energy, draining immune response against the virus.
- Saturated fats – studies have shown that saturated fats also negatively impact our immune system even before the effects show physically.
- Alcohol – there’s substantial evidence showing that alcohol disrupts the immune system, worsening and slowing down the healing of shingles. It also messes with your gut microbiome or the collection of gut bacteria, a key element in digestive health.
Aside from natural treatment in food consumption, several medications also help against shingles. Shingles is a viral infection, so medicines cannot cure it. Instead, medication is aimed at managing the symptoms of such viral infections.
Antiviral drugs help you heal faster and suppress the virus, preventing future complications. They’re most effective as soon as you start seeing rashes, so you’ll want to see your doctor ASAP. These are the three common antiviral medications:
Here are some home remedies for shingles while we’re at it:
- Cold showers
- Cold compress
- Baking soda and cornstarch paste
- Soothing creams
- Essential oils
- Oat baths
- Vitamin supplements
- Reduce stress
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