If you have shingles, avoiding certain foods can alleviate some of your symptoms.
This article will examine foods to avoid during a shingles attack and foods that may prevent its occurrence.
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Shingles attacks happen in people who have contracted the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), also known as chicken pox, at some point in their lives.
This virus remains dormant in the body until a trigger activates it. It is not yet clear what these triggers are, but people with a weakened immune system, as seen in older adults, are more likely to experience shingles.
Shingles attacks are often characterized by red patches on the skin. People who haven't had the shingles vaccine are at risk of contracting the virus.
As well as supporting general well-being, eating a balanced, nutritious diet is the most effective long-term strategy for preventing illness and boosting the immune system.
In patients aged 60 and over, the risk of acquiring shingles may be significantly reduced by the following micronutrients:
Vitamins A, B, C, and E
Meals high in insoluble fiber, such as whole grains and wheat bran, can reduce constipation that may be caused by several antiviral medications used to treat the pain of shingles (e.g., Acyclovir). These high-fiber foods, along with drinking eight to ten glasses of water daily, will help soften the stool and increase bowel movements.
Let’s look at the main food and drink to avoid if you develop shingles.
Not only should you avoid alcohol because of the potential for drug interactions but because of its potential adverse effects. Alcohol lowers the immune system's capability, so it should not be consumed by older adults suffering from shingles.
Highly processed foods are high in omega-6 fatty acids, added sugars, and salt, all of which may weaken the immune system, especially in older adults. Such foods can also trigger inflammation.
Examples of processed foods are:
High-sugar energy drinks
During a shingles flare-up, it’s best to avoid meals with a high glycemic index (GI). These foods include refined carbohydrates like:¹
White blood cells, which produce antibodies to destroy invaders, are slowed by the tendency of these foods to increase blood sugar rapidly. The result is reduced immunity and increased inflammation.
Foods high in saturated fats should be avoided if you have shingles since they are linked to systemic inflammation.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
In contrast, increase your intake of unsaturated fats.
For older adults with shingles, keeping the immune system strong should be a key goal. Here is a list of recommended foods if you’re suffering from shingles. All these will boost your immune system.
Vitamins C, A, E, B12, D, and zinc help reduce the risk of developing shingles attacks. Vitamins help keep your brain and neurological system working correctly and might even help you feel less tired.
B vitamins, particularly B12, also help to protect your body against the effects of postherpetic neuralgia.
The shingles virus attacks the central nervous system. Therefore, it is crucial to eat plenty of B-vitamin-rich foods like:
Increased vitamin C consumption can strengthen the immune system and hasten recovery, so orange and yellow fruits, and vegetables are recommended. Since the shingles virus hides in the liver, vitamin C acts as a double-edged antiviral sword and helps to cleanse and repair this organ.
There are some phytochemicals and enzymes with healing properties that are particularly present in papaya, for example, papain. These can help strengthen your immune system to fight shingles.
Complex carbohydrates, such as those found in barley, brown rice, and sweet potatoes, can help reduce inflammation, making these foods a better choice than ones containing simple sugars.
The chlorophyll in green beans has anti-inflammatory properties, making them helpful for treating shingles.
Omega-3 fatty acids also have a substantial anti-inflammatory impact. They are in foods such as:
Oily fish, e.g., salmon
Lettuce is alkalizing and helps to cleanse the liver and lymphatic system, both of which are affected by shingles. Romaine lettuce, which contains sedative ingredients that ease the nerves and soothe the body, is suitable for anybody experiencing nerve inflammation associated with a viral infection.
The skin and spear tips of asparagus contain compounds that may inhibit the development of shingles. In addition to its many other health benefits, asparagus is a powerful alkalizer. Asparagus can restore health to someone whose system is acidic due to a buildup of toxins from an illness like shingles.
The L-lysine amino acid and probiotics found in yogurt have been shown to reduce the ability of the shingles virus to replicate.
Certain foods help speed up recovery from shingles by nourishing the immune system and reducing inflammation. This is especially important for people with a weaker immune system, such as older adults.
These foods can help in several ways, including fighting off the virus, helping the body to recover from neurotoxic flare-ups, strengthening the immune system, repairing damaged nerves, promoting new nerve development, calming skin inflammation, and purifying the system.
Disparities in sources of added sugars and high glycemic index foods in diets of US children, 2011–2016 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Can vitamin B12 provide pain relief for postherpetic neuralgia | Medical News Bulletin
Shingles | National Institute on Aging
Varicella-zoster virus (Chickenpox and shingles) | Health and Senior Service