A Guide to Preventing & Healing Shingles Outbreaks
Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) is a medical condition in which the sufferer experiences a rash or blisters on the skin. Shingles is caused by the virus that causes chickenpox, varicella-zoster virus. Shingles can remain in one area of the body (localized zoster) or it can spread (disseminated zoster). Once you have chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in your body. For the majority of people, it forever remains that way and does not cause further issues. However, some people have their virus reactivated, especially at times of weakened immune function, and this is when a shingles outbreak occurs.
Those that have the greatest risk of developing shingles include those with a weakened immune system, older than 50 years of age, who have recently been sick, are under excessive stress, or have experienced a major trauma. Even though shingles is most common on the left or right side of the torso, it is possible to have shingles on the face. Shingles duration is most often between three to five weeks. The majority of people will only experience shingles one time, but it is possible to get shingles on multiple occasions.
STAGES OF THE SHINGLES VIRUS
1. A weakened immune system caused by stress, illness, or immune system deficiencies reawakens the virus
2. Shingles is often preceded by 3-4 days of chills, fever, and aches.
3. Burning pain and sensitive skin begins to develop.
4. A rash develops on the skin followed by blisters filled with pus that resemble the chicken pox. The affected area becomes excruciatingly painful and sensitive to touch. In addition to pain and itching, having shingles can also result in burning, numbness, sensitivity to touch, and/or tingling in the affected area. People with shingles can also experience fever, headaches, fatigue, or light sensitivity.
5. The blisters burst, crust over, and begin to heal. Skin becomes very itchy.
6. If the nerves are damaged, post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) can occur and can last several months
Preventative measures involve strengthening your immune system to naturally protect against and eliminate viral infections:
- Consume a diet high in whole foods, including a wide range of fruits and vegetables, soaked beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, and organic animal products
- Include immune-boosting herbs into your diet, including echinacea, elderberry, astragalus root, ginger, ginseng,
- Consume probiotic foods daily, such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso and organic yogurt (80% of your immune system is in your gut!)
- Make sure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D (~5000-10,000 IU daily) through the sun or supplementation
- Do not smoke
- Include exercise into your routine
- Only drink alcohol in moderation
- Get adequate sleep (this means putting devices with screens away at least 1 hour before going to bed!)
- Regularly engage in stress-management and reducing activities, such as yoga, walking outdoors, journaling, meditation and breathing exercises.
Foods to include:
Foods high in B-vitamins: B-vitamins support nervous system functioning. The nervous system is under attack by the shingles virus; therefore, it’s important to include foods high in B-vitamins such as grass-fed beef, cultured dairy, eggs, organic chicken and wild-caught fish.
Water: Adequate hydration is the key to flushing out the virus from your system. Try to drink half your body weight in ounces or more every day. Herbal teas and other non-caffeinated beverages include in your total water consumption.
Garlic and onions: Both raw garlic and onion contain sulfur and allicin, which can help boost immune function.
Foods rich in vitamin C: Fruits and vegetables that are orange and yellow contain potent amounts of Vitamin C, which helps to improve your immune system functioning and speed up healing.
Green leafy vegetables: These vegetables are high in beta-carotene and calcium, which can boost immune function.
Foods to Avoid:
Sugar: Decreases white blood cells that help fight off infection. This includes packaged foods, fruit juices, simple carbohydrates, and other food products that have added sugar.
Caffeine: Depletes the body of hydration, which is essential for healing shingles.
Carbonated beverages: These beverages promote a more acidic system, which can make this acute illness more severe.
Fried foods:Also promotes an acidic environment.
Vitamin C: Helps with immune system function and boosts white blood cells. Vitamin C is water-soluble, which means that the body uses what it needs in the moment and excretes what it cannot use. The liposomal form of vitamin c is best. Take 1000-3000mg per day. You can also get IV infusions of Vit C as needed. Speak to your holistic practioner.
Echinacea: This herb is known for helping the body fight off infections and viruses. Best in tea or tincture form.
Oregano oil: Has powerful antiviral effect. Best tincture form
Zinc: Supports nerve health, immune function and has an antiviral effect. It works best when taken at the first sign of illness. Best in supplement form.
Colloidal silver: taken internally on a regular basis or in times of stress / distress
Elderberry: Is useful to use both topically and internally for all types of herpes related viruses. It reduces symptoms, prevents shingles from spreading, and stimulates the immune system.
Holy Basil: This adaptogenic herb helps to lower stress. It is also a potent antiviral that helps reduce inflammation and pain associated with shingles.
Licorice Root: When used topically in extract form, licorice root has the ability to help boost the immune system and prevent the virus from spreading. To use: Apply a few drops of licorice root extract to the affected areas 2-3 times a day.
Consult with a nutritional practitioner prior to taking or combining herbs or supplements.
Geranium: Reduces pain following a shingles outbreak. With topical application, essential oil of geranium relieves painful sensations within minutes. It even outperforms topical capsaicin, which is often recommended for shingles pain.
Bergamot: One of the most effective essential oils that inhibit the herpes virus and will aid in drying blisters and give you long lasting pain relief. It is a powerful antiviral and analgesic essential oil that will also support you emotionally throughout your healing journey. Ensure you purchase a bergapten-free bergamot essential oil or make sure to completely cover any areas of topical application with clothing if going outside. Bergamot is an extremely phototoxic essential oil, meaning it reacts negatively when exposed to sunlight.
Ravensara: This herb is used to treat active shingles. It has an affinity for clearing skin ailments and infections and helps reduce pain and inflammation.
Tea tree: Helps soothe redness and irritation on and around the blistering skin. Its anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties make it a perfect match for treating shingles and reducing pain. If used consistently, you can prevent scarring and further infection.
OTHER TREATMENT OPTIONS
Manuka or clover honey: Has antiviral activity against varicella-zoster virus. To use: Simply apply the honey directly to problem areas a few times per day.
Colloidal oatmeal baths: Bathing in water infused with colloidal oatmeal is a natural shingles treatment that is affordable and can help with the common shingles symptom of itching. Make sure the bath is on the cooler side since hot water will only make itching worse.
Cool compresses: You can use cool, wet compresses on shingles blisters to reduce their fire. These cooling compresses can help with shingles pain, sensitivity, and itching. Make sure to change the wash cloth with each session.
Reduce stress: Reducing stress in your life as much as possible is a key natural shingles treatment. Because stress reduction is such an overall immune system and health booster, this lifestyle change can help to prevent and treat shingles since.