Shingles, also known as the herpes zoster, is a painful viral disease that causes skin rash and blisters appearing only on one side of the body along the peripheral nerve in a type of stripe. The outbreak is very painful, and the goal is to clear the condition quickly – something that proper diet can certainly impact.

Shingles begins with an initial infection of the varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox, generally in children and young adults. Years after chickenpox, the virus remains and can re-emerge as shingles. Varicella zoster virus can become latent in the nerve cell bodies for years without causing symptoms, and an outbreak of shingles normally lasts 7 to 14 days. However, in people who are immune compromised, this disease can have serious consequences. People who suffer from shingles may also experience residual nerve pain for months or even years; this is referred to as post herpetic neuralgia. Other symptoms caused by the condition are fatigue, depression and flu-like symptoms.

Exactly how the virus remains latent in the body, and subsequently re-activates is not fully understood. However, with that said, I believe stress, poor diet and a weakened immune system are the common culprits.

To help the body heal and keep the virus at bay, one needs to avoid stress, allow the body necessary rest, stay hydrated, and cut out incorrect enzymes in foods that feed the situation, particularly those high in the amino acid L-Arginine which can perpetuate an outbreak.

For overall health, you want to increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, but avoid citrus fruits during an outbreak. Vegetable juicing will allow high levels of antioxidants to feed the body which is extremely important in maintaining health with this disease. Beet, carrot, celery, spinach, kale combined in a juice offers a perfect combination.

Maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet will also help keep the virus at bay. Eat foods rich in B6 such as bananas, certain nuts/seeds, sweet potatoes, and red skinned potatoes. Also consume sprouted whole grains, sprouted brown rice, gluten-free quinoa, and rice-based pasta. Dairy- free yogurts that are free of chemicals, casein and lactaid, such as a quality goat or sheep yogurt can be very helpful for the G.I. flora.

If experiencing an outbreak, avoid peanuts, almonds, cashews, chicken, dairy products, red meats, barley and oats, as well as alcohol, caffeine, sugar and all refined simple carbohydrates, as these foods can aggravate the system and cause the virus to continue to spread and blister.

Adding chlorophyll and kelp will promote healing and enhance the body’s immune system. Important vitamins include a B-complex, L-lysine, buffered vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, bromelain and quercetin.

To soothe an outbreak, try a few drops of essential oil such as eucalyptus or goldenseal root diffused with a tablespoon of olive oil or grape seed oil and apply the mixture directly to the lesions. This will have a calming effect and, if caught early enough and combined with proper diet, may lessen the outbreak, or stop it completely and send it back into remission.

Dr. Beckner is the owner of Your Body Code, personalized nutrition and wellness programs in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 341.BODY (2639). Call us for a free personalized consultation and visit us on the web for free recipes and more information at

Sources: 1)Amanda Beckner CN, HHP, PhD, Your Body Code, copyright 2009; 2)Roberta Wilson,  Aromatherapy for Vibrant Health & Beauty, copyright 1995; 3)Robert Berkow MD, Editor –in-chief, The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, copyright 1987

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Comments (5)

  • I’m confused about eating dairy and meat and grains during a shingles outbreak? So many articles contradict each other?

  • Hello Jim,
    Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there, however we have found that the enzymes found in certain foods disrupts the healing process in shingles. Our immune system and response controls the outcome of shingles and once we take certain food enzymes out and add others in, this helps the body in its healing process.
    I have worked with many patients over the years that have had quick and wonderful results from these simple adjustments in their diets.
    Once the shingles outbreak has fully disappeared, you may once again eat these foods in moderation. You just are unable to eat them when trying to heal as they inhibit the bodies ability to do so. Keep in mind there is no known cure for shingles, however eating correctly and greatly reducing stress can keep shingles dormant for a lifetime.


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