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Shingles

Shingles is an extremely painful viral condition that affects the nerves in the skin. It can affect people of any age, however is most common in those over 50.

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Symptoms

  • The initial symptom of shingles is often burning or tingling pain, numbness or itch in one particular location on only one side of the body. It may be accompanied by 3-4 days of slight fever, fatigue and anxiety.
  • This is followed by an inflamed painful rash with reddened skin and fluid-filled blisters (resembling those of chicken pox) in the same place, sometimes in a band or line called a dermatome. (The rash follows the path of the nerve in which the virus is present, and this determines the location of the symptoms on the skin.)
  • Pain can range from mild to severe.
  • Some people continue to experience pain for a long time after the shingles rash resolves. This is referred to as post-herpetic neuralgia, and becomes more common with age. The pain can be severe and debilitating and may be aggravated by stress. It may be intermittent or continuous over a long period, but generally lessens over time. The pain of post-herpetic neuralgia may be described as burning, aching, piercing, or like an electric shock.

Causes

The same virus that causes chicken pox (the varicella-zoster virus, a member of the Herpes family of viruses) also causes shingles.

People who have had chicken pox are usually immune from getting it again. However, the virus lies dormant in the spinal cord and nerve tissue, and may be re-activated years later causing shingles. Shingles occurs in approximately 10-20% of people who have had chicken pox, and the risk increases with age.  

The reasons for shingles occuring are not yet fully understood, however it appears that situations that affect the immune system, such as illness, stress or trauma, can cause the virus to be re-activated. The condition is more common in people with weakened immune systems (e.g. due to HIV/AIDS, cancer, chemotherapy, or high/long-term stress).

Natural Therapies

  • Echinacea helps strengthen the immune system and may assist your body in fighting infections; the antioxidant nutrients betacarotene, vitamins C and E and the mineral zinc may also be of assistance.
  • Vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients are important for immune function, especially as we get older. After the age of 50, consider taking a multivitamin and mineral that’s specially formulated to support your immunity as you age, as well as addressing other key concerns, such as healthy cardiovascular and cognitive function, and healthy vision, bones and joints.
  • Passionflower and hops have traditionally been used to treat neuralgia (nerve pain). These herbs are often taken with lemon balm, especially if symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness or disturbed sleep are also present. 
  • Growth of herpes viruses may be encouraged by the amino acid L-arginine and their growth slowed by L-lysine. Consider taking an L-lysine supplement that also contains zinc and vitamin C, and at the same time, reduce your intake of arginine-rich foods such as nuts and chocolate. 
  • Magnesium helps maintain normal nerve function.
  • The herb St. John’s wort has traditionally been used for neuralgia (nerve pain) such as that experienced in shingles. You should consult a healthcare practitioner to check medicine interactions before commencing use of this herb though.

Diet and Lifestyle Suggestions

  • Support your immune system by consuming plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Research suggests that people who eat less than one serve of fruit per day are three times more likely to develop shingles than people who eat three pieces of fruit per day, possibly due to their lower consumption of vitamin C and other nutrients.
  • A diet high in L-lysine and low in L-arginine may help to inhibit viruses from the Herpes family. Avoid foods rich in L-arginine (such as nuts, chocolate, and sunflower seeds). At the same time, increase foods high in L-lysine, (such as fish, milk, cheese, beef, and crustaceans). 
  • To prevent infection, avoid scratching the blisters, but be sure to maintain good hygiene practices and wash them gently every day.
  • The topical use of diluted peppermint essential oil (10% in alcohol) may help to ease the pain of post-herpetic neuralgia. Do not apply peppermint oil to the eyes, genitals or mouth, and do not apply it to the faces of babies or small children. 
  • Get plenty of rest and avoid stress, which is weakening to your immune system.

Important Notes

Seek medical assistance urgently if the shingles appear on the face, particularly near the nostrils or eyes.

You should also consult your healthcare professional if your rash persists for longer than 10 days without improvement, or if the blisters become infected (red, swollen or discharging pus).

References available on request

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Leanne                        Leanne

Hello Kay,
I’m sorry to hear of the pain and discomfort you are suffering due to shingles.

The nutrients and therapies mentioned above may assist you in managing some of the symptoms of shingles and i would suggest giving a few a try. Plenty of rest, reducing stress where ever possible and incorporating foods rich in lysine and antioxidants in your diet to name a few.
The mineral Magnesium is especially beneficial to neuromuscular health so increase green leafy vegetables in your diet.
You could also try the topical application of essential oils. Either peppermint or hypericum may help to ease the pain.
Physical water therapy and acupuncture may also assist.
If your require further advice please call our naturopathic advisory service on 1800803760 to speak to one of our naturopaths.
I wish you all the best. Leanne (a Blackmores naturopath)

, posted on 06 May 2014. Report Abuse

I have my second bout of shingles in 6 years, I get it down the back of my right leg and under my right foot, my leg has never really healed from the first bout I had, and I have problems walking more than 300 metres, so now I am catching buses instead of my 1 k, walk to the station. Is there anything I can do to build up the muscle in the leg or stop the pain. , posted on 04 May 2014. Report Abuse

Leanne                        Leanne

Hi Wendy, I can empathise with the frustration you must be feeling at your 6th bout of shingles! I’m sorry to hear that. A naturopathic treatment protocol to address your current bout as well boosting your immune system and supporting your quest for optimal health it the best way to minimise the risk of another recurrence. This will be most effective if you consult with a naturopath in private practice who can assess your medical history, diet, lifestyle and all other factors affecting your health. Striving for good health is an ongoing journey and is multi-faceted. If you need assistance to find a naturopath in your area, either the National Herbalist’s Association of Australia (http://www.nhaa.org.au/) or the Australian Traditional Medicine Association (http://www.atms.com.au/) are both good places to start. All the best Wendy, Leanne (a Blackmores naturopath) , posted on 02 May 2014. Report Abuse

I have just been diagnosed with my 6th bout of shingles (I am 60) on my face near my right eye and not very happy. Although extremely lethargic with stabbing ear paid and now the headaches have begun at least I have not been put into hospital as has happened twice before. I am at a loss as to why I have shingles again as my diet is quite healthy, I exercise daily walking the dog and take a good multi vitamin and not on any medications. Previously I put the shingles down to looking after my elderly parents (lots of stress) but they are no longer here. On reading your article I discovered one of the causes was feeling generally unwell and this was the case with me, a low grade virus. However, I do not want to experience bout number 7 of shingles. What can I do to prevent another recurrence? The doctor has put me on Famvir which has dried up the shingles. I experienced a severe reaction to the first anti viral medication I was put on. , posted on 02 May 2014. Report Abuse

kathleen                      kathleen

Hi Bill,yes it seems this is a great combination of homoeopathic remedies with Emu Oil. I know emu oil is available in Australia and is traditionally used in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis . I’m not aware of a similar product to EmuAid being available in Pharmacies in Australia. Topical application of good quality essential oils such as hypericum can also be used in the treatment of shingles. Call us directly if you would like more assistance with treating shingles on our 1800 803 760 to speak with one of our naturopaths.
Kind regards Kath (Blackmores Naturopath

, posted on 28 April 2014. Report Abuse

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