By Catharine L. Kaufman — (a.k.a. The Kitchen Shrink)
Once I laughed at Woody Allen’s joke identifying his then wife in a photograph taken in front of their house, as “she is the one with the shingles.” But when my childhood chickenpox virus came roaring back recently with the excruciating pain of shingles, that story wasn’t funny anymore, just cruel.
Following Hippocrates’ sage advice, “Make food thy medicine,” I jumpstarted my self-healing campaign by taking daily doses of the best food-based probiotic supplements I could find, to replenish the friendly flora in my gut and boost my immune system.
All the above contain various amounts of essential bacteria, most brimming with billions of lactobacillus varieties, acidophilus and bifidobacterium.
The next step in my ‘self-healing campaign,’ was to drink one-to-three cups of calming chamomile tea the first few days to lower the stress that is known to be the main trigger of shingles outbreaks. I also found that a combination of chamomile and ginger tea fortifies both calming and digestive processes. Deep breathing exercises, yoga and meditation two or three times a day is known to increase the teas’ relaxing effect and help ease the pain and other symptoms of shingles. This, in turn, encouraged me to look for more information about nutritional remedies recommended by trusted holistic healthcare experts, which not only reduce the symptoms of shingles, but also shorten the course of this painful illness.
Weather you are in the throes of a shingle attack right now, or merely want to arm yourself with information about self-healing methods, just in case, you probably won’t mind if I put on my Kitchen Shrink hat and guide you through some self-healing information you could adapt for your own ‘campaign’:
- Increase foods rich in stress-reducing B-vitamins, since the chickenpox virus that causes shingles ratchets up pain by tinkering with nerve endings. So crack some (organic) eggs and prepare them in your favorite ways; add goat cheeses to your grocery list; check out our other ‘Recipe’ pages on this site for ‘fast-and-easy’ chicken and turkey meals rich in B12’s; and look to bananas, brewer’s yeast and potatoes for calming B6’s.
- Load your diet up with foods brimming with vitamins A, B, C, D and E, while also dialing up those with high folate, zinc and iron content. Reserve a meal or snack for the Mighty C, built around one or two selections such as oranges, pineapple, kiwi and lemons.
- Less acidic choices include broccoli, bell peppers and cabbage. Leafy greens provide a shot of Vitamin D to ward off invading viruses, while pomegranates and blueberries are dual-purpose weapons protecting cells from oxidation, along with revving up your immune system’s disease-fighting soldiers.
- A treasure-trove of essential nutrients harvested from oceans, provide minerals and vitamins (B complex among the most important) that have been found to be effective in the war against shingles.
- It is no exaggeration that the humble garlic is more powerful than any Marvel superhero. Chock-full of allicin—a potent antiviral compound of sulfur, vitamins A, B6 and C; selenium, magnesium, potassium calcium and zinc—this much praised “stinky rose” is also a busy antioxidant, immune system BFF and efficient healer of blisters caused by shingles. Sliced raw onto buttered toast, it’s a might anti-flu remedy, too. Crushed raw and added to vinaigrette dressing or yogurt dip (recipe below) is an ideal companion to salads and Mediterranean appetizers. Sautéed with broccoli rapini and olive oil, simmered in soups and sauces, or roasted whole and used as a spread on bread or baked potatoes, it is both a multi-tasking healer and celebrated flavor-enhancer.
- Other potent shingles-busters are foods filled with lysine, an amino acid that puts the skids on the cellular proliferation of the Zoster virus. To increase your lysine intake, go for wild-caught sardines, herring, salmon and other small and medium-size fish and deep-sea scallops. Also helpful in tamping down the pain and blisters of shingles are lamb (preferably pasture-grown in New Zealand), organic turkey, beans, dried apricots, raisins and figs.
- Remember to drink plenty of water to flush dead viruses and other toxins out of the body.
- Now for the equally important DO NOTs: For the duration of a shingles attack, and even during the two or three weeks after symptoms disappear, it is best to avoid foods containing the amino acid arginine, which have been found to actually stimulate the replication of the herpes virus, a genetic relation to its shingles counterpart. Arginine-containing foods to stay away from are nuts, seeds, soy products, oats, coconut, wheat flours and, alas, chocolate.
Alcoholic beverages, too, are on the NO list since they interfere with the body’s immune responses; as are all caffeine-containing foods and beverages that intensify the already jangling nerves of shingles.
Fatty foods, sweets, empty (junk food) calories and processed foods tend to ratchet up shingles symptoms; as are foods and beverages served too hot or cold, which jar the nervous system. Although many dentists and other health practitioners recommend eating and drinking warm or room-temperature foods and beverages to protect the delicate tissues lining the mouth, throat and digestive track, this advice goes double during a shingles attack. Foods and beverages should be consumed at Baby Bear temperatures—not too hot, not too cold, just right—to prevent the already jumpy nerves from turning up the pain.
RECIPE: This zippy yogurt and garlic sauce is a Mediterranean wonder—not only does it make taste buds sing, but also lends each meal an anti-viral oomph.
1 ½ cups plain Greek or goat yoghurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Persian cucumbers, diced
Juice and zest from one Meyer lemon
1-tablespoon each fresh dill and mint, chopped
1-tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
Blend ingredients in a glass bowl. Chill. Serve as a dipping sauce for fresh vegetables, drizzle on burgers, pitas or kebabs.