Foods That Knock Shingles Pain Off The Roof

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.

Nor did I find comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone, but merely one of about a million U.S. adults attacked every year by the suddenly awakened Varicella Zoster virus.

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.

I learned that for greater effectiveness, these should be taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning—a good habit to follow when switching from capsules to goat kefir, an excellent and tasty probiotic, as is goat yogurt (on its own or with fruit) for mid-day snack. While some of us enjoy the slightly sour and refreshing flavor of kefir and yogurt on their own, others prefer them sweetened with honey, Stevia or fruit (blueberries are the most nutritious, sweet but with lowest sugar content). Fermented side dishes like sauerkraut, dill pickles or the spicy Korean fermented cabbage, kimchi, add probiotic and antioxidant boosts to mid-day and evening meals.

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 rich foods to prevent shingles, 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 foods to avoid shingles pain are the ones 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: foods to avoid during shingles attack, and even during the two or three weeks after symptoms disappear, it is best to avoid foods during shingles attack 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.

Tzatziki Garlic and Yogurt Dip

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.


43 Comments on “Foods That Knock Shingles Pain Off The Roof”

  1. Hi Catharine , thank you for your information here. I have shingles now, 😩
    On the right side of my head, face and shoulder and neck. I’m wondering if you think gently rubbing coconut oil on the rash is good, I did this yesterday. But as I read your article I noticed on your list of foods to avoid you mentioned coconut.
    Thank you

  2. Great article just what I needed! I have had singles for 6 months and it is getting worse not better. This article is a big help thank you do much!

  3. Just got broken out with shingles. In alot of pain. I am on a anti viral medication but doctor has noting for pain so i just get to suffer i guess. Was glad. to find your website. Will take all advice you can give.

  4. You mentioned blueberries as a food to eat because they are so nutritious. They are but the argenine ratio far exceeds the lysine. These two amino acids compete for entry in a cell. If lysine is higher in a food, it gets to enter the cell. Arginine triggers replication in shingles virus. Eating properly for Shingles should include.making a list of foods where lysine exceeds arginine and plan your menu from there.


  6. So appreciate your article on shingles. I found it to be full of great information. And now two weeks later even though the lesions have abated the pain in my eye, headaches, itchiness and exhaustion still remain, the novelty worn off and I am definitely feeling defeated I’m finding inspiration and hope rereading your article. So thanks!

  7. Have you heard of low light red laser
    machines that works for shingles?
    Most chiropractors have them. They just don’t know it works for PHN shingles.
    Please look into it. Marlene

  8. My heart goes out to you all. Thank you for an insightful article. I have lived with bi annual shingles for 20 years and spend most of the year with phn at various points around the body. Always down the left side. It is an awful disease and pain that is hard to describe! I swear by blueberries and spinach and bananas but will increase my kefir and lamb intake. I know vitamin c has always been recommended but foods for stress are very important too. Thanks again.

  9. Thank you for your input; I’ll try everything you wrote about except the meat. I get recurring shingles at least twice a year, every year. I’ll be 62 next week. I’ve never had worse nerve pain this year and what angers me the most is that I got the old school shingles vaccine in 2014 thinking it would protect me. They had live viruses in that vaccine. Why do healthcare professionals still think people will only get shingles once or twice when that simply isn’t so? Thank you.,

  10. Hi I have the shingles right now and I’m in pain but I just don’t what to eat anymore it mentioned not to eat chicken or eggs so what more can I eat in the morning thank you for your article too it help me

  11. I have been struggling with Shingle’s pain for 5 weeks now…the rash went away after 2 weeks but I still deal with pain especially at nights…I take Advil/Tylenol alternatively plus Gabapentin that my primary doctor ordered and of course I have to take sleeping pill for which I take Benadryl which is much safer with no dependencies otherwise I won’t be able to sleep…lots of water, plenty of Vitamin C about 6000 per day if not more , spread out of course on full stomach…I took frozen organic wild Blueberries but it made me worse because of Arginine…if u still have rash, besides use the Calamine lotion, u can also use Herbal Aloe Gel, its very soothing…I didn’t have that much itching , but more pain and burning sensation….Ice packs help a great deal, it numbs the virus…its best to get Shingle’s vaccine once the rash and the pain is over because you can get it a few time…the new vaccine that’s given in 2 sessions is 99% effective….my rash was on my left upper back and my left breast….the pain is unexplainable…I tell everyone over 50 to get the vaccination…wish you all lots of health….don’t forget Zinc, B12 & D3.Kathy

  12. I have used plain yogurt in treating shingles. I have had one outbreak which was around my waist. At the first sign I applied the yogurt directly on the rash. Three days later they were dried and gone. A few years later my husband broke out in a severe case. He went to dr and took the anti viral meds and nothing helped. I kept trying to rub yogurt on his back. He just laughed at me. Finally, in desperation he allowed me to apply yogurt. About a hour later he was amazed that the itching had stopped. About four days later, shingles had dried and were gone. Sister in law later tried it, as hers were in her head and nearing her eyes – another success. It is worth a try for all of you who are suffering. Try plain white yogurt

  13. Cant begin to describe the pain of my facial shingles. So sick on my stomach. Have only had liquud soups and mashed potatoes. Now i know thats wrong foods. Have my husband going after all the good foods. Praying for anyone else suffering

  14. I just received the shingles on my face left side of my face and on my lip bottom lip. Couple days ago it is so painful I never had this before or will I have to suffer with it for 4 weeks I hope not because it’s on my face and my throat hurts and my left ear is hurting real bad

  15. I have suffered all over body tingling every day since 2006 then got shingles in 2012 and had the blisters on and off since then. I just wonder could the all over tingling sensations be internal shingles running around my immune system? My Doctor patronises me by saying i have anxiety but i know i dont.
    I have shingles at the moment and here in the UK we use Aciclovir tablets 800mg 5x day.
    I also find shingles gives me bad diarrohea and fatigue.
    As to the shingles diet i am confused as some say brown bread and cheese is bad where others say cheese contains Lysine which stops the shingles multiplying. who is right here? A lot of sites on here confuse me as to what i can and cannot eat?

  16. I’ve had back pain for almost a week now. No rash but the left side of my back is numb and was itchy in the beginning. I thought it was just a bug bite. Then the pain started. I thought it was a popped rib around a muscle. I saw a Chiropractor who thought he fixed the problem. He did not. Pain is still there. I’m told shingles may not show a rash it could be internal. I don’t exactly know what’s going on. Any suggestions?

  17. I finally figured out I have internal shingles and the pain is so severe through out my whole body , my throat lungs and ears and eyes.i am doing a lot of studying on it and will be glad to put more input later. Kristy

  18. I broke out with shingles on Saturday, I smothered it with Aloe Vera gel from my plant and also put plain yogurt on as Phala did in a previous comment, today it is Friday and for the past 2 days the rash has not been itchy or sore or burning. I also sprayed it with Hydrogen water too. I cut out coffee, sweet products and basically anything with caffeine in. (Chocolate which was a killer for me) I think I’ve had withdrawals from them too. So not too sure what pain was from what!

  19. I have mild attack of shingles. It started with pain in the beginning, at the red spot where I had itching sensation. I started treatment with my physician who prescribed Acyclovir with antibiotic tablet and multivitamin tablet. The red spots developed blisters and now the blisters are breaking open. I read somewhere on internet to apply baking soda and corn starch on the open blisters, to aid dry up of blisters. It works well to dry up the blisters. There is no itching or pain now.
    I would like to know what diet to follow for speedy recovery. Whether meat can be included in diet along with eggs, as a source of B vitamin?

  20. I started to wonder today after eating a meal that included tomatoes if this was the right thing for me to eat because I have shingles. It has been three weeks, starting the first four days with extreme pain that I couldn’t relate to anything but did notice that my skin was very sensitive to the touch on my left side, back and around to the breast bone. When I finally saw a rash it was almost a relief but not any more the pain has been really bad and the rash so very sore. I have been taking extra strength Ibuprofen as directed by my doctor, which does give some temporary rest bite. Today has been a bad day as the pain killer didn’t kick in but I don’t want to take another too soon. I am going to be really careful from now on with what I eat, the thought of this coming back on a regular basis fills me with horror. I am 75 and didn’t have the vaccine and nobody seems to know if once getting the shingles if a shot is even applicable afterward. Thank you for brilliant suggestions (I am buying some plain yogurt tomorrow) I will try almost anything for my life to get back to normal….

  21. Thank you for this article just realized that I am eating all the wrong foods. I was recovering nicely but had a set back this weekend which I now attribute to my diet. I received the old vaccine 10 years ago and was diagnoised 3 weeks ago with shingles. Mine began with 2 weeks of itching that I attributed to dry skin on my back. Eventually a rash appeared on my back a small band appeared on my waist. The Dermatalogist prescribed an antiviral and prednisone. I have not experineced any pain but horrific itching, sleepless nights. and misery at work. The itching has been relieved somewhat by caladryl clear, ice, and emuaid. Most effective is a continous ice machine that keeps the rash on my back cool eliminates itching. and allows me to sleep. Never again! Eligible for the new vaccine In 6 months.

  22. If you are over 50, get the shingles vacinne ! I wish my doctors or someone would have emphasized this to me when I turned 50. Horrible pain that never seems to go away. Get the vaccine !!

  23. THANK YOU, Phala Hay, for recommending the yogurt. I’ve had this sticky rash, on again-off again for about 5 weeks. It began with an earache in my left ear and a raised blistering rash on the back of my neck which eventually spread (in a less horrendous fashion) to the front of my neck.

    Treated the earache immediately with drops of boric acid/alcohol solution for about three days. Took activated charcoal (in case I was having an allergic reaction – had no idea it was shingles). Then took Benadryl as well, again because I thought it may have been a food allergy.

    It was not until my husband came down with the chickenpox about two weeks later and finally had THAT properly diagnosed, that I realized he had gotten the chickenpox from my shingles – the same virus. We both took prescription antihistamine for about two weeks and that helped immensely with the itching.

    Thankfully, His chickenpox is healing quickly – my shingles rash, less so. With the cooling soothe of just one yogurt application, however, I am now more hopeful of eventual recovery and IMMENSELY GRATEFUL to Phala Hay for writing of her and her husband’s experience.

    There is relief.

  24. I have shingles on my right arm, I am taking the antiviral tablets aciclovir the rash is healing, but the itching and pain is constant especially at night I changed my diet.. some are saying u can eat eggs others are saying u can’t i really need help with the pain and itching.. any suggestions because this can most likely send u crazy

  25. Take l lysine supplement then you don’t need worry about lysine and arginine ratio in foods. People take lysine for cold sores so it’s not hard to get hold of

  26. I see lots of comments but no responses. Do you answer people questions. My question is the diet. Some say eat eggs and chicken , others say not to eat these foods. Which is the correct diet ?

  27. I was told that acupuncture will help with the nerve pain. I also was told that far infrared light also helps with a nerve pain and closing the nerve endings could you respond to these two questions thank you

  28. The article provides the answers to your question.Thank you for reading!

  29. Just gone down with shingles on the left hand side of my forehead above my right eye including my eyebrow and my eyelid. it is also spreading into my scalp. The pain is awful, I cannot sleep properly and am in a lot of pain during the day also. I had chicken pox when I was a child. I have never experienced anything like this before, it is just horrendous, I will do anything to get rid of this and hope and pray that once gone it will never reappear!!

  30. Thanks for this info, I do take VIT D, lysine and what helps me the most during the pain is ice wrapped in a napkin it numbs the pain for me, definitely recommend.

  31. I’m horrified with what I’m reading ,never experienced anything like this before. going on five weeks now , going to be 65 next month Lord willing ,wondering if I’ll ever fully recover , can’t imagine living like this for the rest of my life ,yes eat eggs don’t eat eggs ,eat bread don’t eat bread I’m using aloe Vera from plants in my garden ,im from florida ,it’s been a life saver so far not sure about yogurt ,I’m eating it plain , the rash is not going away , burning forehead , numb , scalp itching , at least I’m sleeping for the first time in a month

  32. So where are the answers to all of these wonderful questions? Some places say eat as many eggs as you can and other sources say don’t eat eggs! Omg every article is different! Help!
    I am in terrible pain – following doctor’s orders.

  33. I was just told by the Dr I have shingles and she prescribed galaxy lover so far which is only three days later I see not difference except for now I feel a numbness on the left side of my face and am hoping it will not spread there. It started with a itchy rash on my left side hip in the back itched at first then the next day the pain set in.the second day same side it went to the front same symptoms . It is horrible the pain that this can cause and that in this day and age they can’t find a cure that can cure this faster and finally! I am also confused as to what to eat each article says something different WHY? I AM A POSITIVE THINKER AND AM A STRONG GUY I am hoping once I rid this that it will never come back. So for all you people out there that have this as well do what I do to keep strong keep repeating to yourself “this to will pass”!

  34. to all my sincere sympathy i am in the eighth week of this nightmare and yes i am sure the virus feeds on vitamins as well as certain foods of which i am still confused as to which are the best or least harmful to eat cheers and courage to all who have are suffering this enduring pain

  35. I have a mild case of shingles. I am 71 years old and find the iodine droplets on the shingles is helpful. I have seven small like reddish puncture wounds my left leg. I did have a brief period of earache that lasted less that 30 minutes. I am in pain but it is not severe pain. I am a vegan and hardly eat any protein that is plant based. I only consume 700 calories of food per day. My height is 5’8′ and I weigh 123.The low calorie diet and my lightweight is helping me stay in good health. I will get the shingles vaccine asap.

  36. A dermatologist confirmed I have Shingles and prescribed an ointment and a pill to take. Nothing more! After reading about Shingles online, I decided the medications are not something I want to put in my body. I also read about foods not to eat, so apparently there is a specific diet to follow and foods to avoid. Can someone please help me in that vein.

  37. Hi all! This is my debut with shingles and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone! My pain is absolutely unbearable at night. I’m literally on my head with tears flowing toward my forehead because NOTHING works. Now I have a bloated abdomen and pain but I only have 2 very small rash patches in the left groin and “dotting the i” on my rear. I just drank a small cup of ginger peach tea and I feel SO much better! I’ve been eating fruits but this tea with an extra dash of ginger has brightened me up. The worse part is I can’t see my siblings as they had chicken pox and my oldest sister has shingles once a few years ago. I need a hug! So glad I found this site, I felt so alone.

  38. My husband although very active in surfing and exercise got the virus. Shingles. Its the most horrific/confusing thing any human should never have to go through. I don’t have it, but I too have sleepless nights etc with him. I don’t like seeing my husband in pain. Today we put some calamine lotion and Wow it actually help him. So, we now know that although we thought the shooting pain was internal..that the external relief will trigger and trick the brain and confuses the virus. Just try it. Its really works. Tomorrow we’re trying the yogurt. So mad at this virus. I gotta win the virus. We gotta. Its nit gonna beat us. Keep investigating. Fix your weakened immune system and kill it. Eat the right nutrients. Kill it. Don’t let it take you. Kill it.

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