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.


17 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?

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