By Dr. Jeannette “Jett” Kerns, AP, DOM, MSAOM, L.Ac.
Pain is one of the top conditions I treat in my clinic; all types of pain, but one condition in particular stands out… Shingles.
Shingles (herpes zoster), is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV); the same virus that causes chickenpox. The process begins when a person contracts VZV, usually as a small child, and develops chickenpox. When the infection passes, the virus travels to the nerve cells by the spine, where it becomes inactive and lays dormant.
VZV can reactivate years or even decades later, usually later in life, and often as a result of an overtaxed immune system due to chronic pain, illness or emotional stress. However, upon reactivation, the same VZV virus manifests as shingles rather than chickenpox.
There is no cure for shingles, but your doctor can prescribe antiviral, anti-inflammatory and nerve pain medication to help shorten the duration and reduce the discomfort caused by the virus. There is a shingles vaccine; however, there are risks involved and not everyone is a candidate for vaccination. In fact, the CDC does not recommend the vaccine for persons under the age of 60.
In practice, I often treat shingles with combination of acupuncture, food therapy, nutritional supplements and Chinese herbal formulas; for many, this works quite well. Some dietary changes can strengthen your immune system to help fight the virus and reduce the symptoms you can take steps to boost the function of your immune system by eating certain foods and avoiding others.
We recommend consuming foods containing high levels of vitamins A, B-12, C, and E, and the amino acid lysine. Some examples include orange and yellow fruits, dark, leafy green vegetables, lean red meat, eggs, chicken, wild-caught salmon, whole grains, legumes and bananas. For more severe outbreaks, clinical strength supplements or even vitamin B12 injections may be beneficial.
Foods to avoid include foods and juices with high amounts of sugar, arginine-rich foods (including chocolate, gelatin, and nuts), refined sugars and carbohydrates, alcohol and foods high in saturated fat. These foods are said to make the virus replicate faster and contribute to increased nerve pain.
For a comprehensive list of foods and supplements to consume or avoid, visit: https://wellevate.me/eastlakeacu. Simply register for a free account and download the complementary food therapy guide.