If you’ve ever had shingles, you can’t forget the pain. Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster) that has been dormant in the body, and tends to gravitate to the nerve endings. When it flares along these nerve roots, the pain is inexpressible. While there are medications available to help the pain, many people find they are resistant to them (they don’t work for them). Fortunately, there are several natural options for controlling the pain and reducing the duration of the lesions.
Shingles is a blistery rash that shows in bands across the skin. It comes as a result of a weakened immune system, and there are many reasons why your immune system becomes compromised in the first place. Stress is one of the primary activators of shingles because it not only inhibits immune function, but also interferes with your anti-inflammatory system. Poor nutrition is also a major component.
We frequently forget the impact that poor dietary choices have on immune function. Sugar is one of the biggest culprits, as is hydrogenated fats, vegetable oils, fried foods, and a whole list of processed and junk foods. Just as important is what is NOT in the diet: lots of vegetables, quality meats, and whole, unprocessed grains and fruits (fruits in small amounts). If we don’t provide the building blocks for healthy immune function, then how can we expect to be free of immune-deficiency diseases?
Other factors that inhibit immune function that can be a triggering factor for shingles include: Recent surgery, certain medications (especially in the chemotherapy and immune-suppressant families), radiation therapies, any serious illness or disease (especially those affecting the immune system such as diabetes, cancer, AIDS, or Lupus), or an injury.
Although chickenpox is contagious, you cannot pass shingles to another person. However, you can cause someone who comes into contact with a shingles lesion to get chickenpox if their immune system is low.
There are several treatments available outside of the drugs typically used. They are usually focused on improving immune function and reducing the pain. In China, acupuncture is recognized as the most effective of all therapies for the treatment of shingles, and is typically the first treatment of choice. For those that are resistant to or do not wish to take medications, acupuncture is an excellent and effective therapy for treating the pain associated with shingles.
There are also several orally administered herbal products that target the shingles virus, strengthen immune function and stimulate anti-inflammatory response. In addition, there are topical agents that are used to speed the healing of the lesions and provide local area pain relief.
If you are suffering from shingles, there is help.
©2012 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.