Shingles is the revenge of a childhood illness. The herpes zoster virus, or the chickenpox virus, remains dormant for decades in the body before reactivating and causing Shingles. A rash that typically occurs along one side of the body and is accompanied by postherpetic neuralgia, or severe aching or electric pain that persists for up to 90 days after the rash clears up. Shingles is more likely to occur as you get older and given the characteristic pain of the disease anyone who has had it is keen to prevent shingles from ever coming back. Anyone who has seen a loved one deal with shingles is interested in preventing shingles from ever occurring.

In this excerpt from the Book Real Cause Real Cure authors Jacob Teitelbaum, MD and Bill Gottlieb, CHC explain how to prevent shingles through nutrition and recommend vaccination against the illness.


Real Causes

  • Nutritional Deficiencies. This disease is a reactivation of the chicken pox virus, which hibernates in the nerves. The virus is “awakened” by a weakened immune system, which can be caused by nutritional deficiencies
  • Poor Sleep. This is another underlying cause of a weakened immune system, which allows the virus to reactivate

The virus that causes the itchy, fluid-filled blisters of chicken pox (varicella zoster) is a little bit like the shark in the movie Jaws II. Just when you thought it was safe…

If You’re 50 or Older, Get the Shingles Vaccine

A landmark study of nearly 40,000 people age 60 and over showed that the shingles vaccine reduced the incidence of the disease by 51 percent, reduced the severity of the disease in those who did get it by 33 percent, and—most important—reduced the incidence of subsequent postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) by 66 percent.

“That means if you are 60 or older, the shingles vaccine reduces your risk of getting PHN by two-thirds,” we were told by Michael N. Oxman, MD, the lead author of the study and a professor emeritus of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. “I recommend that anyone who is 60 and over, and has no contraindications, get the vaccine,” he said. (Contraindications include an allergy to components of the vaccine, such as gelatin and the antibiotic neomycin.)

That recommendation was for Zostavax, a vaccine approved by the FDA in 2006. (They approved it for people 50 to 59 in 2011.) Then, in 2017, the FDA approved Shingrix, a new and more protective shingles vaccine, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally recommended in 2018. It offers better protection against shingles and PHN (for example, Zostavax cuts the risk of PHN by 67 percent, while Shingrix cuts it by 86 percent). You get the vaccine starting at age 50, so you’re protected for longer. (Unfortunately, you need two doses rather than one, and the shot hurts more.) The CDC says those who’ve had Zostavax should now also get Shingrix. (Zostavax is no longer available for use in the U.S., as of November 2020.)

Caveat: Shringix is not recommended for people who are immunocompromised, such as someone undergoing chemotherapy. But do get a shingles vaccine when you can.

Varicella zoster hibernates for decades in nerve endings along your spinal cord and near your brain. When your immune system is weakened—by stress, nutritional deficiencies, or illness—the virus can wake up and migrate along the path of your nerves to your skin. There it causes a disease called shingles, or herpes zoster.

Shingles targets one side of your body along the route of a single nerve. It starts with painful, itchy bumps, which turn into fluid-filled blisters that, without treatment, take about a month to open, crust over, and heal.

Unfortunately, in up to 20 percent of those with shingles (including 50 percent of those 70 and older), the virus damages the nerves—a condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). The pain of PHN is usually burning and electric or deep and aching. And for many people, it’s also long-lasting, continuing for weeks, months, or even years, severely disrupting daily life.

Important: If you have a painful rash (and the pain may precede the rash by a few days) on only one side of your body, consider that it could be shingles, and get treatment quickly. The faster the rash is treated, the less likely you are to develop PHN.

That’s the good news about shingles: Fast action when you have it can prevent PHN.

Real Cure Regimen

If I see a patient with a new and painful rash that fits the description of shingles, in addition to using natural therapies, I prescribe immediate treatment with the antiviral medication valacyclovir (Valtrex). This drug is very safe for short-term use, and taking it early in the outbreak (as soon as the first blisters are visible) is the best way to prevent PHN.

The recommended dose is 1,000 milligrams three times a day for the first week of shingles, though I frequently prescribe 1,000 milligrams four times a day for 10 days, which often stops the attack cold. The critical factor is starting the treatment early in the shingles attack, within the first 24 to 72 hours.

How do you know you’re having an attack? The main symptom is a painful, blistering red rash, usually on the torso or the face. It’s usually preceded by days of tingling, itching, burning or stinging in the area of the rash. You might also have a headache, fever and chills, nausea, and a general body ache.

So, if you’re having the first symptoms of what might be shingles, see your doctor immediately (that day), specifically request this antiviral treatment—and don’t take no for an answer! If you can’t see your doctor, go to the emergency room and request the same.

You can also ease an acute attack of shingles with nutritional support, which you should use in addition to Valtrex.

•Vitamin B12 injections. Ask your doctor for B12 injections for 10 days and then as needed for pain. Make sure each injection has 1,000 micrograms to 5,000 micrograms of B12. An alternative: Take B12 sublingually (a tablet dissolved under the tongue), at a dose of 5,000 micrograms a day for 10 days.

•Lysine: 2,000 milligrams to 2,500 milligrams. This amino acid can help heal the herpes zoster virus (cold sores or genital herpes), though it hasn’t been tested for shingles.

•B complex and magnesium. Both of these nutrients support nerve healing. Look for a B complex with 25 to 100 milligrams of each B vitamin, and at least 250 micrograms of vitamin B12. (Caution: A high level of B6 is contraindicated for people with neuropathy because it can worsen the condition.) Take 200 milligrams of magnesium daily.

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