Shingles is a painful rash caused by the chickenpox virus. Although it is not life-threatening, it can cause extreme discomfort, pain, and itching, and sometimes results in permanent pain called postherpetic neuralgia.
Where does Shingles come from?
- When you had chickenpox as a child, although your symptoms cleared up eventually, the virus remained. The chickenpox virus is a type of herpes, and like all herpes, it does not go away. It lies dormant in the spinal nerves of everyone who has had chickenpox at some time in their life.
- A person with a healthy immune system is able to keep the shingles virus under control and hidden in the nerves. But as we age, our immune systems weaken. This is when the virus attacks. Without the immune system to stop it, the virus travels along a nerve to the skin, resulting in a blistering, painful rash. People whose immune systems are compromised from a condition like HIV, organ transplant medications, or chemotherapy are also at risk.
- This is why the shingles rash is contained to one area of the body. The virus usually travels along only one nerve to reach the skin.
How can I prevent myself from getting Shingles?
The best way to avoid shingles is to keep your immune system healthy. Here are some helpful tips to boost your immunity:
- Get plenty of rest. The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Many amazing things happen while you sleep. The body rebuilds cells, performs important functions, and recharges your brain while you sleep. Don't deprive your body of sleep, because a healthy immune system can't work without it.
- Eat a healthy diet. It is very important to eat a balanced diet. Make sure you get enough whole grains and other healthy carbohydrates; plenty of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and legumes; enough lean protein to keep you going; and enough calcium to keep your bones, teeth, and immune system strong. It is important to get omega-3 fatty acids as well. These are found in oily coldwater fish and seeds like flax. You should also drink about 8 cups of water each day.
- Get enough exercise. Regular exercise keeps the body healthy. The recommended minimum amount of exercise is 30 minutes three times per week. Find creative ways to get a little extra exercise: walk instead of driving, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or play a game of tag or touch football with your kids.
- Take supplements.
If you get shingles anyway, keeping your immune system healthy and giving it a boost will reduce the severity and length of your outbreak.