Shingles is a painful rash that affects one million Americans every year. Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus, varicella zoster. When someone is infected with chickenpox, the virus is never truly eradicated. Instead, it hides in the nerve endings near the spinal column. Eventually, when the person ages and their immune system is compromised, the virus can travel a nerve pathway to the skin and cause a secondary outbreak, called shingles. Shingles only affects people who have had chickenpox. If you are over the age of 60 and had chickenpox as a child, you may want to take preventative measures to avoid suffering from shingles.
Natural Precautions You Can Take to Avoid Shingles
Since the appearance of shingles is due to a weakened immune system, it is important to maintain a healthy immune system. There are many things you can do to keep your immune system healthy.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation has been shown to have extremely detrimental effects on the immune system. The average person needs 7 to 9 hours per night of uninterrupted sleep.
- Wash your hands frequently. This reduces your exposure to harmful microbes, which prevents undue stress on your immune system.
- Get enough exercise. Research has shown that moderate exercise helps boost the immune system.
- Avoid undue amounts of stress. Stress causes the release of cortisol, which can have a harmful effect on the immune system.
- Tai-chi has been shown to boost immunity in older adults.
Diet is one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy immune system.
- Eat your vegetables! Be sure to get enough fruits and vegetables every day. Although it is possible to get many of the following vitamins from a supplement, vegetables have other health benefits like fiber that vitamin supplements do not.
- Fresh, brightly-colored (red, dark green, and yellow) fruits and veggies have high levels of immune-boosting vitamins like A, C, and E, as well as other carotenoids and anti-oxidants.
Vitamin C has been shown in numerous studies to be extremely beneficial to immunity.
- Increases the production of white blood cells
- Increases the levels of interferon, a protein that stops viruses from reproducing
- Raises good cholesterol levels
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps prevent fat from becoming arterial plaque
Good sources of Vitamin C:
Vitamin E is a very beneficial anti-oxidant.
- Stimulates the body's production of killer cells, which attack cancer cells and germs.
- Enhances the production of cells that produce antibodies to destroy bacteria
Good sources of Vitamin E:
- Vegetable oils
- Kiwi fruit
Vitamin A is another important anti-oxidant.
- Vitamin A is part of the carotenoid family. Scientists believe that the benefits of carotenoids are maximized by consuming a large variety of carotenoids, so it is better to eat foods rich in carotenoids than to simply take a Vitamin A supplement.
- Vitamin A increases the number of infection-fighting cells.
Good sources of carotenoids:
Zinc is another important nutrient that increases the production and effectiveness of white blood cells. Good sources of zinc include:
- Dark turkey meat.
Garlic has been shown by many studies to be a powerful immune-booster.
- Garlic stimulates white blood cells, boosts killer cell production, and helps antibodies be more efficient.