Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Preventing Shingles

Strengthening Your Immune System

Ideally, our immune system would be strong enough to prevent the reactivation of the chicken pox virus. For this, we need a healthy diet, adequate rest, limited intake of refined sugar and soft drinks, and a positive mental attitude. Each of these factors plays a key role in keeping a shingles outbreak from starting. Individuals with recurring shingles outbreaks need to evaluate what is keeping them from optimal health. Obtain 3-4 daily servings of vegetables. Allow yourself time for plenty of exercise and rest. Don’t take on more than your body can handle. Usually, patients with a history of shingles can pinpoint a significant stressor that occurred before and perhaps during the outbreak.

Groups prone to shingles include the elderly and those undergoing chemotherapy. Both experience a decline in the natural immune system, which poses some risk for a shingles outbreak. Elderly patients should be proactive in their health habits and supplementation to help prevent shingles, as well as other infections, like the flu. Patients undergoing chemotherapy should discuss various options for maintaining a strong immune system with their physician.

Nutritional supplementation can help strengthen the immune system to decrease, and hopefully eliminate, the possibility of shingles.

  • Vitamin C. 1,000-2,000 mg daily.
  • Selenium. 100 mcg daily. This mineral is very important for the liver and the immune system.
  • Beta-glucan. 200-300 mg daily. A natural immune booster.
  • Zinc. 15-20 mg daily.
  • Vitamin A. 5,000-10,000 IU daily. Vitamin A is very important for the immune system and the skin. Intake should be watched carefully in those who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
  • B-complex. 1-2 capsules daily. This vitamin doesn’t necessarily fight against the virus but may help the body during stress.
  • Ginseng. 100 mg or 1 capsule twice a day.
  • Licorice. 250-500 mg or 1 capsule twice a day. Both ginseng and licorice can support the body during times of stress. Both are also capable of raising blood pressure, so those with a history of high blood pressure should monitor any changes closely. Licorice reportedly has antiviral properties that could also help the immune system. Patients can take either herb for up to 2 months while the body regains its strength, but should have their blood pressure checked every 1-2 months if the herb needs to be taken long-term.
  • Probiotics (Lactobacillus acidophilus). These bugs are the good bacteria that the body needs for healthy bowel function, which is necessary for a good immune system.