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Foods To Avoid During A Shingles Outbreak

What Not to Eat if You Have Shingles

Shingles, sometimes called herpes zoster, is the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 99 percentTrusted Source of American adults born before 1980 have had chickenpox, but only about 1 in 3 adults develop shingles in their lifetime. The chance for developing shingles increases as you get older.

Shingles typically causes a painful rash on one side of your body or face. The CDC says the rash contains blisters that scab over after 7 to 10 daysTrusted Source.

Avoiding foods that impair your body’s immune system may help you shorten the duration of your shingles outbreak.

Some believe that increasing your intake of the amino acid lysine and decreasing your intake of arginine may also help your body clear the virus faster, though more research is needed.

Keep reading to find out which foods you should avoid eating if you’re having a shingles outbreak.

Foods to avoid with shingles

If you’re experiencing shingles, it’s a good idea to avoid foods that can impair your immune function.

High glycemic carbohydrates

High glycemic carbohydrates quickly break down in your body and create a rapid spike in your blood sugar. Spikes in your blood sugar trigger the release of inflammatory molecules and free radicals, which can stress out your body.

Including too many high glycemic carbohydrates in your diet can potentially compromise your immune system and increase inflammation. Even a single high glycemic mealTrusted Source can promote increased inflammation.

Some examples of high glycemic foods include:

  • candies and sweets

  • cakes and baked goods

  • sugary drinks

  • sugary cereals

  • sugary sauces

  • ice cream

  • white bread

  • white rice

Highly processed foods

Highly processed foods are often high in salt, added sugars, and omega 6 fatty acids that may trigger inflammation and weaken your immune system.

Omega-6 fatty acids are essential, but most people get an excessive number in their diet. Omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation, while omega-3 fatty acids inhibit it.

There’s some research that excessively high salt intake may impair your immune system. In a 2015 studyTrusted Source, a group of six men ate:

  • 12 grams of salt for 50 days

  • 9 grams of salt for 50 days

  • 6 grams of salt per day for 50 days

  • 12 grams of salt for the final 30 days

The researchers found that, when the participants ate 12 grams of salt per day, they had higher levels of a type of white blood cell called monocytes in their blood. They also had high levels of IL-23, IL-6 and lower IL-10. Altogether, these markers indicate excessive inflammation and immune response.

Examples of highly processed foods include:

  • sweetened cereals

  • high-fat chips and snack foods

  • sugary energy drinks and sodas

  • cookies, cakes, pies, and pastries

  • high-fat, low-fiber breads and crackers

  • deep-fried foods


Alcohol has the potential to impair almost every aspect of your health, including your immune system.

Most medications used to treat shingles don’t contain specific alcohol warnings. But it’s still a good idea to avoid mixing alcohol and medications as much as possible.


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