Are you or someone you love suffering and wondering how to get rid of shingles?!
By Joanie Blaxter, founder of Follow Your Gut
I was shocked when a friend recently told me that her twenty-something boyfriend was just diagnosed with shingles. When I was growing up the only people who ever got shingles were white-haired seniors, not young men at their peak of health!
Well it turns out her boyfriend is not an isolated statistic – shingles is not only showing up in larger numbers, but also at younger and younger ages.
Oh, reader, if you've never had shingles, believe me, you want to keep reading… 'cause not only does getting shingles SUCK! (See that picture? That's a relatively small outbreak.), but more and more people are getting this long-lasting and painful condition – AND at younger and younger ages!
What causes shingles?
Part of the problem appears to be that the immune response to the chickenpox vaccination is much less effective than the natural process of catching and recovering from a simple childhood disease. This allows the virus to re-appear later in life as shingles.
A new systematic review published in PLoS titled, “Herpes Zoster Risk Reduction through Exposure to Chickenpox Patients: A Systematic Multidiscplinary Review,” confirms that the widespread adoption of the chickenpox vaccine over the past 30 years, which has resulted in a decline in chickenpox cases associated with infection from the wild-circulating virus, has lead to a concerning increase in the incidents of herpes zoster (shingles), a far more serious expression of chickenpox virus (varicella zoster) infection…
For example, in 2006, a chickenpox outbreak occurred in a population of Arkansas schoolchildren with 97% immunization compliance. When the researchers looked at the difference in outbreak cases between one-dose and two-dose children, none could be found.
(Emphasis mine, Source: A Pox on the CDC’s Vaccination Agenda: The Rise of Herpes Zoster (Shingles) )
How is shingles related to chickenpox?
Chickenpox introduces a specific virus (varicella zoster) into our system. When the body is allowed to pass through its normal healing response, the immune system is eventually able to overpower the virus, hopefully for a lifetime, although it is not eliminated from the body permanently, just made inactive.
If, however, later in life the immune system weakens, a slightly altered form of the virus (herpes zoster) can get released, creating a painful, long-lasting skin rash known as shingles.
What's the treatment for shingles?
Currently, the conventional medical approach is to just wait for the virus to run its course while the immune system eventually re-sequesters the virus back into tissue. Typically recovery takes about a month, but your length of time will reflect the condition of your immune system. I have heard many stories of elderly people having it for months and months at a time.
I can't imagine living through months of that stinging, keep-me-awake-at-night misery!
Chickenpox on purpose?
Because I wanted my child to develop the strongest immunity to chickenpox possible, I deliberately exposed her to a five-year-old playmate who had just started itching.
After my daughter caught it, she and her friend did some recovery time together. Us two single working moms were able to alternate taking time off work to caregive our sick kids in shifts. Both girls were back to school in about a week.
–These type of scenarios are why you hear about chickenpox parties: Is a chickenpox party a dumb idea?
–Or see Kelly's related post: When you can't catch chickenpox.
However, even naturally catching and recovering from chickenpox does NOT guarantee a lifetime immunity to shingles.
For example, I developed a case of shingles when I was in my mid-40's even though I had gotten chickenpox as a child. I also recently heard from a woman with a natural, not artificial, immunity, who said she got shingles even younger, “as an immune compromised young adult.”
So while artificial immunization for chickenpox doesn't appear to be as effective for immunity as a natural exposure, it's clearly not the only factor in preventing shingles.
If we want to avoid adult-onset shingles or want to know how to get rid of shingles, we also need to understand what other factors can significantly weaken our immune response…
How to get rid of shingles fast!
1. So what happened to the twenty-something with shingles?
When he went to his doctor, he had had his outbreak less than a week. His physician told him to expect another 3-4 weeks of misery – it normally takes THAT long to recover once shingles starts.
Well, hearing that lit the fire of motivation!
Despite his previous reluctance to take his girlfriend's health advice, he immediately started on this spore-based probiotic to get rid of shingles.
The stinging rash improved with the first cap and was totally gone in a week! I wonder what would have happened if he'd taken two or three caps daily, rather than the recommended dose of one?
The boyfriend is a true believer now, and takes his maintenance dose of one cap daily, with nary a reminder from his girlfriend.
2. And how did I speed up my own recovery and get rid of shingles in my mid-forties? You won't believe this, wait for it… tanning!
This was back in the mid-90's. I was complaining at work about the pain of the rash and how the creams and external applications gave very little relief, and a co-worker who overheard popped up over my cubicle wall to say her husband's depression and low-functioning immune resistance always improved using a tanning booth and had I tried that for the shingles?
I was desperate to try anything… and heck if that didn't work!
I got some relief from the stinging itchiness after the first tanning session. Continuing the treatments about every other day, I healed much faster than the doctor said — a little more than two weeks rather than four. (Imagine how swift my recovery would have been had I been able to combine the tanning with the probiotics!)
In retrospect, I think the tanning helped because I probably had a pretty severe vitamin D deficiency (think December in Vermont), which had lowered my immune resistance.
Tanning, not swallowing vitamin D? It's all about the gut!
Later, I read in a book by one of the original vitamin D researchers (I think it was Dr. Robert Heaney, but have long since misplaced the book) that a certain percentage of his patients never responded to vitamin D supplementation. Instead, he had to resort to prescribing tanning treatments for them. Only then could their blood serum vitamin D rise to a normal level.
In addition, he noted that those patients all had long-standing gut problems and he believed they were, therefore, unable to effectively absorb their vitamin D orally. The tanning worked because the vitamin D production happened in the skin and bypassed the gut.
My guess? Those patients had an overgrowth of pathological strains in their gut. If they had been able to correct that microbial imbalance, they would have reduced their gut inflammation and improved their nutrient absorption. Over time they would have effectively replaced the tanning with supplemental sources of D, like cod liver oil or vitamin D supplements, while maintaining their blood serum levels.
(Kelly here, if you do need a quality vitamin D supplement though, this is the only vitamin D-3 we take. But if so, be sure to read this first: If you take vitamin D or Calcium, what you MUST do first!)
Short microvilli? Short life!
The key to increasing nutrient absorption is to reduce the numbers of harmful bacteria in the gut. As Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has said repeatedly over the years, those strains produce “a river of toxicity coming from the gut” and those bacteria-produced irritants inflame the gut wall and cause the microvilli that line the inside of the intestines to get blunted over time.
We absorb our nutrients through the microvilli. Once microvilli become blunted, or non-existent, what we eat, no matter how healthy, provides about as much nutrition as eating plastic food.
The best way I know to kill harmful strains in the gut – and only the harmful strains – is by consuming gut commensal spore probiotics. These strains are actually designed to come alive in our intestines and immediately begin searching the intestinal environment to find harmful microbes. They improve the microbial balance by selectively killing only “the bad guys”.
So, my approach to prevent adult-onset shingles? (And how to get rid of shingles?)
- Avoid both the chickenpox AND shingles vaccines.
- Take this probiotic daily to reduce the numbers of pathological strains in my gut, improve my ability to absorb nutrients from my food and supplements and support my immune system.
- Get as much natural sunlight as possible and skip the sunscreen! Read my article Scary Sunscreen Dangers & What to Do Instead for Protection.
- Get regular blood serum testing (see this article to be sure your doctor orders the correct test) so I know FOR SURE how much vitamin D is in my body, and
- Based on my test results and the time of year, selectively use both tanning and vitamin D caps.
I'm in my early 60's and so far, so good! What about you? Ever had shingles? If so, why do you think you got it and did anything work to shorten the duration or pain?
More you might like, including the links mentioned above:
- More about cod liver oil
- The vitamin D supplements we take
- The Who, Why and When of Vitamin D Screening
- If you take vitamin D or Calcium, what you MUST do first
- Scary Sunscreen Dangers, 8 “Burning” Issues & What to Do Instead for Protection
- Spore-based probiotics
- When you can't catch chickenpox
This is a post by my sweet friend, Joanie Blaxter, a regular writer around here. Joanie is the founder of Follow Your Gut and a health coach who has been in sales and education in the natural foods and products industry since the early 70’s, with six years spent recently as a vitamin specialist in a natural foods store. She is also the Weston Price chapter leader for the Ventura, CA area.
For dietary consultations, Joanie can be contacted here. Or click here to read Joanie’s past articles.