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How To Survive Shingles (And Not Go Totally Crazy!)

March 5, 2018

Remember that time I got the shingles? I know I won’t be forgetting that experience anytime soon…For anyone who has had or currently has shingles, you know this is a pain you won’t soon forget. They call it adult chicken pox, but I can assure you it’s far worse than chicken pox ever was. That or my memory is playing tricks on me!

But it’s not all bad around here. My Dad always jokes that whenever shit hits the fan around here, it makes for a great blog post and well, he’s definitely right about that. THM is my personal version of making lemonade! Or in this case, make shingles recovery out of shingles!

I’m going to skip over the whole medical diagnosis part since your doctor should probably be the one doing that but instead describe my personal experience with the shingles and what I did to nip it in the bud. The first thing I did when I got diagnosed, was immediately take to the internet to see if anyone had helpful tips for healing shingles. I read a lot of horror stories, some not-so-horror stories but also some really productive tips. I’m hoping this post can be that for some of you. Or if you have a friend or family member suffering, feel free to pass onto them. We got this!

So, first things first…

Trigeminal Nerve Shingles and healing shingles naturally

THE DIAGNOSIS

I actually told the full story in this Instagram post so I won’t go into too much detail. Basically, a couple days before the infamous shingles rash appeared, my lymph nodes on the left side of my neck and ear blew up. I then developed a lot of pain in my ear the next day so I went to the doctor to see if I had an ear infection. That morning I noticed two huge zits on my forehead which I thought was strange (because I never breakout on my forehead) but they didn’t occur to me as anything but zits. You know those huge underground zits you get? They looked and felt like those.

My doctor looked in my ear, felt my lymph nodes and informed me I did not have an ear infection but likely some kind of virus that my body was trying to fight. Neither of us thought anything of the zits and I went home feeling pretty crappy but relieved it wasn’t an ear infection.

Over the next few hours is when the rash really started to develop. A few more bumps on my forehead, one on my eyebrow and those big “zits” started to become really painful. The pain I felt in my ear started moving into my head and my swollen lymph nodes made it difficult to turn my neck. I later found out that the pain in my ear was likely caused by the fact that my shingles developed in my trigeminal nerve which is right next to your middle ear.

I knew pretty much as soon as the pain migrated to my forehead that I had the shingles. People have been shocked to discover that you can a) get shingles under the age of 60 and b) get shingles on your face. I knew both were possible because my Mom had them on her face when I was really young. Thankfully that situation clued me into what was happening with my own body but for any of you out there who don’t know this, you can get shingles at any age and they can happen at any nerve root in your body, including your face!

Shingles recovery and tips and tricks for how to heal your body when diagnosed with shingles

THE TREATMENT

Because I pretty quickly tuned into what was happening, I was able to get started with my shingles recovery fairly quickly. If you manage to catch it within 72 hours of the rash appearing, the antivirals are most effective. I’m lucky I caught it within that window and am certain the quick duration of my symptoms was because of this. Of course, not everyone will know right away, but if you have a gut feeling or any of the symptoms I described above, go to your doctor!

Besides my antiviral 3x a day I was also prescribed pain meds, which I honestly didn’t end up taking. Heavy pain meds make me feel sick and groggy so except for the first two days when the pain was pretty excruciating, I used advil and tylenol to help manage the pain. For as hippie dippie as I may be, when stuff like this happens I think the path of least resistance is often the best. I wasn’t doing myself any favors by trying to overcomplicate.

Of course, I also turned to diet and lifestyle choices to also help manage the symptoms. I’m fairly confident that in addition to the antivirals, these choices helped to decrease the span of my shingles experience. So let’s get into that…

Healing shingles through supplements, diet and lifestyle changes - these are the best tips for healing your shingles and aiding in shingles recovery

HOW TO SURVIVE SHINGLES (and not go totally crazy!)

I think the most important piece of this post is this section. Of course, catching it early and taking the antivirals help a ton but shingles is so much more than just popping some pills and hoping for the best. I’m not here to throw conventional medicine under the rug. I don’t think I’d have had such a quick turnaround if it hadn’t been for the full course of antivirals I took, but there are a lot of natural treatments you can incorporate to also help speed up the process and the pain and itchiness that typically ensues.

CBD/THC

In addition to OTC pain meds, I used CBD and THC to help manage the pain. I’ve been playing around with different types of CBD and found the Calm pen from Dosist to be most effective. For THC I used topical salve on the rash itself and it was literally a godsend to help manage the pain.

BONE BROTH

There’s a reason your body craves broth when you’re sick. Bone broth is super anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting. It contains vitamins and minerals that help support gut health and reduce pain and inflammation.

I’ve had two cups of bone broth every single day for the last two weeks. Currently obsessed with Kettle and Fire and especially their mushroom and chicken broth!

KOMBUCHA/PROBIOTICS

When they say “it all starts in your gut”, they’re not kidding! After my bout with SIBO I had to eliminate and then slowly add in fermented foods and probiotics. I can’t even tell you how much I missed kombucha…It’s been almost 6 months since then and I am now happily back to taking my daily probiotic and guzzling my Healthade kombucha. 5:00 PM because my “kombucha happy hour” and I think that’s going to stick around for a while!

SUPPLEMENTS

Pretty much everyone under the sun will recommend a different supplement to you when they hear you have shingles. Truthfully, there are many MANY out there that could benefit you, shingles or not. I decided to stick with what I had from my Care/of packs and add in one that was consensus amongst everyone, L-Lysine.

Zinc – supports immune function and has an antiviral effect

L-lysine – an amino acid that helps reduce the spread of the shingles virus

Rhodiola – an adaptogenic herb that’s shown stress relieving properties

Astragalus – another herb that helps support immune function and has an antiviral effect

LEMON BALM

I wasn’t sure which category to put this under, so instead it gets a category of it’s own. Lemon Balm is an herb that is known to help reduce pain from shingles, both internally and topically. I pretty much got all my hydration from drinking 6-8 cups of Lemon Balm Tea a day and once the initial couple of days of pain went down, I used a topical lemon balm to help reduce inflammation, reduce pain and help promote healing. Someone on Instagram told me to order this Lemon Balm Salve from Amazon and it was literally the best advice I got from everyone.

DIET

I am a true believer in the healing power of food. Now I don’t think eating perfectly “clean” replaces other lifestyle habits or conventional medicine, but it is a great tertiary care to support your body. And truthfully, when you’re sick (at least when I’m sick), I’m not craving the same foods I normally do. I think when you really tap in and listen you’ll realize that the foods you crave like bone broth and vegetables are actually your body’s way of supporting you.

In my case I literally wanted all the warm, green veggies in broth. Particularly kale and bok choy. Interestingly my acupuncturist told me that bok choy is a common healing and cooling food in Traditional Chinese Medicine and that because shingles is excessive heat in your body, bok choy was a great cooling choice. Our bodies are crazy!

In addition to plenty of veggies, I also found myself gravitating towards antioxidant fruits like berries and lots of bananas. I didn’t intionally do it, but pretty much ate zero refined sugar for a week. As I started to feel better I was like “give me the brownies!!!” but while I was still heavy in the pain-zone I didn’t want any of it.

I also consumed more turmeric that I ever thought I could and especially loved it in my morning Matcha and Turmeric Latte. My body was NOT craving coffee so my morning matcha really did the trick.

ESSENTIAL OILS

I’ll be honest, when I’m sick I often turn to essential oils for primary support, but for shingles they definitely played second fiddle. I rubbed fortify on my chest and neck lymph nodes to support my immune system and diffused grounding and soothing blends like unwind, spa spirit and tranquility to help stay calm and promote self-care.

Kombucha and how probiotics help in shingles recovery

THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP FOR SHINGLES

I know that this is a lot of information so give yourself time to take it all in. Perhaps, more importantly take this one piece of advice: RELAX. Shingles is usually brought on by stress in your life. While I didn’t think I had a lot of stress (I’ve become a lot better at managing it!), when I listed everything on my plate it’s easy to see how my body was overburdened.

The biggest lesson learned through this process is how important it is to really, truly support your body. People often mentioned how lucky I was to be able to have a job that works from home, but when you’re sick it’s easy to just reach for your phone in bed or work on a project while recovering on the couch. The boundaries are less clear. Though I did the bare minimum I needed to do, I mostly took a lot of time to rest, nap, journal, watch TV and essentially do nothing.

I would have loved to have gone on walks or been outside but the pain of the wind on my face made it impossible. I was upset over this but C reminded me that compassion is a big part of the recovery process. So even though I felt stir crazy, I also knew that going outside actually created more stress in my life. Acknowledging those stressors and putting in plans of action to eliminate or diffuse them is the key to getting over shingles.

* * * * *

I’m still not 100% pain-free but that’s to be expected after 2.5 weeks out. I’m continuing most of what I listed above and easing myself back into work. I’m also doing acupuncture to help manage the pain and have also found it super helpful in reducing my stress levels.

Overall I can tell I’m drastically improved from where I was and also have learned one of life’s most important lessons: STRESS IS REAL and it can manifest physically, so don’t ignore it!

Have you ever had or currently have shingles? Any tips to add? Drop them below!

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  • Reply
    Emma @ Health Grinder
    March 5, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    Great tips! Having a dad who’s gotten shingles twice (not sure why, he does stress a lot though), I can tell you that is isn’t a picnic. From what I’ve seen, the earlier the better. If you can start medication early, like when you only have one or two blisters that cuts down the time a whole lot. I think the medication the docs gave dad was valtrex or something like that.
    Emma @ Health Grinder recently posted…23 Quick and Easy One Pot Meals for Busy Days

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 7:58 pm

      Yup – I did a course of Valtrex too. Super helpful! Very grateful for western medicine and also the power of alternative medicine to support it!

  • Reply
    Phoebe Lapine
    March 7, 2018 at 10:23 am

    oh girl. I can’t believe this expressed itself right after I talked to you. that ear! guess it wasn’t allergies…loved this post and all you shared. I had shingles in college on my BUTT, which I suppose is preferable to your face, but it wasn’t fun. #alltheshingleladies.

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      Dude I literally woke up the next day with shingles! SO CRAZY!!!! Life is weird…Shingles on da butt sounds pretty awful too. Though weirdly it’s nice to know I’m not alone in this pain. #ALLTHESHINGLELADIES

  • Reply
    Nicole @ Laughing My Abs Off
    March 7, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    You’re such a trooper! Thank you for sharing these. I think these tips are so helpful no matter what temporary illness someone is dealing with; it’s all about resting and treating your body the way it really wants and needs to be treated. And I so love and appreciate your positivity through this whole thing; it can’t have been easy to joke around and laugh about having shingles, but you somehow did it. Hope you reach 100% shingle-free status ASAP!

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 7:53 pm

      It’s so true! No matter what the struggle is, self-compassion and care is the ultimate healing! Thanks so much for the support babes <3

  • Reply
    Kris Kelbrants
    March 9, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    This article so well done, had no idea but for some reason was intrigued to read this. LOVE your content!!!!

  • Reply
    Janice Snow
    March 11, 2018 at 4:33 am

    Hey, I love the way you write the article and amazing collection of photography and here I have tried some food photography

  • Reply
    DNN
    March 16, 2018 at 7:54 am

    I just recently learned about the amazing benefits of turmeric. So I looked on the internet not long ago to see how much a few pounds of turmeric would be and let me tell you… That is one expensive spice. But it’s certainly worth spending the money on because of the amazing health benefits. 🙂
    DNN recently posted…#Philanthrophy: A Wonderful Act of Giving from the Heart by #SarahBlakely

  • Reply
    Robyn
    May 23, 2018 at 3:14 am

    Thank you for sharing your story.
    I was just diagnosed with shingles today so I needed to read this.
    I have trigeminal neuralgia (currently in remission). I cringed when I read where your shingles originated. Trigminal pain is as bad as it gets. I hope you never have to deal with it again.

  • Reply
    Melissa
    June 1, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    I’m two weeks post-diagnosis, and feeling zonked still. I’m only 35 and got on the anti-virals early, plus took Lauricidin, sat under a homemade infra-red lamp, and put on Aztec Healing Clay poultices, plus downed plenty of L-Lysine, The CBD and THC was also involved. I’m a health-supportive private chef, and only took one day off work, plus travelled and cooked a few 12-14 hour days for a Culinary Yoga Retreat over Memorial Day weekend. I’m also in school for Nutritional Consulting, and had to ask for a few extensions. The brain fog is intense!

    Although my rash (the size of a dime on my left hand) never opened up and the itching/burning there wasn’t too terrible, the fatigue and overall body aches have been the most challenging. I’m at the point where I WANT to want to go do fun stuff, but all I can really do is the bare minimum. I moved just 3 weeks ago, and I have no doubt that stress did me in.

    I also have Celiac, MTHFR, and Fibromyalgia, which seem to just make everything a little more challenging.

    From all the insane internet-ing I’ve been doing, it seems like more younger people get shingles than is assumed and/or discussed. So happy to see a piece from someone I can really identify with, instead of just feeling like I’m some sort of anomaly.

  • Reply
    Jojo
    June 6, 2018 at 4:46 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. This is really killing me few months back and sometime I can still feel the pain hunting. Do you have new pumps after your recovery? Seem like mine have new pump appears.

  • Reply
    Joe Agnew
    June 20, 2018 at 6:50 am

    A cup of coffee will greatly relieve Shingles pain. Try it, even if you’re up in the middle of the night.

  • Reply
    Erin B.
    June 22, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    I love this post because it’s pretty much exactly what i am going through! I thought I had ear infection, but I didn’t. They treated me for allergies, which I’ve never hadn’t. I went with it. But the pain I need my head kept getting worse, and my eye turned pink. I thought it must be sinus infection, but I didn’t have any cold symptoms. Went in again and they thought I had an atypical sinus infection and they put me on antibiotics and eyedrops. That night I noticed a tingling sensation on my eyebrow. It kept spreading across my eyebrow and I noticed a large red bump where the tingling had started. Then two blisters appeared on the side of my nose. I knew I needed to go back in. What do you know?! I had shingles … and at age 40! I was too young, they said, but I had it. They put me on antiviral meds 5 times per day, prednisone for 5 days since it was around my eye, and ibuprofen for the pain. I also had to go see an ophthalmologist to make sure my eye wasn’t affected. A friend also gave me silver gel to apply to the rash and blisters to help them heal faster (24ppm). I will say it totally relieved the burning pain I had with it and I have no scarring whatsoever. So I would recommend that, too. I’m 13 days into this journey and I’m starting to feel much better. I still feel fatigue and muscle pain, so I’m continuing to take it easy. I, too, believe stress brought this on, so Ireally agree with and emphasize your final point: stress can manifest itself in not good ways in your body. Do your best to keep it at bay!

  • Reply
    Shar
    August 2, 2018 at 11:40 pm

    Hi. I also get them and mine go on my cornea as well as the spots you stated. I used everything you did but I also ate raw garlic daily, rubbed raw garlic on the shingles and rubbed lemongrass oil mixed with coconut oil & manuka honey on them. I put colloidal silver under my tongue and I put two drops in each eye for two days. My shingles went away in 3 days without an antiviral. I get them often due to stress. As soon as I feel any tingle I rub lemongrass oil on the area. My doctor said to take 2400 mg of monolaurin daily for six months. It kills the virus by breaking down the fatty layer around the virus then it kills the virus. Monolauren is From coconuts. 😊 feel better

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