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7 Foods to Avoid with Shingles

foods to avoid during shingles attack

According to the Government of Canada, about 1 in 3 Canadians come down with shingles in their lifetime. It is more common among adults above the age of 50. In most cases, the infection only manifests for about three weeks, after which it’s rarely seen in the same individual.

You can take specific measures, in addition to medications, to ensure that the outbreak is taken care of as quickly as possible. Since the significant factor that causes this viral infection is a weak immune system, older adults are advised to enhance their immune system through regular exercise while eating foods good for shingles. Older adults must also avoid foods that would cause the infection to persist for longer.

Our residents at Seasons Retirement Communities are provided with the resources to access the medical care they need. We provide access to healthcare professionals to ensure our residents can maintain good health all year round.

What are Shingles?

Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) is an infection caused by the same virus responsible for chickenpox, varicella zoster. It is usually common among people who have previously had chickenpox and can generally cause a weakening of the immune system.

Older people who have experienced chickenpox are more likely to have shingles. It is contagious and can easily be picked up by people who haven’t been vaccinated.

The infection is characterized by a red rash (colour varying sometimes depending on skin tone), mostly found at one’s sides, neck or torso. It can cause pain, itchiness, sensitivity to touch and in extreme cases, fluid-filled blisters.

It is not life-threatening and usually clears up within three to five weeks in most cases – with no further complications if it is treated on time. Although there are few anomalies, shingles hardly see a resurgence in individuals who have already been infected at a previous point in time.

Foods to avoid when having shingles

A shingles diet ensures a healthy immune system. Older adults should include these foods in their meal plans to reduce the length of time their shingles outbreak lasts.

1.    High Glycemic Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates are parts of the foods to avoid during shingles attacks because they have a high glycemic index. They are prone to cause a sharp increase in blood sugar, which slows down the white blood cells – the antibodies that fight off pathogens in the body. This weakens the immune system and increases inflammation.

Some examples of high glycemic foods include:

  • white bread
  • white rice
  • white potatoes
  • candies and sweets
  • cakes and baked goods
  • sugary drinks
  • sugary cereals
  • pasta
  • ice cream

Instead of taking refined carbohydrates, older adults should go for complex carbohydrates, which can limit inflammation, like brown rice, barley, sweet potato, etc.

2.    Arginine Rich Foods

Older adults with shingles need to steer clear of this amino acid because they are known to replicate the virus.

Arginine amino acid is present in some healthy foods like:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • soy products
  • legumes
  • dairy products
  • chicken
  • canned tuna
  • brussels sprouts
  • tomatoes
  • oats
  • coconut
  • flour (white and whole-wheat)
  • chocolate
  • fruits (i.e. berries and grapes)

You should include these foods in an older person’s shingles diet during the outbreak. Also, you should consult a doctor when using supplements and medications containing L-arginine.

3.    Highly processed foods

Another set of foods to avoid with shingles is highly processed foods. They are full of salt, added sugars, and omega-6 fatty acids and may hamper the immune system of older adults. Such meals may also lead to inflammation.

They include:

  • sweetened cereals
  • high-fat chips
  • fast foods
  • sugary energy drinks
  • sodas
  • pastries
  • low-fibre bread
  • crackers
  • deep-fried foods, etc.

4.    Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are one of the main foods to avoid during shingles attacks, as they are unhealthy in excess amounts and can even cause heart problems and other health complications. In almost all cases, you should also remove them from a shingles diet. In their place, older adults should take low-fat or unsaturated foods.

Common examples of foods with saturated fats are:

  • butter
  • cheese
  • fatty meat
  • coconut oil
  • palm oil
  • cakes
  • sausages
  • bacon

5.    Alcohol

There is the fact that alcohol may interact with medications, but this is not the only reason to avoid it. Shingles and alcohol are unsuitable for seniors because alcohol negatively affects the immune system.

6.    Caffeine Products

Avoid caffeine products such as coffee, black tea, and colas.

7.    Foods with Extreme Temperatures

Foods served too hot or too cold may harm the nervous system.

What to eat when having shingles

Maintaining a healthy immune system should be a top priority if an older adult has a case of shingles. Foods good for shingles are listed below. They help support the immune system of older people.

  1. Foods rich in these nutrients: zinc (eggs), vitamin C (guava, kiwi, lemons and kale), vitamin A (egg yolks, salmon and carrots), vitamin E (avocado), vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
  2. Leafy green vegetables and fruits that are rich in vitamins. Check to see that they don’t contain arginine.
  3. Low or unsaturated fats like avocado
  4. Protein-rich foods such as eggs
  5. Yogurt. It contains probiotics and L-lysine amino acid, which helps to inhibit the virus.
  6. Complex carbohydrates (brown rice, whole grains, quinoa and sweet potato) help to reduce inflammation.
  7. You can also add supplements with zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B12, and vitamin D to the shingles diet of our older loved ones.


Shingles is not rare among older adults and can easily be taken care of with the proper practices. If your loved one has it, take them to the doctor on time to determine the next course of action. As a preventative measure, you can inquire about vaccines if your parents or grandparents haven’t had the infection and are yet to be vaccinated.

For infected older relatives, you can play a part in helping them recover speedily by steering them away from foods to avoid during shingles attacks, including processed foods, alcohol, foods composed of a lot of sugar and saturated fat and the likes. In short, encourage them to take foods that enhance the immune system.

At Seasons Retirement Communities, we strive to provide our residents care so they can live a fun-filled, active, and healthy lifestyle in retirement.

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