Monday, September 8, 2014

My Surprising Shingles Story

I had heard all the horror stories of shingles. I'd listened to the TV commercials touting the importance of the shingles vaccine. I'd heard friends and relatives talk about how bad shingles was, that they wouldn't wish it on their worst enemy, that their life was completely altered by its presence.

Then an unusual pain started in my left side, just above my waistline. Since my doctor was not available, I went to a walk-in clinic. There, after spending three minutes and $95, I was told I'd pulled a muscle. I was sent home with a prescription for a muscle relaxer. After three days of taking that at night, my pain was gone. I went on with life; traveling to Atlanta, taking care of my family, etc. This was a busy summer.

After two weeks in Atlanta to welcome my 3rd grandchild, I came home and was as busy as ever. Then, 10 days after I got home, that pain in my left side came back. This time it was worse because it seemed to wrap itself around my upper torso and hurt like crazy, squeezing me hard. I went to my chiropractor, told him I'd pulled a muscle, that it had gotten better, then worse. He did his exam and concluded that not only was a muscle out of whack, but the nerve traveling around my upper torso was inflamed, greatly.

Inflamed nerves that wrap around an area = shingles.

Ugh. I braced myself for the worst. The pain was bad, but not something I would define as horrible. It was not what I'd expected. Maybe I have a high tolerance for pain; I did give birth to eight people. A few days after that chiropractic visit, I noticed a few little spots on my skin around that nerve pain. Ah, the telltale shingles rash! What was I to do? I dreaded this with a passion. I'd been told the rash is worse than the pain. I'd already altered my wardrobe to wear only loose-fitting clothes that did not bind. I'd already switched to cool showers because hot water caused such bad pain. How was I going to shower at all with hot, horrid blisters around my middle? How was I going to keep up the family schedule with my husband's long work hours and the kids' appointments?

The day after the spots appeared, they began to itch terribly. I was filled with dread, again. Ugh. I began to research how to treat shingles at home. Not having insurance makes people do all kinds of things to avoid the expense of going to the doctor. I'd already spent $95 at the doc's and a few at the pharmacy.

I discovered that there were things I could do to lessen the symptoms of shingles. I began to do those things immediately, that very day, which were really just abrupt dietary changes. The very next day, the itchy spots began to fade. They did not break out into blisters, but the area remained red and sensitive. Within a few days, the spots had completely dried up, the itching stopped and they faded away. The pain persisted, but the spots never developed into a rash or blisters.

It has been  a couple of months since my symptoms first appeared and, while I still have some pain, I believe I am over the worst of it.

I was very surprised at how effective my actions against the full effects of shingles were. I was also surprised that I'd never heard of these actions; that no one I'd ever talked to had mentioned that there were things a person could do to control the symptoms of shingles. I had heard many people's shingles stories and they were all horrid. I found out through this personal experience that shingles does not have to be so horrid. So, I wanted to share my actions here in hopes that someone else who might be facing shingles can have a milder case than they might think they can.

What I learned:

Shingles is part of the Herpes virus.
The Herpes virus thrives in a weakened immune system.
The Herpes family of viruses is affected by a person's L-Arginine to L-Lysine ratio. These are amino acids that are found in the human body and come from foods. There has to be a greater L-Arginine level for shingles to survive. Therefore, a diet higher in L-Lysine helps prohibit the virus's effects.

Foods high in L-Lysine....and thus should be eaten often.....are:
Green Beans

Foods higher in L-Arginine.....and thus avoided....are:

Wheat germ
Brussels Sprouts
Pumpkin seeds

I immediately altered my diet to include more of the top list and avoid all things on the bottom list.
It worked!
Other things I did:

Put ice on the pain several times a day.
Wore loose-fitting clothing that does not bind (still doing this one).
Took cool showers.
Saw my chiropractor regularly (weekly) as balance in the spine helps so much.
Sleep. I slept in as much as I could and took naps when able.

I am now able to eat a little tomato and not have effects, as well as a little chocolate. Avoiding tomatoes during the month of August was hard since they are so fresh!

I had always thought shingles was something that, if I got it, I had no choice but to take it however it came. I thought I had to sit back and let it hit me. I had never heard of anyone having a more positive experience with shingles. People younger than myself have had it with horrible symptoms that lasted a very long time.

Maybe I was just fortunate enough to have a mild case. I do have a tremendous capacity for recovery and that must have helped. My advice to shingles sufferers is to take these dietary changes seriously and follow them faithfully. They make all the difference. As soon as I learned about them, I abruptly changed my diet and my results were very fast.

Note my other actions and see which ones you can manage.
I do hope you never get shingles.
I do hope that if you do get shingles,you heed this advice or research on your own to find solutions. You do not have to take what shingles has to offer.
You can take action.
This is just my story. This is what happened to me. I'm not saying this can happen to everyone in the same way, but I wanted to share my story because I am proof that there are shingles stories that are not so horrid. There are things we can do to help create a mild case; at least this worked for me.