While diet alone will not cure shingles, avoiding certain foods can contribute to a more comfortable healing process and potentially help minimize complications.

Shingles is a viral infection that occurs due to the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which initially causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus can remain dormant in nerve cells. If it reactivates, it causes shingles.

This article looks into the role diet plays in recovering from shingles. It also discusses other ways to boost the immune system to promote recovery.

A glass of red wine.Share on Pinterest
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

When a person has shingles, maintaining a healthy diet is important for several reasons:

  • Immune support: A well-balanced diet provides essential nutrients that support immune system function. Since people experience shingles when VZV reactivates, a strong immune response is crucial for managing the virus and promoting healing.
  • Faster recovery: Proper nutrition can help the body’s healing process. Nutrients such as zinc and vitamins C and E play roles in tissue repair and immune function, which can help speed up the healing of shingles lesions and minimize discomfort.
  • Reduced inflammation: Foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory compounds can help reduce inflammation, which contributes to pain and discomfort during a shingles outbreak.

While there is limited specific guidance on the foods to avoid with shingles, certain foods may impair immune function. These include:

Spicy foods

Shingles can cause the skin to become sensitive and inflamed. Consuming spicy foods may exacerbate the discomfort and pain associated with the condition.

Spicy foods contain compounds such as capsaicin that can stimulate nerve endings and increase blood flow to the skin, potentially intensifying the sensations of burning, itching, or pain. Therefore, consuming spicy foods might lead to additional discomfort in people with shingles.

However, people can apply capsaicin to the skin in various forms, such as creams, gels, and patches. Studies have found it useful for people with post-herpetic neuralgia, which is the pain that can persist once a shingles rash has passed.

Foods high in sugar

The high sugar content in processed foods can lead to inflammation and weaken the immune response. Opting for whole, nutrient-dense foods instead of processed options can provide the body with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for optimal recovery.

Processed foods

Many processed foods contain high levels of unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates. Consuming these can lead a person to experience chronic inflammation, impairing immune cell function and compromising the body’s defense against infections.


Alcohol consumption can negatively affect the immune system, potentially hindering the body’s ability to fight off VZV.

Alcohol suppresses immune function by disrupting immune cell balance and inhibiting proper functioning. It can also lead to dehydration, which can further compromise immune responses.

Furthermore, alcohol consumption might interact with medications doctors prescribe for shingles or cause adverse effects. It is best for people to limit or avoid alcohol while experiencing shingles to increase the likelihood of a swift recovery.

Read about foods to eat and avoid for a strong immune system.

Some foods help boost the immune system. These include:

Read more about foods that boost the immune system.

Other ways a person can try to boost their immune system include:

Learn about how the immune system works.

Early and appropriate medical treatment, including antiviral medications, pain relief, and possibly other medications, can help shorten the duration of symptoms of shingles and reduce the risk of complications.

While most cases of shingles resolve without severe complications, some individuals might experience the following:

Post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a possible shingles complication that causes persistent pain in the area where the rash occurred. PHN can be particularly challenging and may require ongoing management.

Read about home remedies for shingles.

Evidence suggests that diet can be important in a person’s recovery from shingles. However, people should use dietary interventions alongside medical advice and treatment.

Foods that boost the immune system, such as turmeric and herbal teas, may improve a person’s recovery. Foods to avoid include spicy and sugary foods.