The painful exception to the “Nature knows best” rule

Why a vaccine and prescription drugs should be your first-line defense against shingles

Plus five natural ways to complement the mainstream approach

What I’m about to tell you may surprise you, but it’s something I strongly believe in.

Ready? Sit down.

I actually think the shingles vaccine is a good thing.

Now, I don’t believe in many (or even most) other vaccines. But shingles is an exception—and here’s why.

Anyone who knows anything about shingles (or who has been unfortunate enough to have it) knows that this viral infection—marked by an often incredibly painful rash—is not to be taken lightly in any sense.

To that end, I am not one of those natural medicine physicians who feels that all conventional medical interventions are automatically wrong. I don’t challenge conventional thinking just for the sake of being contrarian. I do it when I believe passionately that simply accepting what mainstream medicine tells my patients would result in harm to them.

I take things case by case, rather than employing the one-size-fits-all approach so many docs in the mainstream medical community blindly abide by.

I practice true complementary medicine.

It just makes sense and is a more logical solution when you approach any given medical or health issue with all the tools in your toolbox. So, yes, I do write prescriptions. But only when they are absolutely necessary. It is the over-prescribing of medicines that is a problem, and the overuse of vaccinations that can cause serious damage—especially in children.

Fortunately, the shingles vaccine is only given to those 50 or older, so the controversial risks of autism and other dangers to children aren’t a factor.

In fact, unlike so many other immunizations, the shingles vaccine is very effective, safe, and generally has very few side effects. Some people do get blisters at the injection site, but they typically go away quickly. And really, this mild side effect is a small price to pay to prevent a condition that can turn into a living nightmare for many people.

Shingles may not kill you, but it can ruin your life

This illness is rarely life threatening. But, that said, it can be very debilitating.

There are cases of shingles that are relatively mild and self-limiting, and others that are absolutely awful. Shingles can make everyday tasks—from getting dressed to getting into bed (and everything in between)—nearly insurmountable. If it involves your face or eyes, it can threaten your eyesight and cause blindness.

But while that (fortunately) doesn’t happen often, there is something that does happen quite frequently to shingles patients: Pain.

Even after the rash goes away, you can be left with extreme pain in that section of the body. And it can be set off by something as simple as the light touch of your shirt against your skin. Sometimes it can prevent people from leaving their house.

And what’s worse, the pain, called post-herpetic neuralgia—can linger for years.  In some cases, it doesn’t ever go away.

Here’s why this all matters—and why I recommend the vaccine: The culprit behind this agonizing rash is the same virus responsible for another common condition: chicken pox. If you had the chicken pox as a child, the virus never completely leaves your body. It just lies dormant. But in some people it “wakes up” years later. And, voila—shingles.

The numbers bear out why you need to take this seriously: it’s estimated that 1 in 5 people who have had chicken pox will get shingles. And the older you get, the greater your risk. By the time you hit 80, you have a 25- to 50-percent chance of having already had shingles.

Even if you’ve already had shingles, I would still recommend you get the vaccine, because shingles isn’t a one-and-done deal; you can get it again. Just wait to get it until a year after the shingles clear up.

If you have a compromised immune system, such as in cancer or HIV, this vaccine isn’t for you. And of course, I should mention that getting the vaccine doesn’t guarantee you won’t get shingles. But it will reduce your chances significantly. And, if you do get shingles, the vaccine will likely make the symptoms milder and the illness shorter. You’ll also be less likely to experience the dreaded post-herpetic neuralgia.

So now that I’ve explained why everyone over the age of 50 should get the shingles vaccine, let me shift gears a bit and talk about the best ways to treat shingles outbreaks if they do occur.

Drugs first, Nature second

Now, please don’t be shocked again, but the moment my patients come to me with the telltale blisters of shingles, I start them on an antiviral medication such as Zovirax or Famvir.  These drugs will make your case far less severe.

Again, so many drugs are prescribed needlessly across the U.S. every day. But this is one of those cases where a prescription really is warranted. Just like I said before my goal is to use prescription medications only when they’ll truly be effective…And this is one of those instances. .

With that said, now that I sound like a shill for the pharmaceutical industry, let me tell you some complementary therapies that I also recommend to my shingles patients.

The best complementary treatment for shingles is a course of IV vitamins that includes vitamin C, B6, B12 and B5. Along with the antiviral medications, this is the first-line therapy I use in my patients. It helps not just to curtail the illness, but also to combat muscle and nerve pain.

As for the oral regimen, this is what I recommend:

  1. Vitamin B12: 2,000 mcg per day.  [One of the prime benefits of this wonder vitamin is its outrageously effective anti-inflammatory properties. And shingles is all about inflammation. So this is a critical one to take.]
  2. L-lysine: This amino acid has been shown to inhibit the replication of the herpes virus (which causes chicken pox and, subsequently, shingles). Lysine is also used as a preventive at a dose of 1,000 mg per day. But, during a flare-up, I recommend 3,000 mg per day.
  3. Oil of oregano: I recommend 1,500 mg per day [It’s good for alleviating pain, and will help the sores dry up faster.]
  4. Olive leaf extract: also 1,500 mg per day [It supports the immune system, which will help the virus move through your system as quickly as possible.]
  5. Monolaurin: this is a long-chain fatty acid that has strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. I recommend 900 mg per day.

Also, a nice warm oatmeal bath, and cold compresses are also helpful in alleviating some of the painful symptoms of shingles.

I don’t know when you’ll hear me advocate such unnatural remedies again, but please understand that I always do my best for my patients—and for you. No matter which toolbox I have to resort to. I only wish all other doctors did the same.