Stress and Disease | Shingles and Migraine

Shingles & Migraine

It hit the news over the past few days: Rates of shingles have increased significantly over recent years but did you know the most common reason for a shingles episode is stress? If you have ever had chicken pox, you are at risk later in life for this painful (and sometimes dangerous) viral re-activation.

Migraine presents in a multitude of ways, from light (aura) and sound sensitivity or nausea and vomiting to facial and one-sided numbness of limbs. It may present with a severe headache, or not. Both of these conditions have links to stress as a key trigger.


Shingles is the reactivation of the same virus that causes Chicken Pox. Like all viruses, once contracted, it never completely disappears but lays dormant in the body’s nerve cells until triggered and reactivated. So if you’ve had chicken pox earlier in life, you’re able to activate a case of shingles in later life. And trust me, having experienced it a few years ago, it is not only exceptionally painful, but if it appears near the nerves surrounding the eye, is potentially dangerous.

One of the biggest causes of shingles is stress. It can show us just how out of touch we are from our body and how far we are willing to push it before it pushes back.

But there’s a lot we can do naturopathically for shingles.

Key Naturopathic Treatment for Shingles

  • Recognise the lesson behind the symptom. Where are you not taking time out? What emotions are you pushing down that are now activating as fiery, feisty, excruciating pain?
  • Cut out all the yummy stuff (sorry…), most importantly caffeine, chocolate and nuts. These are foods high in arginine and the ones we want to keep away from shingles.
  • Increase lysine foods like fish, chicken, lamb, most veggies, cheese (if eating dairy)
  • Take high dose sublingual B12 (methyl, hydroxyl or adenosyl … but chat to your practitioner to guide you)
  • The shinges virus is an enveloped virus and one of our greatest herbal combatants is Hypericum perforatum, or St John’s Wort. Double bonus, St John’s Wort is useful for mild to moderate depression and it’s definitely not uncommon to need some mental/emotional support during this period. (Please note, only take St John’s Wort under your practitioner’s guidance and never if on anti-depressants/SSRIs)


I don’t like to get too caught up in x=y type scenarios when it comes to health. As you may know, I don’t think it’s all about evidence-based medicine and clinical trials, as useful as they are in providing one type of information. I still firmly believe the mind and what you tell yourself about disease is a far more powerful indicator in both creation and healing of health issues. Case in point, Migraine.

Research has shown those with the MTHFR C677T polymorphism have a greater risk of migraine with aura. Interestingly, I’ve found a number of women with the A1298C variant my migrainey people. Regardless, MTHFR does have a link to migraine and if there’s one thing I’d love you to take away about any MTHFR variant, it’s that you need natural folate (B9) in your diet.

That means cutting out synthetic Folic Acid (read why here) and increasing natural folate in your diet (think lots of dark, leafy greens.) And in fact (back onto science), a trial of 141 Australian migraine-suffering women with MTHFR showed over a 6-month period, the women who included more folate in their diet experienced less frequent and/or less severe migraine episodes.

Whilst triggers can be food related (chocolate, oranges etc), a massive trigger is stress.

How many migraine sufferers push and push and push only to stop over a weekend or right before a holiday to come crashing down bed-ridden for days? Just because we can push through doesn’t mean your body wants you to push through.

Recognise the signs of stress before pushing your body to the point of forced rest.

If you suppress your anger or disappointment, start to recognize the pattern and learn some alternative strategies such as deep breathing, getting used to voicing your disappointment or viewpoint without feeling guilty or unjustified or just realizing when you need to stop/take a break/go home/shut the lap top off/pass the kids to a partner or friend/have a lie down/go for a swim/take a bath … whatever it is for you, start to recognize the stages of stress and start to diffuse before your body forces a physical shutdown.

Key Naturopathic Treatment for Migraine

  • Apart from B9, the other key vitamin in migraine treatment is Vitamin B2. Makes sense knowing B2 is a co-factor for the MTHFR enzyme needed to convert folate into methylfolate, or the activated form of Vitamin B9 and as we saw above, B9 is key for migraine management.
  • The herb Tanacetum parthenium, or Feverfew, is a fantastic adjunct to migraine treatment. When used consistently over a 4+ month period, it can reduce severity and frequency of migraine headaches offering vasodilation of blood vessels, pain relief and a reduction in inflammation.

Kate is a qualified naturopath who is passionate about helping women heal from hormonal havoc and inspiring women to know their own power, worth and wisdom.

Kate offers one-on-one Skype consults for irregular cycles, PMS and period pain, endometriosis, PCOS, peri-menopause, mood swings, fatigue and mental and emotional stress.

Simply drop me an email to see how I can help you!




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