Why did I get shingles?

I'm healthy, young enough, no indicators that would point to heightened risk. So why did I get the shingles virus? I have a theory.

A couple of months prior to contracting shingles, I had switched from drinking cow's milk to drinking unsweetened almond milk instead. As I have since learned, nuts are a high source of L-arginine, an amino acid that, while great for muscle building, apparently promotes the growth of the shingles virus. The opposite or L-arginine (from a shingles standpoint), is L-lystine which helps inhibit the virus.

Turns out that almond milk is very high in L-arginine and has very little L-lystine. Google 'arginine and shingles' and you'll find lots of body builders who supplemented with arginine complaining about coming down with shingles.

I'm definitely not a body builder but I was drinking almond milk everyday in the two months leading up to shingles. I was also eating more shellfish than I had in the past which, as it turns out, is also high in L-arginine. Another contributor - I had been drinking coconut water a few times a week for several months. Guess what's also high in L-arginine? Yep, coconut water. :-(

Obviously, I can't say for certain that my inadvertent high intake of L-arginine led to my shingles outbreak. But the only lifestyle change I'd made in the 2 months prior was the switch to almond milk and eating lots of shellfish. Unbeknownst to me, by doing so I had inadvertently increased (by a LOT) the amount of L-arginine I was consuming.  My coconut water habit, though very moderate, wasn't helping. And by giving up dairy, which contains the protective L-lysine, I think my bid for that "healthier diet" inadvertently delivered the one-two punch the shingles virus needed to overtake my immune system.

Ironically, the cow's milk I had given up is high in L-lysine (as are all dairy products) which would have helped keep the shingles virus in check. I've since switched back to real dairy and, as much as I love it, will probably never drink almond's milk or coconut water again. In addition, I've started taking a supplement for L-lystine, just in case.


  1. I too have been eating healthier and in fact was supplementing with Cellucor C4 (1 scoop = Arginine 1000mg) and Cellucor NO3 (3 tabs = Arginine 1250mg) and I was recently diagnosed with shingles. The nurse at the clinic actually suggested the connection because she works out and uses supplements and has gotten shingles more than once. Thanks for sharing your personal experience.

  2. I broke out in shingles the same night a guy I had just met did at a dance night. That night he gave me a can of Coconut water to try! Interesting to find this link out there. I was run down, exhausted and stressed, had low dairy intake too, but that was just too coincidental to not google search it. He was the only other person I have heard of with it, at the same time.

  3. Can anyone cite any study about the relationship between Arginine and Shingles?
    Curious and researching...

  4. There is also a link between Herpes II (genital) and L-Arginine consumption. I am sure there is no coincidence that both Herpes II and Shingles are in the same taxonomic family. I have read several articles where people are complaining they had horrible and more frequent outbreaks of Herpes II after they got the live viral immunization for shingles. nutritiondata.com has a great tool for seeing the Arginine/Lysine levels of foods. Type in the food you want to know about in the search bar on the top right, then select the exact food from the list that comes up. Clicking on the exact food will take you to a new window, and if you then scroll down to the "Protein" listing then click on the "expand" down arrow, you will see the Lysine/Arginine level for each. It's fairly accurate. Good Luck

  5. This is great advice / info. Arginine is not an essential amino acid but lysine is. In other words, the body can make its own arginine, but it cannot make its needed supply of lysine.

  6. I have been drinking almond milk for over 5 months but I switch back and forth but I try drink more almond milk than regular milk. So, out of nowhere I got this rash which I did not know what it was so I went to the doctor and they said is was shingles. They said I was too young to be getting shingles at this age but they have seen it. Well, so much for trying to have a healthy diet. I would never thought I would get this the shingles. I learned my lesson and I have stop drinking almond milk.