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Is it Possible to Stop Vitiligo with Diet and Supplements?

Think you are doomed to suffer from vitiligo without hope? Think again. These studies will have you questioning everything you thought about the disease.
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Do you suffer from vitiligo or other skin pigmentation issues? It turns out; the disease may not be as random as scientists first thought.

As more studies come to light about vitiligo and the causes of the disease, they are indicating that many of the cases of vitiligo are related to a suppressed immune system and autoimmune disorders. Based on the information from the studies listed below, it is starting to look like diet and supplements can play a huge role in the healing and prevention of the disease. If you suffer from vitiligo, you won’t want to miss taking a look at these studies to find out how you can heal your skin issues naturally and without side effects.

 What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a somewhat strange condition that affects about 1-2 percent of the entire world’s population. This condition is simply the loss of pigmentation on the skin. Doctors and medical professionals are unaware, for the most part, about what precisely causes the condition. Certain theories are in place, however, and there several treatment options available.

When someone is struck by vitiligo, the pigmentation around the eyes, mouth, hands, and other extremities starts to fade. The skin turns a whitened color, and it almost looks as if the top layer of skin started to peel off like a coat of paint. The condition can affect all races and genders, but it is most noticeable in dark complexions, simply because the contrast between the white and dark skin is more pronounced.

What Causes Vitiligo?

Doctors are unsure about what causes vitiligo. According to Web MD, the most likely cause is an autoimmune disorder. Basically, the theory is that the body sees the pigmentation as a threat or invading pathogen. This causes the immune system to react and attack the pigment, causing it to break down. Often, other conditions like illness, stress, and a weakened immune system are likely to trigger the condition. In families with a history of the condition, there is a 30 percent chance of contracting the problem. This indicates that genetics are a strong factor in the condition. Other family history diseases, such as connective tissue and endocrine diseases (such as thyroid problems, diabetes, Addison’s disease, alopecia areata, and pernicious anemia), also increase the chance of a person contracting vitiligo.

Web MD states that vitiligo is a chronic, variable disease. Usually, the disease strikes rapidly, then slows to a moderate-to-mild degenerative rate. It is possible for some case to show recovery after some treatment. This is due to migrating melanocytes from surrounding normal skin or hair follicles. This re-pigmentation occurs in approximately 30 percent of vitiligo cases.

Theories on the origin of vitiligo
  • Immune destruction
  • A genetic predisposition
  • Thyroid malfunction
  • Family history of endocrine and connective tissue diseases

Who is at risk for vitiligo?

If you have a genetic history of vitiligo, thyroid problems, diabetes, Addison’s disease, endocrine diseases, connective tissue diseases, alopecia areata, or pernicious anemia; then you have about a 30 percent chance of getting the disorder. Otherwise, there is about a two percent chance that anyone will get vitiligo. Any autoimmune thyroid disease increases the chance for vitiligo. The presence of thyroid antibodies often precedes or follows the onset of the condition, particularly in children.

The disease will also strike due to association with HLA antigens. HLA-B13 related to thyroid disease is also linked to vitiligo. Certain individuals can also contract vitiligo after injuries, trauma, or exposure to certain chemicals, according to data collected by Patient.co.uk.

What does vitiligo look like?

It is easy to identify vitiligo because it looks like clearly defined patches of white skin. No matter the base color of a person’s skin, vitiligo is noticeably a few shades lighter. This is due to the complete removal of pigmentation from the area. In persons with dark skin the condition is much more noticeable. Because of the loss of pigmentation, the white patches will not darken even after exposure to sunlight (except in some cases of light therapy). The white skin also lacks the protection of melanin, which makes the person more susceptible to sunburn.

As the disease progresses, lesions can also occur on the skin in addition to loss of pigment. Usually, the patches slowly increase in size and number until the person suffers from complete loss of pigmentation. In some cases, the disease is localized. Typically, it is generalized and affects both sides of the body. It is common to see the issue on hands, feet, face, neck, and scalp. Oddly, sites of repeated trauma (like elbows, the forearms, the wrists, and the underside of the hands. The disease can also affect the hair, causing it to turn white or grey.

How is vitiligo diagnosed?

Usually, it is easy to see the loss of pigmentation on the skin. Doctors can recognized it almost instantly. Associated diseases, like Addison’s disease, pernicious anaemia, and thyroid disease may also cause a doctor to look for signs of vitiligo before the person notices the issue on their own. The skin condition is assigned a rating based on how well it stands up to the sun. Type I is highly sensitive and never tans at all, while type II is someone sensitive, but tans lightly.

Conventional Treatments for Vitiligo

In today’s medical world, there are few viable treatment options for vitiligo. Little is known about the disease or how to treat it. However, there are several treatment options (both natural and medicine-based), that help some people with the disease.

Makeup: One trick to treating the disease is to simply skip treating the cause and simply covering up the symptoms with makeup. This trick can help prevent the awkward social feelings that often go along with the disease, according to Web MD. Wearing a high SPF sunscreen is also recommended to protect the delicate skin from burning.

Steroid cream: Another tactic is to apply a topical steroid cream to encourage depigmentation on the remaining colored areas of the skin. This helps blend the two types of skin together. However, according to Web MD, these potent topical steroids may cause skin atrophy. Topical pimecrolimus is also used, and has fewer side effects. Another option is systemic steroids, but these steroids have a higher side effect risk. Adults with over 50 percent depigmentation can have p-(benzyloxy)phenol depigmentation therapy. This will remove more of the pigmentation from the area. However, the patient will never be able to safely tan again.

Phototherapy: Some doctors prescribe phototherapy to patients who do not respond to conservative treatments, for localized vitiligo that affects their quality of life, or for widespread vitiligo. In this case, Narrow-band ultraviolet B (UVB) light is more effective than oral psoralen with ultraviolet A (PUVA), according to Web MD. Phototherapy shows the most success in patients with dark skin.

Surgery: Surgery is an option for adults where there are no new lesions or Kobner’s phenomenon (skin lesions on the lines of trauma) in the previous 12 months. Both split-skin grafting and micrografting are used, with split-skin grafting giving the best results.

Supplements: Some studies have shown that taking certain supplements can slow, stop, and even repair the de-pigmentation of the skin. You can read more about these studies in the next section.

Studies about vitilgo treatments

A 1992 study from the Birmingham Medical Center at the University of Alabama showed that patients with vitiligo often had diminished levels of folate in their blood. A group of 15 patients with vitilgo were studied; and 11 had lower-than-normal levels of folate in the serum, 5 had lowered folate levels in all the blood, and 6 showed lowered levels in the erythrocytes. In addition, vitamin B12 levels were below normal in one-third of the patient. Four of the patients showed reduced vitamin C levels. Eight patients were given prolonged oral administration of folate and vitamin C. Parenteral treatment of vitamin B12 was also given. These eight patients showed definite re-pigmentation after the vitamin treatments. Web MD states that the results of this study indicate that the treatment is “possibly effective.”

A 2003 study from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in India indicated that Ginkgo biloba may be helpful in recovering from vitiligo. 47 patients were studied in this experiment. The participants were divided into groups of two. Group A was given Ginkgo biloba extract of 40 mg three times a day. Group B received placebo pills. In Group A, 10 patients showed pigmentation improvement, while the other patients in Group A showed a slower rate of degeneration. In Group B, only two patients showed re-pigmentation. This study concluded that Ginkgo biloba is a safe and effective way to slow or stop the progression of the disease. According to Web MD, this treatment method has “insufficient evidence.”

In 2002, the Department of Dermatology from the Venereología Hospital Universitario Virgen Macarena Avda in Spain studied the effectiveness of oral and topical L-phenylalanine in combination with light treatment and 0.025% clobetasol propionate at night. The researchers looked at 70 patients with vitiligo. Once a day, the patients took 100 mg of L-phenylalanine and applied a 10 percent topical gel. The patients were then exposed to sunlight or UVA lamps and given clobetasol propionate at night. These patients were studied over a period of 4 years. 90 percent of patients showed improvement, and 68 percent saw an improvement of over 75 percent. Patients that received UVA light rather than sunlight showed a slight additional improvement. Web MD lists this treatment method as “possibly effective.”

Another “possibly effective” treatment for vitiligo was studied by the Regional Research Laboratory in India in 1989. Over six months, 20 patients with vitiligo of all ages were given 200 mg of the shade dried rhizomes of picrorhiza twice a day for three month periods. By the end of six months, only 10 percent of subjects did not respond to treatment at all, while 27 percent showed complete recovery.

Supplements for Vitiligo

Since vitiligo is related to both loss of melanin and a lowered immune systems, supplements that boost skin health and immunity will help vitiligo in addition to the above studied supplements. Try adding the following supplements to your diet to reduce vitiligo symptoms:

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for the healing of vitiligo as outlined above. It prevents the accumulation of homocysteine in the body and the consequent release of free radicals. B12 acts as a catalyst for the conversion of harmful homocysteine into helpful methionine. This means that the oxidative stress on the skin is reduced, which protects the melanocytes from damage.

Folic Acid or Folate

Folate is the natural form of folic acid, and is easier for the body to use. Folate levels are often low in individuals suffering from vitiligo, as outlined in the studies above. Folate prevents the accumulation of homocysteine and it supplies building blocks to convert tyrosine into melanin.

L-Phenylalanine

This amino acid synthesizes neurotransmitters like epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine. It is also the precursor to tyrosine, which synthesizes melanin into the skin. This treatment method is best when combined with UV light exposure, as outlined in the study above.

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba is an antioxidant and an imumomodularoty supplement. It helps to prevent the further progression of vitiligo, as outlined in the study above. When taken in combination with other supplements, ginkgo biloba should stop the progression of the disease and improve skin pigmentation at the same time.

Picrorhiza kurroa

This plant is often used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat immune problems. The plant offers immunomodulatory properties, and in the study outlined above, was proven effective at reducing or eliminating vitiligo symptoms.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an all around immune-boosting and regulating material. It is most effective in its natural form, straight from nature. Ascorbic acid is not as effective or absorbable by the body as natural vitamin C. In the University of Alabama study, taking vitamin C orally helped show marked improvement in patients with vitiligo.

Foods high in immune-boosting vitamins

  • Dairy products: For the most natural form of phenylalanine, turn to dairy products. This amino acid is found naturally in the breast milk of animals, according to Wikipedia.
  • Ginkgo biloba: You can find this plant in stem, leaf, or supplement form. This supplement comes from one of the oldest known tree species in the world today. It has an estimated age that dates back over 270 million years.
  • Picrorhiza kurroa: Picrorhiza kurroa is one of the oldest medicinal plants in the world today. The rhizomes are what is best to consume for helping vitiligo symptoms.
  • Liver: Your grandmother always said liver was good for you, and she was right. It has a high concentration of folate, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin A.
  • Dark greens: Dark greens are high in folate, calcium, vitamin K, and vitamin A. All essential for healthy skin and a healthy immune system.
  • Beans: Beans are a healthy source of folate, protein, and healthy carbohydrates. If you don’t eat meat, it is especially important to eat your beans.
  • Shellfish: Shellfish like clams and shrimp have high levels of B12. Other fish also have high B12 levels as well as healthy levels of DHA and Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Red meat: Red meat is high in vitamin A, vitamin B 12, protein, and other essential nutrients that can help heal the skin.
  • Red bell pepper: Did you know that red bell pepper contains more vitamin C than an orange? This delicious pepper is good in both cooked and raw dishes.
  • Strawberries: Strawberries also contain high levels of vitamin C, as well as brain-boosting powers that may improve cognitive function, according to a 2012 study conducted by Harvard Medical School.
  • Kiwi: The small brown, furry fruit with the green inside and black seeds has more vitamin C than an orange. Add this to your morning breakfast routine to improve your vitamin C intake naturally.

Taking these supplements and adding these immune-boosting foods to your diet can help you see significant results and improvement in any skin discoloration and pigmentation loss. Of course, these results will not happen overnight. It takes at least six months to see recovery from loss of pigmentation. However, the above studies and their supporting evidence indicate that with the right diet and supplements, you can completely reverse the autoimmune disorder, vitiligo.

Sources


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9394983

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/condition-1656-Vitiligo.aspx?diseaseid=1656&diseasename=Vitiligo&source=0

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1516378

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