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Supplements that Repigment the Skin

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Do you have strange white patches on your skin? It could be vitiligo. These supplements are proven to stop or reverse signs of vitiligo.

If you are suffering from a sudden lack of pigmentation on the skin, you are probably wondering what the issue is, what caused the issue, and how to fix it. Skin whitening can be caused by a variety of factors, including autoimmune diseases, medications, or tinea versicolor (a fungal infection).

About 1-2 percent of the world’s population suffers from vitiligo. Most people who will get vitiligo start seeing signs between the ages of 20 and 40, according to the Genetics Home Reference Guide. If you are seeing signs of vitiligo on your skin, you may be worried, and with good reason. Conventional medicine has no cure for the condition, but only offers temporary solutions that may or may not halt the progression of the disease.

If you are facing the issue of vitiligo, take a look at some of the causes, conventional treatment options, and the supplements that are proven to fight the disease and slow or reverse the symptoms of this embarrassing condition.

Causes of Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a condition where the body’s immune system attacks the pigmentation of the skin. Your body attacks the cells that produce melanin (what colors your skin) and removes all color and pigmentation from the skin. Usually, the condition starts in small patches then gradually spreads to larger and larger areas over a period of years. It is rare for the condition to remove all pigment from your entire body. It is unknown what precisely causes vitiligo to start. Most medical professionals consider it to be a mix of genetics and an autoimmune disorder. If someone in your family has vitiligo, then you are more likely to get it.

According to the Genetics Home Reference Guide, vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder. This is when your immune system attacks its own systems or tissues. Vitiligo is specifically targeted to attack the pigment cells. Up to 25 percent of vitiligo patients also suffer from some other autoimmune disorder, like type 1 diabetes, Addison disease, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, pernicious anemia, or psoriasis. Unless a patient has another autoimmune disorder, he or she is unlikely to face health risks or problems from vitiligo, other than the social problems associated with a skin condition. Dark-skinned persons with vitiligo may feel they are losing their ethnic identity with a progressed form of the disease.

Another potential cause of the disease is oxidative stress. A 2013 study conducted by The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in India indicates that the link between oxidative stress and an overactive immune system is a possible cause of vitiligo symptoms. The researchers concluded that while oxidative stress seems to contribute to certain cases of vitiligo, other cases are caused purely by autoimmune dysfunction caused by an unidentified reason.

Treatments for Vitiligo

Treatments for vitiligo are not designed to cure the condition. In fact, there is no known cure for the disease in either traditional or alternative methods. Most treatment measures work to slow the progression of pigmentation loss or increase the speed to make the skin pigmentation evener. The Mayo Clinic lists 7 possible treatment options for vitiligo:

Topical steroids: In the early stages of the disease, corticosteroids may be able to return pigmentation to the skin. In some cases, a vitamin D-derived cream is used to restore pigmentation. Topical immunomodulators: These treatment creams are most effective for patches on the face and neck. Usually, this cream is used in combination with light therapy.

Topical PUVA: In patients with less than 20 percent depigmentation, topical PUVA is an effective way to repigment the skin. The cream makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays, which are used to burn the skin and restore normal color to it.

Oral PUVA: This treatment method is used for individuals with more than 20 percent depigmentation. The same process happens with the topical PUVA, except that you ingest the PUVA, rather than rubbing it on.

UVB therapy: In this treatment method, patients are simply exposed to narrowband UVB light. This helps add pigmentation to the skin with few side effects. Depigmentation: Severe cases of vitiligo usually require depigmentation treatments. This is done by lightening the remaining colored skin with a medication called monobenzone.

Skin grafts: Some patients may be able to have surgical treatments to restore pigmentation to the skin. A doctor moves pigmented skin to unpigmented areas. This will sometimes cause the surrounding skin to re-pigment. Blister grafting is also used, where blisters are moved from a pigmented area to a depigmented area to encourage re-pigmentation. Some doctors also use a tattoo method, which dyes unpigmented skin with tattoo ink.

Other therapies: Right now, two new therapies are under review for vitiligo. One option is an autologous melanocyte transplant. This is where doctors grow melanocytes from your body in a lab. They transplant the healthy cells to unpigmented areas of the skin. One compound found in black pepper, piperine may be an effective supplement for repigmenting the skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, piperine caused repigmentation in mice when combined with UV light exposure.

Supplements That Restore Skin Color

Do Supplements Help Pigment the Skin?

Although the idea seems far-fetched, there are actually numerous studies that back the idea of taking a variety of supplements to cause repigmentation on the skin. One theory behind why supplements can help is derived from the varied nature of the disease itself. Since vitiligo is considered an autoimmune disorder, scientists have theorized that by restoring the natural balance of the immune system in the body, it is possible to slow or stop the progression of pigmentation loss. Certain immune-boosting supplements and immune balance-restoring supplements can help reduce the appearance and size of vitiligo patches.

For best results, these supplements should be started when vitiligo is in its early stages. There is little that either diet or modern medicine can do for advanced cases of vitiligo.

So, what should you take to improve or prevent vitiligo? The following supplements have been scientifically proven to help improve vitiligo symptoms:

Picrorhiza

Does your immune system need a boost? Picrorhiza can help! This plant-derived from a tree in the Himalayas and provides a variety of benefits, including immune support, digestion, and anti-inflammatory action. In a 1989 study conducted by the Regional Research Laboratory in India, when picrorhiza supplements were combined with the vitiligo drug methoxsalen, patients responded better to treatments than patients who were not taking the supplements during treatment.

L-phenylalanine

Phenylalanine is an essential amino acidmost noted for being a precursor of tyrosine.

Tyrosine is used to synthesize neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine as well as the skin pigment, melanin.

Although phenylalanine occurs in two chemicals forms (the D- and L- isomers), only L-phenylalanine is obtained from natural sources while D-phenylalanine is produced in the laboratory.

As an amino acid, phenylalanine is obtained from protein-rich foods such as beef, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and milk products.

It is also added to food and drink products. However, these must carry a special label noting its content of the amino acid. This warning label is required because some people cannot metabolize phenylalanine (phenylketonurics).

Another source of phenylalanine is the artificial sweetener called aspartame.

D-phenylalanine is not a building block of any known protein. It is, however, believed to possess some analgesic ability because of its ability to inhibit the enzymes that break down natural pain relievers such as endorphins.

D-phenylalanine is being investigated for treating chronic pain because of its proposed analgesic properties. It is also believed to possess some antidepressant properties.

Sometimes the racemic mixture (DL-phenylalanine) of both forms of phenylalanine is used for treating pain and depression.

Besides chronic pain and depression, phenylalanine is investigated for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and vitiligo.

Phenylalanine is generally safe to use except by people with phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disorder.

Because it serves as a precursor for important neurotransmitters, low levels of the amino acid or phenylalanine deficiency may cause confusion, depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, inattentiveness and memory disorders.

Recommended doses of phenylalanine should not exceed 5,000 mg per day. A consultation with your physician is necessary before starting phenylalanine supplementation in order to determine whether you have phenylketonuria and rule out any drug interactions.

Reported side effects of DL-phenylalanine are mild. They include heartburn, nausea, and headaches.

Clinical Studies on the Use of Phenylalanine in Vitiligo Treatment

A 1989 study published in the International Journal of Dermatology showed the benefit of oral and topical phenylalanine therapy in the treatment of vitiligo.

In this study, 21 vitiligo patients were recruited and divided into 2 groups. Both groups were given 100 mg/kg of body weight of oral L-phenylalanine combined with UVA exposure for the duration of the study. In addition, one group was also given 10% L-phenylalanine cream to apply on their vitiligo patches.

The results showed that both groups responded well to treatment and no side effects were reported.

However, the better result was obtained in the patients using both oral and topical L-phenylalanine along with UVA exposure.

A 2005 study published in the journal, Molecular Genetics and Metabolism examined the rate of conversion of L-phenylalanine to L-tyrosine in vitiligo patients.

It was found that people with dark skin types have 8 times more enzymatic turnover of L-phenylalanine to L-tyrosine than those with light skin types.

The study also showed that UVB irradiation also increases the activity of phenylalanine hydroxylase for as long as 24 hours after exposure. Therefore, ultraviolet radiation is essential for increasing the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine and, thus the formation of melanin.

Lastly, the study showed that the uptake of L-phenylalanine was determined by calcium levels.

How to Take Phenylalanine for Vitiligo

Both oral and topical L-phenylalanine can be used in the treatment of vitiligo.

The best way to take oral L-phenylalanine is to take it in a vitiligo supplement containing other vitamins, mineral and/or herbal extracts known to stop the depigmentation of the skin and stimulate its repigmentation.

Callumae is one such vitiligo supplement.

The recommended dose of L-phenylalanine is 50 – 100 mg/kg of body weight. Daily doses should, however, not exceed 3,000 mg.

Since calcium levels determine the uptake of the amino acid, calcium supplementation may be added to L-phenylalanine to speed up the repigmentation of vitiligo patches.

Also, UVA and/or UVB exposure should be encouraged to improve results.

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest species of trees known. Also known as the maidenhair tree, ginkgo is native to Asia especially China where it has been extensively cultivated for centuries mainly for its culinary and medicinal benefits.

Ginkgo leaf extract possesses various medicinal properties which are useful in the treatments of glaucoma, dementia, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus, peripheral artery disease and vitiligo. It also improves memory and blood circulation.

The relevant properties of ginkgo to vitiligo are its antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties.

Ginkgo extract mainly contains two active groups of phytochemicals:

  • Terpene lactones
  • Ginkgo-flavone glycosides (flavonoids)

Other constituents of ginkgo extracts are dimeric flavones (bilobetin, ginkgetin, isoginkgetin, scieadopitysin), ginkgolic acid, proanthocyanidins ascorbic acid, and carotenoids.

Ginkgo extract is available as a supplement in form of capsules, tablets, tinctures, fluid extracts, and dried leaves for teas. They can also be applied topically and found in various over-the-counter creams.

The flavonoids, terpene lactones, and proanthocyanidins in ginkgo are mainly responsible for the immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties of the herb.

The terpene lactones found in ginkgo are called ginkgolides and bilobalides. The ginkgolides are of different types (ginkgolides A, B, C, J, and M) and they vary in degree of potency. Ginkgolide B is the most active of them.

The flavonoids in ginkgo are known as ginkgo-flavone glycosides and the important ones are quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin.

Ginkgo extracts are commonly derived from its dried leaves and these extracts are standardized to contain about 24% flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones.

How Ginkgo Works

Besides hereditary vitiligo genes, oxidative stress and autoimmune destruction are the other major causative factors of vitiligo. Ginkgo extract has been repeatedly proven to be highly effective against the latter two causes.

The flavone glycosides and proanthocyanidins are very active against a wide variety of free radicals and reactive oxygen species including peroxides which are commonly found in the skin and known to destroy melanocytes.

They scavenge and break down these free radicals and also increase the activities of antioxidant enzymes in the skin. They also protect against lipid peroxidation, which is the most common type of free radical reaction in the body.

Ginkgo increases the activity of superoxide dismutase within skin when it is applied topically. This boosts the skin’s natural defenses against reactive oxygen species. Therefore, through this action, melanocytes are spared from further destruction and the spread of vitiligo is effectively controlled.

Ginkgo can influence the immune reaction to melanocytes through its immunomodulatory property.

Some of the active phytochemicals in the herb specifically target T-lymphocytes and, therefore, modify the response of the immune system. This modification spares melanocytes from destruction by antibodies.

Ginkgo also increases blood flow to the skin and, therefore, by extension it improves the supply of oxygen and nutrients to melanocytes. This increases the rate of recovery of weakened melanocytes and it can contribute to the repigmentation of the skin.

Clinical Studies on Ginkgo

A 2003 double-blind placebo-controlled study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology examined the effectiveness of oral Ginkgo biloba extract in treating slowly spreading vitiligo.

52 patients with limited and slowly spreading vitiligo were recruited for the study. Only 47 patients were eventually evaluated with 5 patients dropping out for reasons not related to the study.

The patients were divided into 2 groups. The first group was given 40 mg Ginkgo biloba extract three times daily and the control group received the same dosage of placebo.

The result of the study showed that the ginkgo can stop the depigmentation of the skin. The difference between the ginkgo group and the placebo group was statistically significant. Furthermore, 10 patients in ginkgo group showed complete to significant repigmentation compared to only two volunteers in the placebo group.

There was no adverse reaction recorded in the study showing that the ginkgo extract was safe and well tolerated by the patients.

Another study published in the journal, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal also examined the effectiveness of ginkgo extract in the treatment of vitiligo patients.

This study was an open-label pilot trial with 12 vitiligo patients recruited. These patients were given 60 mg of standardized ginkgo extract two times daily for 12 weeks.

Vitiligo Area Scoring Index (VASI) and Vitiligo European Task Force (VETF) score which evaluate the area and intensity of depigmentation caused by vitiligo skin lesions were used to determine the effectiveness of the ginkgo extract.

The result of the study showed that progression of depigmentation stopped in all the patients.

The same journal published another study with the same aim but involving more patients. In this study, 47 patients were given 120 mg of standardized ginkgo extracts for 6 weeks.

The same methods of evaluation were employed to determine the effectiveness of the ginkgo extract.

The result of this study showed that significant improvement was observed in 80% of the patients while repigmentation was observed in 40% of the patients.

Side Effects of Ginkgo and Contraindications

Although some studies have shown that ginkgo is well tolerated, side effects such as intestinal problems, headache, and allergic skin reactions have been reported in some users. However, these are mild side effects that can be resolved with time or dosage adjustments.

There are concerns that gingko can cause seizures and thus may worsen seizures in users with a history of epilepsy.

It is also important to note that ginkgo is a blood thinner that reduces the activity of blood platelets. Therefore, using ginkgo with blood thinners such as aspirin, ibuprofen or anticoagulants like coumadin may increase the risks of internal bleeding.

Ginkgo should not be taken along with a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This may increase the risk of serotonin syndrome which is a potentially fatal condition.

Khellin

A 1998 study from the University of Pavia showed that khellin is a natural form of the conventional treatment methoxsalen. During the clinical study, it was shown that 41 percent of patients who used UVA treatments combined with khellin supplements improved their symptoms by 70 percent or more. According to the study, khellin stimulates the growth and production of the cells that create skin pigment.

Vitamin B12 and Folate

This combo of vitamins was shown to be effective in treating vitiligo in a 1997 study from the University Hospital in Sweden. The study looked at patients with active vitiligo over a period of two years. Of 100 patients taking vitamin B12 and folate supplements combined with daily sun exposure, 52 saw clear repigmentation of the skin. 6 saw complete repigmentation.

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin used by every cell of the body for metabolism. It is also known as cobalamin and it is the vitamin with the most complex structure.

There are 4 vitamers of cobalamin. These are cyanocobalamin, which is the synthetic form found in affordable vitamin supplements; and the bioactive forms, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin, and adenosylcobalamin.

The last two bioactive forms of vitamin B12 are made in the liver. About 2 – 5 mg of the vitamin is normally stored in the body. Half of this store is found in the liver, and this organ is very efficient in holding on to vitamin B12.

Hydroxocobalamin is synthesized by bacteria while cyanocobalamin is produced hydroxocobalamin is purified with activated charcoal (thus picking up cyanide). Cyanocobalamin is preferred for use in supplements and as food additives because it is stable against air oxidation and it forms crystals easily.

Hydroxocobalamin is more expensive than cyanocobalamin but it stays longer in the body. Therefore, it is used when vitamin B12 supplementation becomes even more important and in cases where cyanocobalamin cannot be used due to its cyanine content.

Therefore, only adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin are solely produced in humans. These are also the most abundant forms of the vitamin in the body. Most of the store of vitamin B12 in the liver is in the adenosylcobalamin form.

Although humans may obtain their vitamin B12 from animal and plant sources, the vitamin is only produced by bacteria. For this reason, dietary sources of the vitamin are plants and animals with vitamin B12-producing bacteria living on them.

Plant sources of vitamin B12 are not reliable because the bacteria synthesizing the vitamin are only found in the soils and roots of the plant. The process of washing and cooking the plant actual removes most of the vitamin B12 present.

Animals are especially excellent sources of vitamin B12. Livers are rich sources of this vitamin but eggs, poultry, milk, dairy products, meat, shellfish, and fish are also good sources of vitamin B12.

Dietary vitamin B12 can also be obtained from fortified foods including breakfast cereals, energy bars, and energy drinks.

The recommended dietary intake of vitamin B12 is 2 – 3 micrograms per day.

Vitamin B12 deficiency may result from low consumption of vitamin B12-rich foods or improper absorption of the vitamin.

Vitamin B12 deficiency causes 2 major changes in the biochemistry of cells. The deficiency leads to an increase in the production of homocysteine and methylmalonic acid. Because folic acid deficiency can also increase homocysteine levels, the level of methylmalonic acid is a more accurate marker for vitamin B12 deficiency.

The conversion of homocysteine to methionine requires vitamin B12 as a cofactor. The methionine produced is needed in a number of essential biochemical reactions including syntheses of proteins, fatty acids, phospholipids, and neurotransmitters.

Therefore, vitamin B12 deficiency leads to low production of methionine and a number of disease conditions.

The symptoms of vitamin B12 include anemia, impaired sensory perception, fatigue, depression, memory impairment and other damages to the brain and nervous system.

What Studies Say About Vitiligo and Vitamin B12

A study published in the journal, Clinical and Experimental Dermatology in January 2012 tested the relationship between vitamin B12, homocysteine levels, and vitiligo depigmentation. This study confirmed the results of a number of similar studies that concluded that vitiligo patients do have higher homocysteine levels and lower vitamin B12 (and folic) levels.

In this new study, 69 vitiligo patients and 52 control subjects were recruited.

The vitiligo patients had higher levels of homocysteine and hemoglobin but the lower levels of vitamin B12, holotranscobalamin (a metabolite of vitamin B12) and folic acid.

The study’s author concluded that low vitamin B12 levels and high homocysteine levels should be taken as risk factors for vitiligo. They also deduced that vitamin B12 deficiency and hyperhomocysteinemia shared common genetic roots.

In another study published in Acta Dermato-Venereologica in 1997, vitamin B12 was tested as a vitiligo treatment.

The 2-year study recruited 100 vitiligo patients who were given a course of vitamin B12 and folic acid combined with exposure to sunlight or UVB lamps.

The results showed that 6 patients experienced total repigmentation; 52% of patients experienced some form of appreciable repigmentation and in 64% of patients, depigmentation of the skin was stopped.

Another study published in the Egyptian Dermatology Online Journal in 2012 further confirmed the benefits of vitamin B12 supplementation in vitiligo patients. In that study, vitiligo patients had lower serum levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 but higher levels of homocysteine.

How Vitamin B12 Works for Vitiligo

Vitamin B12 deficiency leads to a disturbance in the oxidation-antioxidant system of the skin.

When there is not enough vitamin B12, the conversion of homocysteine to methionine does not proceed. This leads to metabolic diseases arising from low levels of methionine but, just as importantly, it causes other conditions related to the buildup of homocysteine.

The breakdown of homocysteine produces reactive oxygen species which are harmful free radicals that increase the oxidative stress on the skin. These free radicals overwhelm the antioxidants found in the skin and cause the destruction of melanocytes.

By a similar mechanism, vitamin B12 deficiency may increase oxidative stress through folic acid deficiency.

The folic acid ingested in humans is needed to supply the pterine group of tetrahydrobiopterin, an important cofactor in the production of melanin. However, when this cofactor is unavailable, there is an accumulation of a group of related compounds called pteridines.

Oxidized pteridines are responsible for the distinctive yellow-green and bluish fluoresce of vitiligo skins under special lights. They also promote the release of hydrogen peroxide which breaks down the melanocytes.

In summary, vitamin B12 is useful in the treatment of vitiligo because it reduces the oxidative stress on melanocytes. By its antioxidant protection, it increases the lifespan of melanocytes. As long as some melanocytes are still active, vitamin B12 can also stimulate the repigmentation of vitiligo spots.

Different clinical trials have established that vitamin B12 supplementation works better for vitiligo when it is combined with a folic acid (and some amount of UV exposure). Therefore, when looking for a vitiligo supplement to help treat the hypopigmentation disorder, you should get a supplement that includes both vitamins.

Callumae is an excellent example of such vitiligo supplements. It not only combines folic acid and vitamin B12 but it also includes other natural vitiligo remedies.

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid refers to a group of water-soluble B vitamins also called vitamin B9, vitamin Bc, and folate.

Folic acid, the form of the vitamin supplied in supplements, is actually biologically inactive but it is converted to the active forms of the vitamin in the liver.

Once converted to its active form, tetrahydrofolate, folic acid is used in a number of important biochemical reactions in the body. It is needed for the synthesis, repair, and utilization of DNA. Therefore, it is essential for driving cell growth through rapid division. Folic is also required for the synthesis of some amino acids.

While the dietary sources of folic acid are diverse, the foods with high levels of the vitamin include leafy vegetables, legumes, yeast, egg yolk, liver, kidney and fortified grains and cereals.

Moderate levels of folic acid are also found in fruits of the citrus, beets, broccoli, corn, and beer.

The best dietary sources of the vitamin are found in raw food. Cooking heat and ultraviolet irradiation destroys the natural form of folate found in foods. Also, since the vitamin is water-soluble it is easily leached into cooking fluids.

Folate is also easily destroyed by the acidic environment of the stomach as well as by oxidation. Therefore, the bioavailability of folic acid is reduced when taken on empty stomach.

The recommended daily intake values of folic acid for adults range from 400 – 600 micrograms per day and the upper limit is between 800 to 1000 micrograms per day.

Folic acid deficiency takes a while to develop. This is because the body normally retains a rich store of the vitamin.

However, vitamin B9 deficiency can be accelerated by some other factors including alcohol consumption.

When this deficiency occurs it can cause anemia, diarrhea, inflammation of the tongue, confusion, and depression. The most damaging symptoms of folic acid deficiency are seen in fetuses (vitamin B9 deficiency can cause neural tube and brain defects in fetuses).

Folic acid deficiency is closely tied to vitamin B12 or cobalamin deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency may cause folate deficiency. However, vitamin B12 deficiency may go unresolved even with high levels of folic acid.

Because megaloblastic anemia is the chief symptom of both forms of deficiencies, large doses of folic acid may correct this anemia and mask vitamin B12 deficiency.

Therefore, although folic acid is safe even in very large doses (since it is a water-soluble vitamin, it is simply eliminated in urine), supplementation should be below the upper limit to prevent the silent worsening of any attendant vitamin B12 deficiency.

Studies on the Effectiveness of Folic Acid in the Treatment of Vitiligo

One of the first studies to take the nutritional approach in understanding and treating vitiligo was done by L. F. Montes et al. and published in the journal, Cutis: Cutaneous Medicine for the Practitioner in 1992.

In that study, the levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 in a group of vitiligo patients and another group of normal patients were compared. The results showed that the levels of both vitamins were lower in the vitiligo group than the normal group.

A few of the vitiligo patients also had low levels of vitamin C.

The results showed improvements in the repigmentation of vitiligo spots with sustained supplementation with a combination of folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin C.

Another study published in Egyptian Dermatology Online Journal in 2012 confirmed the low levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 in vitiligo patients. It also showed that homocysteine levels were high.

A third study published in 1997 in the journal, Acta Dermato-Venereologica involved 100 vitiligo patients. The study took 2 years and involved the use of the combination of folic acid and vitamin B12 supplementation along with sun exposure.

The results of the study showed that further depigmentation stopped in 64% of the patients; clear repigmentation was observed in 52% and total repigmentation was seen in 6% of the patients.

During the study, patients were asked to combine these nutritional supplements with sun exposure during the summer months and UVB lamps during the winter.

The results clearly showed that the combination of folic acid, vitamin B12, and UV exposure was more effective than each of the 3 treatment options for vitiligo.

How Folic Acid Works for Vitiligo

The high homocysteine levels observed in vitiligo patients are caused by low levels of folic acid and vitamin B12. However, the oxidation of homocysteine produces some reactive oxygen species that build up in the skin and increases the oxidative stress placed on melanocytes.

The level of harmful free radicals rises along with that of homocysteine just as the level of folic acid falls.

This means that melanocytes are increasingly destroyed and melanin production is reduced. Therefore, folic acid supplementation can stop the depigmentation of the skin and even repigment vitiligo spots because it reduces oxidative stress and acts as an antioxidant.

Another mechanism by which folic acid works for vitiligo is through the supply of the needed cofactors required for melanin production. High homocysteine levels mean low methionine levels and methionine is needed for melanin production.

Tyrosine is another amino acid necessary for the synthesis of melanin.

The transfer of a hydroxyl group to tyrosine is a required step in the pathway of melanin production. However, tetrahydrobiopterin is needed as a cofactor for the reaction to proceed.

Humans do not make the pterine part of the molecule but get it from dietary folate or folic acid supplements.

Therefore, increasing the level of folic acid supplies the pterine group needed for the hydroxylation of tyrosine and the onward production of melanin.

In this role, folic acid is not the only B vitamins needed to reduce homocysteine levels. Vitamins B6 and B12 can also lower homocysteine levels and help treat vitiligo.

Vitamin D

It is no surprise that the “sun vitamin” is effective at slowing or stopping the progression of vitiligo. Vitamin D is a proven immune system booster and can help fight off a variety of common assailants in the body.

A 2012 study published in “Dermato-Endocrinology” experimented with vitamin D treatments in vitiligo patients. 16 patients were given D3 supplements of 35,000 mg per day for 6 months. After the end of the study, 14 of those patients showed between 25 and 75 percent repigmentation of the skin.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin refers to a group of 5 fat-soluble secosteroids. The important vitamers in humans are vitamin D2 and D3.

Although vitamin D is obtained from dietary sources, it can also be synthesized in the skin from cholesterol in the presence of sunlight. The body maintains the amount of vitamin D produced in this way by a negative feedback so that toxicity is prevented.

Once ingested from foods, the available forms of vitamin D are converted first to calcidiol in the liver and then to calcitriol in the kidneys. When the levels of vitamin D in the body is to be measured, calcidiol is the vitamin D metabolite that is measured.

Calcitriol is the active metabolite of the vitamin and it acts as hormone in the body.

Calcitriol is needed for bone health since it regulates the level of calcium and phosphate in the body. When produced outside the kidneys, calcitriol regulates the division, differentiation and death of cells.

The two useful forms of vitamin D in humans are called calciferol. Vitamin D2 is also known as ergocalciferol while Vitamin D3 is cholecalciferol. Vitamin D3 is found in the skin and milk of animals while vitamin D2 is produced by fungi, phytoplankton and invertebrates but not by land animals and plants.

Therefore, vitamin D3 is the form of vitamin D made in human skin.

The production of vitamin D3 requires ultraviolet radiation (UVB) and 7-dehydrocholesterol. This synthesis occurs in the innermost layer of the epidermis and the vitamin D produced is in large quantities.

Once ingested vitamin D is converted to calcitriol, the hormone is transported to target organs by binding proteins. It then binds to VDRs (vitamin D receptors) found in the nuclei of cells. These receptors can be found in the brain, heart, breast, prostate, gonads and skin.

Dietary Sources of Vitamin D
  • Dietary sources of vitamin D2 include mushrooms and alfalfa.
  • Vitamin D3 is obtained from fatty fish such as catfish, salmon and sardines. It is also found in fish liver oils, beef liver and eggs.

The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D is 15 micrograms per day. This is raised to 20 micrograms per day for people older than 70 years.

The main presentation of vitamin D deficiency is improper mineralization of bones. Therefore, the bones are softened. This leads to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

Vitamin D and Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a skin pigmentation disorder in which white patches appear on the skin. These patches represents areas of hypopigmentation where melanin production has dropped.

Melanin is the skin pigment produced from specialized skin cells called melanocytes.

Melanin is produced in response to ultraviolet irradiation of the skin. This photosensitive compound protects the skin from damages such as sunburn. However, when the population of melanocytes fall off, the skin loses its pigment and turns white.

The usefulness of vitamin D in the treatment of vitiligo was first reported in cases of psoriasis patients receiving topical vitamin D analogs such as calcipotriol and tacalcitol.

In these patients, the vitamin D analogs caused the hyperpigmentation of the skin. Since vitiligo is hypopigmentation of the skin, it follows that these vitamin D analogs should help repigment the white patches of vitiligo.

Clinical evidences and treatment successes have since supported this view.

The Best Treatment Options for Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a condition that requires further medical and scientific examination. It is unclear whether an overactive immune system, oxidized stress, genetics, or something else is the true cause of vitiligo. Because of this, the best treatment options for vitiligo require a multi-faceted approach. However, many studies have shown that a combination of supplements and sun exposure are effective at slowing or stopping the progression of the condition.

Supplements

Supplements for vitiligo are effective in reducing and stopping the progression of the condition. A combination of the above supplements should provide immune support and the anti-oxidative effect necessary to restore a healthy balance to skin pigmentation creation. 

Supplements for Vitiligo
  • Vitamin B12
  • Folate
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Khellin
  • L-phenylalanine
  • Picrorhiza
  • Vitamin D

Sun exposure

Conventional medicine uses a variety of light-based treatments for vitiligo. However, sun exposure on its own could cause the light patches to appear worse, simply because the surrounding skin darkens. Many conventional vitiligo treatments also make your skin susceptible to sunburn and other harsh damaging effects from the sun. Before you start any sun treatments on your own, consult with your doctor to ensure you are not harming your skin with too much light exposure.

When used correctly and along with supplements, sun exposure can be a highly effective treatment method for vitiligo symptoms. A combination of UVA and UVB rays seems to work most effectively, according to the Mayo Clinic. Daily exposure to the sun can help your skin reproduce the levels of melatonin that are necessary to prevent the depigmentation of the skin.

The Best Supplements for Vitiligo

Supplementing with a variety of herbal remedies and vitamins while suffering from vitiligo symptoms is a highly effective way to reduce symptoms and even repigment the skin. The right combination of supplements will help restore the balance of your immune system and prevent further progression of skin pigmentation loss. For best results, start taking supplements as soon as you notice the first signs of pigmentation loss, and combine the supplements with other treatment methods to ensure your skin remains pigmented, healthy, and working effectively to protect your skin from outside assailants.

Sources


http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/vitiligo

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitiligo/DS00586/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2615440

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