The Truth Behind a Vitiligo Diet
What Is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo, pronounced as “vit-ill-eye-go,” is a skin condition in which white patches appear on the skin throughout the body. This condition is caused by the destruction of cells called melanocytes that produce pigment, or color, for the skin. Although the white patches are the main factor, the vitiligo condition may also affect the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and eyes.
The precise cause of the condition is unknown but it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. Most people tend to develop vitiligo between the ages of 20 and 40 years old, and it has been seen too often run in families. Vitiligo may also be associated with other conditions such as thyroid dysfunction. Overall, vitiligo is physically harmless; it does not cause any physical pain and does not pose any health risks.
Causes of Vitiligo
As mentioned, the cause or causes of vitiligo still remain unknown. With that said, scientists believe that the condition is actually an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease occurs as a result of your immune system attacking your own body instead of what it should actually be attacking. In the case of vitiligo, the immune system may be attacking and destroying the melanocytes present in the skin.
Other studies have introduced other theories as well, regarding the potential causes of vitiligo; although, some of these theories have very little proof to back them up. For example, many experts have traced the condition through family lines, which means that it might be genetic.
Some scientists believe that, instead of an autoimmune disorder, the melanocytes are simply attacking themselves. And then others believe that something as simple as a single sunburn or an emotionally distressing event could cause vitiligo.
Who Can Get Vitiligo?
Generally speaking, it seems that anybody could be affected by vitiligo. People tend to get it in their twenties up until their forties, but the condition could be developed at any age. Overall, people of any race or sex can develop the condition, but it does tend to be more noticeable in people who have darker skin.
It has been noticed that vitiligo often runs in families, so you may be at risk if you have a parent who has been diagnosed with the condition. With that said, it may still be unlikely. It also seems that vitiligo may be connected with certain autoimmune diseases, like hyperthyroidism. If you do have some sort of autoimmune disease, you may be at a higher risk of getting vitiligo.
Symptoms of Vitiligo
The main symptom of vitiligo is the appearance of white patches on the skin. These patches may appear more frequently or more commonly on areas of the skin that are more likely to be exposed to the sun.
Common areas of the skin to feature these white patches include the hands, feet, arms, face, lips, armpits, groin, mouth, eyes, nostrils, and navel. People who have been diagnosed with vitiligo may also experience premature graying of the hair, and people who have darker skin may notice a loss of pigmentation on the insides of their mouths.
Luckily, vitiligo is essentially harmless, and the symptoms of the condition only affect a person’s appearances. With that said, even though the condition may not cause any physical pain, people who have vitiligo may experience emotional or psychological distress due to the appearance of the patches.
On that note, some people have also noted that, after experiencing physical or emotional stress, they developed more white patches on their bodies.
How Does a Doctor Diagnose Vitiligo?
Although the main symptom of vitiligo may be easy to point out and recognize, doctors will still ask several questions and perform tests to be sure that the condition is, indeed, vitiligo. Some of these questions may refer to your family history and medical history, as well as things like recent rashes or sunburns, stress, sensitivities, and other relevant factors. Physical tests to rule out other issues might include a small biopsy, or sample, of the patchy skin, blood tests, and maybe even an eye exam.
How to Treat Vitiligo
Because there are no serious medical symptoms associated with vitiligo, treatments exist only to help make the skin appear less patchy and more of an even color. There are many types of treatments that may be available, and the chosen treatment will depend on the circumstances of your patches and what treatment you might prefer. It’s important to keep in mind that some treatments may cause negative side effects, and they may also take a long time to work (if they work at all).
Treatments may include medicines, surgical procedures, or other options. For example, you might use a cream on the skin, take a pill, or even use an ultraviolet light on the skin. One medical treatment involves removing the color from the rest of your skin to simply match the color of the white patches caused by vitiligo. You may also choose to use surgical procedures like skin grafts or tattooing of the patches.
Treating Vitiligo with a Good Diet
You may have heard of a vitiligo diet before and wondered what it was. Although scientists haven’t recommended or tested a specific diet to be used in the treatment of vitiligo, there may be some foods you can eat or avoid eating that may help make your condition better. Compared to the other treatment options, the idea of an all-natural, healthy diet is pretty appealing, especially if you have looked at surgical procedures like skin grafts.
The control of vitiligo consists of three focus areas. To start, you should avoid foods that have negative effects on the immune system, since vitiligo has been associated with autoimmune disorders like thyroiditis. You should also avoid foods that contain certain antioxidants, including hydroquinones. These antioxidants are a type of phenol that may destroy your melanocytes or pigment-producing cells.
Finally, you should seek out foods that promote the production of melanin. This should increase the number of melanocytes in your skin and theoretically bring back pigment to the white patches caused by vitiligo. It’s important to note, however, that this would take a long time to develop, and a difference would not be seen overnight.
There are a lot of foods you should avoid if you are attempting to treat your vitiligo with a healthy diet. Oranges and other citrus fruits contain high levels of hydroquinones, which are the antioxidants that attack the pigment cells. Studies have also shown that turmeric may have negative effects on vitiligo as well.
You should also avoid junk food like processed snacks or anything from a fast-food joint. These foods may cause oxidative stress in the body, which means that the cells are destroyed more quickly than they naturally should. By eliminating these junk foods from your diet, you could see slow improvements to your vitiligo.
Luckily, there is actually a long list of foods that you should try to eat more of. The nutrients found in these foods may boost the production of melanin in the body or enhance the melanin that is already there, which could help improve your symptoms.
Some of those foods include whole grains, chickpeas, potatoes, wheat, fenugreek, radishes, beetroot, carrots, spinach, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, dates, figs, mangoes, apricots, and red pepper.
Other foods that you should avoid include prunes, grapes, guava, blueberries, pears, oranges, lemons, melons, milk, buttermilk, cashews, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, soda, fish, and any food that is oily or spicy.
Below is a summary of the type of food you should be eating and those that you are best to avoid.
Food to Eat
Fruit : Although many fruits should be avoided, you can happily eat apricot, mango, figs and dates.
Vegetables : Some of the best fresh vegetables you can eat for vitiligo include : spinach, carrots, beets cabbage, cauliflower, green beans, bitter gours and red chilli.
Food to Avoid
Fruits : Avoid eating the following fruit : oranges, lemons, lime, gooseberries, nectarines, peaches, melons, grapes, guava, papaya, pears, tamarind and watermelon as well as any other fruit rich in vitamin C.
Vegetables : Avoid eating eggplant, green chili, tomato, garlic and onion.
Protein : Avoid eating pork, beef and most fish.
Dairy : Milk, buttermilk and curd.
Drinks : Avoid carbonated or sweetened drinks and pre-packaged fruit juices as well as fresh fruit juice rich in vitamin C. Also stay clear of alcoholic beverages and coffee.
Spices – Turmeric
Other Food to Avoid : Processed foods, packaged or canned food, oily food, spicy food and chocolate.
Other Home Treatments for Vitiligo
Before attempting to use any at-home treatment to ease your symptoms of vitiligo, you should speak with your doctor first to be sure that your treatment choice won’t interfere with any medications or health issues.
There are many different supplements you could take that might help treat vitiligo symptoms. For example, tyrosine, an amino acid, helps in the production of melanin, which means that L-tyrosine supplements could be beneficial. B vitamins also help in the production of melanin, so a B-complex supplement may also be good for you.
Copper, a mineral, may also help the body produce more melanin. Other supplements you might want to look into are ginkgo biloba, zinc, and selenium. Vitamin D is a nutrient that is commonly deficient in many typical diets today, so a supplement for that couldn’t hurt either. Some studies have even shown a link between vitiligo and low levels of vitamin D in the blood.
Ginkgo biloba is an especially interesting natural remedy since research has already demonstrated its potential. Ginkgo is best-known for its natural anti-inflammatory benefits and is a popular remedy for circulatory issues. One trial set out to examine the effects of the herb on people with vitiligo and found that 10 of the participants regained some of their normal skin color. (1)
You might also speak to a holistic healthcare practitioner to explore natural treatment options that may be considered to be more “obscure.” For example, Psoralea seeds could be soaked in ginger juice and applied to the patches.
Tamarind seeds, radish seeds, basil leaves, lime juice, babchi seeds, khel fruit extract, goose foot, and neem juice are all other natural substances that some have said may help in the at-home treatment of vitiligo symptoms. A holistic healthcare practitioner would be able to better advise you regarding which herbs and substances would be suitable for the benefits you’re looking for, as well as the right methods of application to help achieve those results.
Frequently Asked Questions
What age does vitiligo start?
Vitiligo can begin at any age however it typically appears for the first time in between the age of 20 and 30. The condition is characterized by white patches that often begin on the face, forehead, neck, elbows, knees or hands but can then spread over the entire body.
Is it vitiligo curable?
There are various medical options when it comes to the treatment of vitiligo. These include topical creams, pills and ultraviolet treatment. However, treatment may take several years and there is no guarantee that your skin will return completely to its normal color.
Is vitiligo an autoimmune disease?
Experts believe that vitiligo is one of many autoimmune diseases. These include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Type 1 diabetes. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system effectively attacks itself. In the case of vitiligo, it is the melanocytes or the cells responsible for pigmentation that are affected.
Is vitiligo is painful?
Vitiligo can be embarrassing and can affect a person’s confidence but it is otherwise considered physically harmless. Some people say that the condition causes irritation and mild pain but the majority of people feel nothing.
Can a diet help treat vitiligo?
There is no hard, scientific evidence to prove that a healthy diet can help treat vitiligo. However, because it is an autoimmune condition, it is definitely prudent to follow a healthy diet rich in beta-carotene, phytochemicals and other natural antioxidants. A good diet can boost your body’s immune system and may help bring natural color back to your skin.
- Vitiligo is a condition that causes white patches of skin anywhere on the body. It is believed to be an autoimmune condition.
- Other potential causes of vitiligo are mineral deficiencies, stress and exposure to chemicals.
- There are a number of treatment options but they can take months or years to work.
- Depigmentation of the skin is not painful but can cause emotional issues including depression and social anxiety.
- There are a number of potential home remedies including lifestyle changes and herbal remedies.
- Dietary changes can help boost the immune system and may help restore pigmentation. Unfortunately there is no firm scientific evidence that it will work.