- Best Results5-12 months
- Treatment RecoveryNA
- Procedure TimeNA
- Skin SpecialistDermatologist, dietitian
- Duration of ResultsLong term
- Back to WorkNA
Dietary changes can make a huge difference in some skin conditions including acne, dermatitis (herpetiformis), psoriasis & more. Simple dietary modifications & supplementation can be considered as adjunctive therapy if you have vitiligo. Read more to understand.
FactsFacts on the Vitiligo Diet
- Diet can make a difference in many skin conditions
- Though the evidence is divided, dietary restrictions & supplementation is sensible
- Vitiligo patients should eat foods high in antioxidants
- Antioxidant food groups include seeds, legumes, green vegetables & grains
- Pro-inflammatory foods should be avoided
- Supplements can be considered
Does diet make a difference?
Whilst there is no scientific evidence that specific dietary modifications can cure vitiligo, diet & lifestyle choices can improve skin & nutritional health. This statement is based upon scientific data & controlled trials. I do encourage the vitiligo diet because-
- It is banal.
- It lowers blood pressure.
- You will lose weight.
- It reduces the chances of cardiovascular events like stroke & heart attacks.
- It may psychologically help you with vitiligo treatment.
What foods to eat & avoid?
Read more to understand. I have divided the diet into 3 simple steps. Namely;
- Foods rich in antioxidants (what to eat)
- Foods that may cause inflammation (what not to eat)
- Supplements that may help.
Why are antioxidants important & how to supplement?
Oxidative stress is thought to be one of the key causes of vitiligo, hence in theory, a diet rich in antioxidants may be helpful.
Vegetables, fruits, nuts, & fish are high in antioxidants. A good rule of thumb for eating enough antioxidants is to eat as many different coloured fruit and vegetables as possible. Foods high in omega-3 could also help improve your symptoms. These include oily fish, nuts, & seeds. A plant-based diet has been shown to be very high in antioxidants. Another favourite is green tea.
Antioxidant supplements include vitamin C, E, ginkgo, Coenzyme Q 10, & resveratrol.
Topical antioxidants include tocopherol & ferulic acid. Though vitamin C is one of the most potent antioxidants, do not put it on vitiligo areas as it also suppresses the formation of pigment. Oral ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is fine.
What food groups are pro-inflammatory?
It is thought that by suppressing inflammatory food groups, the progression of vitiligo can be reduced. Whilst there is no direct clinical evidence, the diet itself is banal. As a guide.
Inflammatory foods include:
- processed meats
- Carbonated drinks
- saturated fats, found in fried foods
- white bread
- soybean oil & vegetable oil, use olive oil instead
- processed & refined foods
- excessive carbohydrates
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What is the evidence with gluten?
One case study on a vitiligo patient found that following a gluten-free diet resulted in substantial re-pigmentation after 9 months. One reason for the improvements in this patient could be because gluten is pro-inflammatory.
So, is there merit to this, or is it a crock of sh*t? I suspect that the extreme minority will improve. Dermatologists know that cutting out gluten can improve many skin conditions including dermatitis herpetiformis, psoriasis, & acne. If you cut out gluten & your vitiligo re-pigment, that is one less person that requires drugs. Note, a gluten free diet is really hard to follow, ideally if you want to be 100% accurate, see a dietician.
Disclaimer: In the context of gluten, for a diet to actually work, you need to cut out all forms of gluten, hence the term gluten free, not gluten reduction. To understand more about the extremes of this diet, visit the celiac society websites. This group takes gluten sensitivity seriously.
What natural supplements can you take?
Don’t spend money on downloading eBooks or special orders for supplements. I will spell it out for you. Most supplements can be found in any pharmacy. Look for the following-
Vitamin C: is ascorbic acid. This should not be put on vitiligo areas, but taken orally as a vitamin. In this context it acts as an antioxidant. If you put it on your skin, it acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor. This is the exact opposite of what it is supposed to do.
Vitamin B12: is easy to supplement. Some cases of vitamin deficiency are associated with autoimmune disorders, namely pernicious anaemia.
Vitamin E: can be taken orally or applied to patches of vitiligo. It acts as an antioxidant, reducing free radicals & damage to pigment cells.
Vitamin D: is probably the most useful & studied vitamin. It can be used on the skin (calcipotriol) or taken as a supplement. A good starting point is 150% of the RDI.
Ginkgo Biloba: Some good studies published in the BJD over 15 years ago. Acts as an antioxidant, it is more useful in stopping the spread of vitiligo, rather than re-pigmentation.
Green tea: can be bought in any supermarket. Drink it. It’s good for you.
How soon does it take for diets to work?
About 4-8 months. The physiology of pigmentation is the same, regardless if it is diet, supplementation, phototherapy, creams & immunosuppressives. Pigment can only come from three places, & it sure doesn’t come in a jar that your naturopath mixed.
Firstly, melanocytes that escaped the immune system attack are usually found in the base of hair follicles. Hence, if your diet is working, one of the very first signs are tiny dark dots.
Secondly, melanocytes can come from the outer border of the vitiligo patch. These pigment cells make snails look like Usain Bolt. This means migration of melanocytes is really, really, really slow.
Thirdly (this is my real job), I harvest melanocytes surgically from one area, then spray it on abraded skin. Even with autologous melanocyte transfer, it takes over 9 months before pigment is maximal.
What medical treatments can treat vitiligo?
If you are serious about treatment, medical therapy has the highest success rate. I use a combination of creams, & phototherapy to treat vitiligo. The success rate of this treatment is up to 90% (for facial vitiligo). As a guide-
Prescribed creams: include anti-inflammatories & pigment stimulators.
Prescribed phototherapy: is covered under Medicare. Patients undergo 2-3 sessions per week over 20 weeks. Narrowband phototherapy suppresses inflammation & promotes pigmentation.
What to do if you want to go natural & not use prescription drugs?
Hey, I respect that. Hence all the information about naturopathic remedies, supplements, herbs, & diet.
If you really want to give it a shot, phototherapy is a natural treatment. We do not manipulate light, but what we do is to purify one special wavelength at 311 nm. This natural remedy is on Medicare, hence there is no out of pocket fee.
How much are vitiligo treatments?
Australia is one of the only countries that subsidizes vitiligo therapy. Treatments are bulk billed if you have a Medicare card (finally your Medicare contribution & taxes have paid off). Having dermatological treatments for your vitiligo is cheaper than seeing a naturopath. As a guide-
- Phototherapy – no charge.
- Topicals creams- approximately $1.90 per day.
- Supplements- approximately $1.20 per day.
Some creams are available on the PBS, meaning one tube costs $4-8.
Who to see if you really want to give diet a go?
Book an appointment with a naturopath or a dietician to discuss diets. They can guide you through various food groups, including gluten intolerance.
Davin’s Viewpoint on Diet & Vitiligo
Given the dearth of information on the internet with diet & vitiligo, I do think we need to address this topic. My viewpoint? Go ahead and start. In the absolute worst case scenario, a vitiligo diet will reduce your body fat percentage, reduce cholesterol & blood pressure & reduce the chances of cardiovascular events such as stroke & heart attacks.
Ideally patients should try dietary modification before medical therapy for the simple fact of understanding what works & what does not. If I were to place patients on medical therapy, diet,& supplementation then review in 4 to 5 months, I really do not know what works & what does not. I do understand that patients want to re-pigment ASAP, & hence in many cases, I combine medical, dietary & supplementary therapy concurrently.
One of the most important aspects of dietary modification is alcohol intake. We know that alcohol is one of the most pro-inflammatory molecules. It can create a significant inflammatory response. Hence my advice is to limit this as much as possible, possibly 2-3 drinks a week. Yes, I do know that red wine & grapes are high in antioxidants including resveratrol, however the pro-inflammatory nature of ETOH needs to be considered.
In the context of gluten intolerance & vitiligo, you can give it go. The chances of cutting out gluten making an impact on the course of vitiligo is low. This is based upon probability not possibility. As a dermatologist we know that gluten plays a major role in some skin conditions, for example dermatitis herpetiformis, a variant of coeliac disease in the skin. In the context of vitiligo, this association is loose, however if you really want to give it a go, see a dietician.
Disclaimer: I am a dermatologist, my role is to prescribe medications & phototherapy to patients. Acknowledging diet & the role it has in vitiligo, you may want to seek dietary advice. In some cases I will refer you to a dietician (esp. If you are after a really strict gluten free diet).
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