What is Vitiligo?
Identified over 2,000 years ago in Ayurveda medicine, vitiligo is an autoimmune condition where pigment-producing melanocytes are destroyed. This creates white patches on the skin that look similar to when a person has experienced a severe sunburn and the skin has peeled away. Vitiligo can occur in those of any age, ethnicity, or sex with about 1% of the world’s population affected by the disease. It can appear across many parts of the body, including the face, hands, legs, and back. Vitiligo can also strike the mouth, nose, genitals, and retina.
There are three types of vitiligo: generalized where patches progress equally on both sides of the body; segmental that typically develops in young children on one side of the body; and localized where the patches progress and spread for a limited amount of time, and then completely stop.
To date, there is no cure. Conventional therapies can range from topical creams to light therapy and even surgery. Because the condition can appear on the face, many with the disorder experience significant self-consciousness, anxiety, and depression. For those with vitiligo, it is important to address any emotional distress caused by the condition through self-care, counseling, and support groups.
Symptoms and Causes
The tale-tell sign of vitiligo is white patches on the skin, but other symptoms may also arise, such as:
- The retinas of the eyes lose their color
- Eyelashes and eyebrows that turn white or gray
- Loss of mucous membrane color
The cause of vitiligo remains a mystery, however certain autoimmune disorders are associated with the condition, such as Addison’s disease, thyroid disease, pernicious anemia, and type 1 diabetes. Stress, exposure to environmental toxins, severe sunburns, and genetics may also play a role in the disease.
The Importance of Diet
Eating a healthy diet is always a good idea, regardless of your health status. But it is especially important for those with an autoimmune disorder. Focus on a nutrient-dense diet with food that is rich in phytochemicals, beta-carotene, and antioxidants. Make sure to consume enough copper, iron, and zinc containing foods or take these minerals as supplements. An anti-inflammatory diet can be exceptionally beneficial. The following foods are reportedly helpful for vitiligo:
- Swiss chard
- Figs and dates
In contrast, certain foods seem to aggravate the condition, including:
- Fruit juice
- Red meat
- Wheat products
Managing the Inflammation of Vitiligo
As with many autoimmune conditions, vitiligo is considered inflammatory in nature. Herbal remedies that are anti-inflammatory and modulate the immune system may be helpful in the treatment of the disorder. One such herb is Vernonia anthelmintica. A 2020 review found that the plant exhibited anti-vitiligo, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties. The team believes that significant levels of phenolic acids, steroids, fatty acids, and terpenes contribute to the beneficial action of the plant.
Ginkgo biloba is another herb that shows promise. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, researchers discovered that those who were given 40 mg of ginkgo biloba three times a day experienced a significant reduction in the progression of depigmentation. The herb was well-tolerated by the participants and appears to be a simple, safe, and fairly effective therapy for the disease.
If you would like to try the following four remedies, visit my apothecary to learn more!
Additionally, the adaptogen ashwagandha may be helpful as it has medicinal compounds that regulate the immune system and calm inflammation. It also has naturally occurring steroids that are beneficial for treating the condition. Likewise, reishi, turkey tail, and lion’s mane medicinal mushrooms are excellent herbal remedies for autoimmune disorders due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Both reishi and turkey tail modulate the immune system as well, which is an important aspect of managing autoimmune disorders.
Since stress and anxiety often accompany vitiligo, it is important to support your emotional well-being. My Anxiety & Stress Tincture can help. It contains a potent blend of calming lemon balm, clarifying lion’s mane, strengthening ashwagandha, and cortisol-taming reishi.
Living Vibrantly with Vitiligo
Needless to say, a vitiligo diagnosis has far-reaching implications that go well-beyond just cosmetic concerns. The condition can impact your self-confidence, mental well-being, and health. But take heart. Many are living vibrant lives with the support of a healthful diet, herbal remedies, and plenty of self-care. And you can too!