Vitiligo is a genetic, autoimmune skin disorder in which a loss of skin pigmentation results in white patches on various parts of the body. Current treatments are aimed at stopping or slowing the progression of lost pigment. Manipulating one's diet may be helpful in managing certain skin conditions, such as vitiligo. People with vitiligo may need to follow a special diet to prevent the condition from worsening or to replenish any nutritional deficiencies that may occur.
People with vitiligo may be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals such as B12, folic acid, and zinc, according to the Vitiligo Support International. Before taking any supplements to replenish lost nutrients, try eating foods that are rich in them. Vitamin B12 can be found in meat, dairy products, fish, and shellfish. Folate, the natural form of folic acid, can be found in fruits, dried beans and peas, and fruits. Zinc can be found in beef, shellfish, nuts, and legumes.
Because vitiligo is emotionally discomforting for people with the condition, alternative treatments that aid in skin repigmentation often are sought. Supplementation with ginkgo biloba may improve repigmentation because of its free radical quenching abilities, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Another natural supplement is L-phenylalanine, an amino acid, that when combined with ultraviolet light exposure may cause repigmentation. Since these treatments are not well studied, consult with your doctor before taking either supplement.
Food to avoid
In cases where pigment loss is widespread and severe, bleaching (depigmentation) of the remaining pigmented patches may be done with hydroquinone, according to the Merck Manual Online Medical Library. Since hydroquinone also is present in some food, it may worsen the light skin patches of people with vitiligo if consumed. Blueberries, pears, wheat, and coffee all contain this natural depigmenting agent.
People with vitiligo may be deficient in stomach acid production, a condition known as hypochlorhydria or achlorhydria, according to the JFK Medical Center. Without a proper amount of stomach acid, people may have a difficult time breaking down and digesting food. Some doctors prescribe betaine hydrochloride as a supplemental source of hydrochloric acid.
It is important to remember there is no simple nutritional answer to vitiligo that is well supported by scientific data. Since it is an autoimmune disease, a focus on establishing a healthy diet is important. A diet with a good supply of nutrients that promotes healthy skin may aid in the pigmentation process. Because people react differently to diet or lifestyle modifications, consult with a health care professional skilled in nutritional and natural therapies to choose an optimal plan for you and your condition.