A nutritious, well-balanced, healthy diet is strongly recommended in cases of vitiligo. It is even more important than supplements. It can help balance your immune system and protect you from disease. It will also help recover from skin discoloration by providing essential vitamins & minerals that take part in the process that leads to the formation of new pigment. Recently a group of compounds known as phytochemicals have been the focus of research. They have been proven to protect against cell damage and disease. The following is a list of recognized foods with powerful natural chemicals that will boost your skin capacity to recover and stay healthy. No supplement can substitute a rich diet.
A "vitiligo diet" may include:
Whole-grain food (great source of fibers, vitamins, minerals and "oligoelements").
Spinach (loaded with iron, and folic acid, helps reduce blood levels of homocysteine, a substance that may damage blood vessels. It contains phytochemicals that help prevent degeneration (ex. macular degeneration in the eye) and protect your skin.
Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc. - Contains abundant phytochemicals (good, protective substances found in vegetables and fruits) that may prevent skin cancer and balance the immune response, vitamin C, beta-carotene (it should not be overcooked).
Vegetables of different colors - Each one contains different types of phytochemicals plus vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Different sources of protein (if possible include fish and soy products).
Nuts (if not allergic) - Rich in vitamin E, contain protective phytochemicals and "good fats", all beneficial for your skin.
Oats - Help lower cholesterol and high blood pressure but it also contain vitamin E like compounds (tocotrienols), which protect the skin.
Garlic - Protects the heart and skin, has antibacterial, antifungal properties.
Blueberries - Probably contain more anti-oxidants than any other fruit or vegetables. Contain powerful phytochemicals: anthocyanins that not only protect the skin but boost brainpower including memory.
Green tea - Source of vitamin C and phytochemicals known as polyphenols (100 times more oxidant power than Vit C) plus antibacterial properties, and prevention of cancer and heart disease.
Tomatoes - Contains lycopene, the most powerful antioxidant among the carotenoids. Carotenoids gives fruits and vegetables an orange color. Also a great source of Vit C.
Olive oil - "Good, protective fat", helps absorb beneficial substances in vegetables.
Fruits - Contain different combinations of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants of great benefit for your body in general and very importantly, for your skin.
Enough fluids - No less than 6 glasses of water per day, this simple aspect should not be underestimated regarding its impact on skin protection and recovery.
Supplement your treatment with 7 to 10 servings of fruits or vegetables a day. One serving of a vegetable or fruit is:
- 1 medium sized vegetable or fruit
- ½ cup (125 ml) juice
- ½ cup (125 ml) raw, cooked, fresh, frozen or canned, vegetables or fruits
- 1 cup (250 ml) raw, leafy vegetables
- ¼ cup dried fruit
Vitamin B12 and folic Acid
In patients with pernicious anaemia, vitamin B12 is not available to the body because the substance in the stomach needed for its absorption is not present. Pernicious anaemia is one of the auto-immune diseases associated with vitiligo. There have been occasional reports, in cases where both diseases exist in the same patient, that when the pernicious anaemia is treated by injections of vitamin B12 the vitiligo also improves. Montes noted in his studies of his patients with vitiligo that 10.7% had low levels of vitamin B12 in their blood. This work was done in Argentina where the diet is very different from UK.
Folic acid contains substances which play a role in the pigmentation process. Vitamin B12 and folic acid work closely together. Both are needed to facilitate some biological processes and have been investigated, together, in research projects. One small study (15 participants in all) giving these two nutrients with vitamin C showed some re-pigmentation in half the patients (Montes et al. Cutis 1992; 50:39 - 42). A more recent randomised trial, (Tjioe et al. Acta Derm Venereol 2002; 82:369-372)of 28 patients treated with narrow band UVB for a year showed no added benefit of adding supplementary vitamin B12 and folic acid to the treatment. Another study (Julin L, Olsson MJ. Acta DermVenereol 1997;77;50:39-42) using these two vitamins with solar UV exposure showed an improvement, but the UV exposure was not standardised and there was no control group.
Para amino benzoic acid (PABA)
This is one of the components of folic acid which probably accounts for its apparent effect on vitiligo. It is an ingredient of some sunscreens as it can block some UV light. Although it has been reported to promote repigmentation, this is only in combination with other B complex vitamins. It has been reported to cause vitiligo in one case.
Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid which is found in a normal diet. It may increase the body's tolerance to UVA. There are a few reports of some improvements in patients having UVA treatment when phenylalanine is added. This has improved outcomes and it is suggested that this warrants more investigation.
This is a precursor of vitamin A. In large doses it is deposited in the skin giving it a yellow tint. Some people have used this to colour the very white patches of vitiligo. It does not remain in the skin, so would need to be taken continuously to maintain the colour. In normal amounts in food it has a protective effect against damage by free radicals. Free radicals are toxic waste products produced as a result of a biochemical process in the body. They cause damage to tissue cells and are believed to be implicated in many chronic diseases.
Vitamin D is only found in a few foods such as oily fish, cod liver oil, liver, milk, eggs and foods such as margarine, some milk powders and yogurts and some cereals are fortified with it in the UK. It is vital for bone health and can help to maintain a healthy immune system. About 90% of the requirement of vitamin D is synthesised by the body from the effect of UVB rays on the skin. There has been concern that in people with vitiligo continuous use of sunblock may prevent the body producing the vitamin itself. Most of the vitamin D is formed during the summer and only a small amount of exposure (15 – 20 minutes a day two or three times a week) will provide sufficient as well as body stores for the winter months when sunlight levels are lower. It is best to spread the exposure over the week. There is some debate about how much sun vitiligo patients should have as some is thought to be beneficial
Copper, iron, zinc and calcium all have a role in the pigmentation process. Low levels of zinc and copper have been linked with premature greying hair. Low levels of both minerals have also been found in de-pigmented skin. Iron is also low in de-pigmented skin and has a role in the activation of tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is a copper requiring enzyme and is essential in the pigmentation process.
Recent research has shown the importance of preventing tissue damage by free radicals. It is thought that a good supply of antioxidant nutrients can improve the immune system function and help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease and some cancers. Antioxidants neutralise these free radicals and protect against the damage. This is increasingly seen as an important factor in vitiligo too. The main antioxidant nutrients are vitamins A. C. E. carotene and folic acid, polyphenolic flavanoids and some minerals such as selenium, copper and zinc. Though selenium levels in the British diet have fallen in recent years a study showed that blood levels in vitiligo patients were not low. A recent randomised controlled trial showed that giving antioxidants with narrowband UVB improved the effectiveness of the light treatment.
In the diet has been shown to be reduce the effectiveness of treatment of vitiligo with pseudocatalase in a small study of asian patients who have a significant amount of turmeric in their diet.
There are a few herbs that have been shown to help slow the process of depigmentation and may actually help with repigmentation: Ginkgo biloba, khella and picrorhiza
Standardized Ginkgo biloba (120 mg a day)
Khella extract (120–160 mg)
Picrorhiza (between 400 and 1,500 mg)
Folic acid (1–10 mg per day)
Vitamin C (1,000 mg a day)
Vitamin B12 (2,000 mcg a day)