I have often read that #stress can be a trigger for vitiligo and used to find this concept rather mystifying. Of course, it stands to reason that stress is likely to weaken the immune system and therefore increase the likelihood of developing a variety of illnesses. But why should it be linked to vitiligo in particular?
Somewhere in the back of my mind was the idea that a sudden shock or trauma can somehow supernaturally turn a victim's hair pure white overnight (which could, in theory, happen at the follicular level, but of course it wouldn't become visible until the roots had grown through!). But, as far as I know, this urban myth makes no mention of #white patches on the skin. In any case, a sudden shock isn't quite the same thing as stress, which tends to be a protracted state of nervous tension caused by some relentless daily pressure. Although some people are generally luckier in life than others, all of us suffer periods of intense stress at some time or another. So why do some develop vitiligo when most do not?
I believe the answer to this question is that some people have a predisposition to digestive problems and these weaknesses in the digestive system are highly sensitive to stress. Stress, especially prolonged periods of it, acts like a trigger to poor digestion and malabsorption which, in turn, leads to a toxic colon and nutritional depletion. This not only weakens the immune system but also results in a variety of symptoms and syndromes, like IBS, chronic fatigue, a variety of allergies and auto immune conditions ... and vitiligo.
This being the case, it is obviously good advice for those with poor digestion to remove as much stress from their lives as possible. But, sadly, stress is rarely optional. We don't have total control over the ups and downs of life and some people are better than others at controlling their emotional response to them. In fact, I have sometimes noticed that the more I suppress my emotional response to stress, the more my innards seem to absorb the effects. So, while I am busy putting a brave face on things on the outside my stomach is even busier bloating and cramping on the inside!
The best advice of all, therefore, is to protect and strengthen the digestive system so that it is better equipped to cope with stress and also replace lost nutrients to enable the body to recover from the ravages of malabsorption.
My personal experience supports this conclusion completely. Having suffered from "tummy troubles" ever since I was a baby I started developing vitiligo from a very early age. This continued to spread throughout my life (and with it, so did the IBS symptoms, arthritis, chronic fatigue and allergies.) By the time I was 50 the white patches covered 80% of my body and my general state of health was poor. Interestingly, up until that point, I had suffered no more stress than the average person (but I was always aware of that my digestion was the first thing to suffer in stressful situations). I then was fortunate enough to discover an effective nutritional treatment and regained virtually all of my lost pigment over a period of 1 - 2 years. My dramatic re-pigmentation (and corresponding better general health) has proved permanent despite the fact that the last couple of years have been the most stressful of my life! This proves to me that the key to curing my vitiligo was in fact not the avoidance of stress (desirable though that may be) but the correct nutrition to protect, heal and replenish my damaged digestive system.
Image courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Thanks to everyone who flagged up that the chart I posted yesterday was too small to read. I'm not sure if this version will be much better until I publish it live - but hopefully it will be. If not, please feel free to ask me to email you the original :)
One of my vitiligo contacts sent me this chart and gave me permission to share it (thanks, R.S.). It is the result of a lot of painstaking research on his part and backs up much of the knowledge I too have gleaned over the years from reading up on the subject and from my own health-related experiences. This flow chart is a great way of making a complex picture much easier to grasp.
Basically, it illustrates what R.S. and I - and many others too - believe to be the truth behind the familiar set of vitiligo "facts" that most conventional doctors and websites trot out in isolation. Modern western medicine is notorious for not taking a holistic approach. It treats vitiligo as a skin disease and tries to treat the white patches externally. This chart backs up my own conviction that vitiligo is in fact a symptom (often accompanied by many others, like chronic fatigue, IBS, arthritis, etc.) of an underlying systemic problem - namely, a digestive disorder.
If asked to draw their own chart, most practitioners of conventional western medicine would probably include most of the same items as on the chart above, but without the arrows! In my opinion, vitiligo treatment has suffered more than most other areas of medicine from a lack of joined-up thinking. It has long been linked with certain other conditions, like thyroid disease and diabetes and it is often described as an auto-immune disease. But few doctors seem to consider the possibility that even these conditions are not the root cause, but rather the result of a faulty digestive system - a link in a chain of events that starts with malabsorption of food and ends in vitiligo and other symptoms of poor health.
If you have vitiligo, I recommend you use this chart to hunt down both the root and the route to your loss of pigment. The more knowledgeable you can become about this, the better chance you have of treating yourself successfully, as I have done.
Back in 2010 - before I re-pigmented - this is what my legs looked like under a Wood's Light. They are now 99% re-pigmented (and a bit slimmer too, I'm glad to say - ha,ha!)
Most of the hairs on the white patches used to be white too but have regained their original colour as the pigment returned to the skin. Nothing unusual in that, of course.
What is strange though is that the hairs in some of the white patches (mainly on the thighs) used to only grow to a fraction of their normal length and then stop, so they felt raised and almost like stubble. But as the pigment returned to the skin, the hairs grew longer and softer again. They are now completely normal again, just like the skin colour.
I wonder if any other vitiigo sufferers have the same experience of stunted hair growth on their white patches?
Just spotted this great video from TheNickFever. I'm really excited to see someone else successfully using natural green foods to treat their vitiligo. Well done, Nick! Thanks for sharing your experience of how putting a high quality daily dose of leafy greens and other antioxidant-rich veg and fruit into your diet can actually help you to re-pigment (as well as improve your general health and mood). This definitely confirms my view that the green superfoods I have been using for the past 4 years were directly responsible (along with a couple of other aspects of the natural treatment that I have described on my site) for restoring virtually all of my lost pigment - which had previously covered 80% of my body - and for preventing my vitiligo from returning. If you take a look at the 21 ingredients in the superfood blend I use, Five a Day+, you will see some similarities with Nick's recipe but you will also find a lot of even richer sources of antioxidants and key enzymes that you could throw into your juicer too... or simply do what I do and use a ready-made organic blend because - let's face it - being able to source so many ingredients and get really fresh organic produce and then juicing it each and every day of your life can be a challenge... it's not always easy being green!!
An estimated 2% of the world’s population will be ecstatic if the answer to this question proves to be yes. There is no doubt that one of these years (and it’s getting sooner all the time!) researchers will come up trumps and the answer will be yes. But until that day comes it’s up to each of us to take responsibility for dealing with our white patches in the way that is most effective for us.
As far as I can see, there are only 3 constructive approaches to take:
1. Simply come to terms with the fact that you have a two-tone skin and get on with living and enjoying life;
2. Take positive action to find an effective treatment for you;
3. Do both 1. and 2. at the same time … that’s certainly the option I would recommend and it’s the one that has worked for me.
Personally, I don’t see any benefit in putting your life on hold and being miserable until you are cured (yes, I know from personal experience that avoiding this trap is easier said than done). But neither do I see the point in ignoring the fact that there are plenty of therapies out there that offer partial or even total success. My own story is proof of that. So my advice to my #vitiligo friends is to move forward on both fronts: enjoy your life as if your vitiligo did not exist but also do whatever is in your power to restore your skin to full health. That’s sure to be a win-win outcome :)
A vitiligo blogger since 2011. My name is Caroline. I had vitiligo for nearly 50 years before finding an effective treatment. I created this blog to share my experiences with others affected by this skin condition.