What part has collagen supplementation played in my repigmentation?
Given that biology and chemistry were among my least favourite subjects at school, it strikes me as ironic that I now spend a significant chunk of my spare time sifting through medical research and actually enjoying the process. My aptitude for science has not increased one iota since school days but my motivation certainly has. A keen desire to learn as much as possible about the likely causes of - and best treatments for - #vitiligo (or #leukoderma) drives me to surf the backwaters of the internet, dredging up the submerged treasures I find there, endlessly hopping from tab to tab, clarifying, defining and cross-referencing the scientific hieroglyphs that float to the surface. This activity often causes me to wish I had studied science instead of humanities at university and leaves me fascinated and frustrated in equal measure.
The reason I mention this is because I want to stress (as I do throughout my website) that I am not remotely qualified to talk with any authority about science or medicine. I am simply someone who has had vitiligo all my life, has stumbled upon a treatment that has worked exceptionally well for me and is now trying to figure out which particular elements of that treatment are the critical ones and, above all, why… as well as whether there are any missing elements that could make the treatment even more effective. This is why I continue to search, ask questions and pose hypotheseses. As ever, I am always glad to receive feedback from anyone affected by vitiligo as well as from anyone whose understanding of physiology is greater than mine (which leaves the field wide open!)
The question I have been asking the omniscient gods of google this week is “what – if any - is the significant relationship between vitiligo and collagen?” This question has been going round in my mind for some time now, partly because collagen is one of the natural substances I have been taking as a supplement ever since I started on the nutritional protocol that led to my repigmentation, and partly because several of my recent internet searches and correspondences have pointed to possible links between collagen and vitiligo that I was not previously aware of. This post will be a bit longer than usual, so please bear with me as I explain my reasons for posing this question.
In case you haven’t read the story of how I went from approximately 80% depigmented to virtually fully repigmented, I achieved this, quite unexpectedly, as a result of trying out several nutritional supplements simultaneously. I had decided to try two supplements (Boost and Bronze) in case they might improve my vitiligo and I also decided to take two more (Five a Day+ and Collagen) in the hopes of improving my health in general, and my poor digestion, chronic fatigue and arthritis in particular. With hindsight, I ought to have tried each of these supplements in turn so that I could identify which ones produced which results. But I didn’t expect to have to be scientific about it. I didn’t really have high hopes for any of the supplements because nothing I had tried previously for any of these chronic symptoms had ever made much difference. To my utter disbelief, my arthritis improved very significantly within just two or three weeks (which I put down to the collagen supplement, since this effect is quite well documented) and to my even greater surprise and delight, I began to get freckles of new pigment in some of my vitiligo patches just a few weeks later (which I attributed to the Boost capsules, because they contain many of the nutrients that are most closely associated with the production of melanin and to the Five a Day+ which is a potent antioxidant and alkaliser). I also noticed a marked improvement in my energy levels (most likely the effect of consuming daily doses of the green “superfoods” contained in the Five a Day+ formulation). And, last and possibly least in terms of unexpected results, I found that the carotenoids contained in the Bronze supplement did what it said they would on the label: they gave my skin a very slightly tanned effect, even my white patches. This had the effect of reducing the contrast between my vitiligo patches and the rest of my skin (which was actually a bit of a surprise because I had expected my normal skin to look darker too and for the contrast to remain much the same).
I won’t repeat the whole story of my continued repigmentation here because it is all on the website. Suffice to say that I was so ecstatic to have found something that was actually reversing my vitiligo, after nearly 5 decades of disappointment and resignation, that I decided to share this experience on the internet so that other people who had been told by their doctors that they “just have to go away and live with it” could take some hope from my story and possibly achieve the same sort of results from trying the same approach too.
I decided to indicate on the site which supplements I thought were responsible for which results, basing this on my own perception, observations and some educated guesswork involving a lot of research on the individual ingredients. My conclusion was (and still is) that – as far as effectiveness against vitiligo is concerned - the key supplements were Boost and Five a Day+. I felt, based on some more online research, that the effectiveness of Bronze was purely cosmetic and probably only suited to individuals with fair skin. And I assumed that the effectiveness of the collagen were limited to my arthritis (although I did also notice a very marked improvement in the quality of my hair, skin and nails too – all of which are evidently commonly reported benefits of collagen supplementation). Of course, if someone wanted to replicate my vitiligo protocol exactly, they would take all four supplements (and add in some regular, moderate sun exposure, which is also part of it). I have been hesitant to suggest this course of action because of the expense involved in adding two products into the equation when I was not convinced that this was absolutely necessary.
However, I am now wondering if collagen was, in fact, part of the reason I achieved such good results. Here is some of the information that has prompted me to consider this possibility:
1. Collagen is the principal structural protein that holds the skin together: the quantity and quality of your skin's collagen is a major factor in the health and appearance of your skin. So it is not unreasonable to consider a possible link between the health of one’s skin and the proper functioning of the collagen present in the skin.
2. This article maintains that collagen damage occurs in vitiligo and that the degradation of collagen may be the result of free radical damage (which is known to be a feature of vitiligo). This would support the theory that my repigmentation was not only due to the extremely high levels of free-radical-fighting antioxidants in Five a Day+ but that the addition of a collagen supplement may have been effective in compensating for collagen damage.
3. Vitiligo is thought to be an autoimmune condition and to occur in greater frequency in patients with another autoimmune disease than in the general population. There are a number of autoimmune diseases (Collagen Vascular Diseases) in which the body attacks its own collagen. So, maybe there is some sort of link there (?)
4. Current research has found an abnormality in vitiligo patients in the basal layer of their epidermis, which is where the melanin-producing cells called melanocytes are found. An abnormality of the collagen molecules in the area of the skin just below the basal layer (in the basement membrane, where the dermis meets the epidermis) can evidently lead to detachment of the melanocytes, resulting in the loss of pigment in sites of trauma (i.e. places on the body that are prone to friction or injury). This would account for what is known as the Koebner response.
I don’t pretend to comprehend all the science behind these four points, so my impression is based as much on intuition as it is on knowledge. But reading about this area of research has led me to believe that collagen supplementation is indeed likely to have been one of the factors involved in my repigmentation.
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.