But natural self-help solutions are my choice until then
I was recently asked by a vitiligo friend on Facebook if I had heard of the drug #Tofacitinib and what did I know about it. I told him that what I had heard made me optimistic that research into definitive vitiligo cures was making significant progress but that we will probably have to wait a few more years until safe medicines have been developed and tested thoroughly. So I decided to elaborate on this here for anyone else who might find the information useful.
I mentioned this drug, in passing, in another post a few weeks ago. But, for those of you who may not have spotted the story at the time, Tofacitinib (brand named Xeljanz) is typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers found that it is also successful in treating alopecia areata (an autoimmune condition that results in hair loss).
Based on this discovery, dermatologists at Yale School of Medicine anticipated that the drug might also be effective against #vitiligo (which, like #rheumatoid arthritis and #alopecia areata, is classified as an autoimmune disease) and tested it on one patient, who responded very well. The patient in question, whose vitiligo almost totally disappeared within the space of 5 months, was reported to have suffered no ill effects from taking the drug. This is obviously encouraging, especially as her hands - an area of the body which is typically difficult to repigment - responded so well. Naturally, this successful result hit the headlines and caused some excitement among the vitiligo community.
Every stride forward in vitiligo research is cause for celebration, as far as I'm concerned. But the Yale researchers were at pains to point out that their results were based on a sample of one patient only and that a lot more studies need to be done on Tofacitinib before the long-term effects of taking it are known, especially since it is the first of a whole new class of drugs.
It's also worth bearing in mind that all drugs have side effects and those listed for Tofacitinib include:
And these are just the most common ones. Some of them are more alarming still (you can see the full list here). The reason I am drawing attention to these side effects is not to frighten the life out of anyone. It is purely to offset the very understandable temptation that presents itself, whenever a breakthrough is reported in the press, to jump on the treatment bandwagon before it has even been road tested.
Reading about this research prompted me to think in more general terms about why a treatment designed for rheumatoid arthritis should be effective for alopecia areata and vitiligo too. Autoimmunity is the obvious common denominator, so it seems likely that the natural remedies that work for one autoimmune disease might also be helpful for others in much the same way as Tofacitinib appears to be, but without the risks.
There are clearly differences between one autoimmune condition and the next but what they do all seem to have in common is inflammation. So it makes sense to me that the best natural treatments to explore if you suffer from an autoimmune condition are those that reduce inflammation inside the body. Creams and other topical treatments can help to reduce inflammation from the outside but, since the autoimmune process is an internal one, it must above all be addressed internally, which is why I believe a nutritional approach is so powerful.
Fresh, organic vegetables and fruits famously possess anti-inflammatory properties, and, for me, supplementing my diet two or three times daily with a green food formulation containing many of the most helpful plant ingredients was a crucial part of healing my defective digestive system so that my body could then use the other nutrients I was feeding it and get to work healing the vitiligo.
The results I had from this approach were dramatic and relatively rapid (if you call 18 months rapid). But I now wonder if the process of repigmenting might have been even quicker if I had been more careful about my food choices. I had always thought of myself as a fairly healthy eater, compared to a lot of people. However, I now realise that those of us with a predisposition to digestive problems and inflammatory responses really cannot afford to rely on the standard western diet to support our health, even if we make a token effort to choose healthy foods whenever the opportunity arises. It now seems to me that we either have to radically change the way we eat or we have to compensate with specific supplements (or, preferably, both - since so much of our "fresh" food nowadays is drastically depleted in nutritional value). So, while the scientists continue to look for a magic bullet that will heal all autoimmune diseases without too many nasty side effects, I shall continue to favour the natural self-help approach that worked for me five years ago and has kept my vitiligo at bay ever since but I shall continue to look for ways of improving this approach further and will keep you posted on whatever I find.
My name is Caroline.