More crucial than I realised
In last week's blog I was full of the joys of spring and looking forward to sunnier weather ahead (I live in hope). This week continued thoughts of sunshine have led me back to a subject I explored exactly a year ago: #vitamin-D, the “sunshine vitamin”, so called because exposure of bare skin to UVB rays is one of only two principal ways of topping up this essential vitamin (the other way being #supplementation).
In the first of two blog posts on the subject last April I described how my doctor had recommended I sit in the sunshine for 20 minutes a day to top up my depleted vitamin D levels. This was one of the pleasantest prescriptions I have ever had, although an all-expenses-paid trip to Mauritius would have been even better. This was the first and only time any conventional medical practitioner has ever even mentioned vitamins to me and I have always had the distinct impression that nutrition hardly features at all in modern medical training. However, vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in an ever-growing list of diseases that are putting an increasing strain on the health system, which may explain why it seems to be one nutrient that is taken seriously by doctors. And this is not surprising when you consider the unique status of vitamin D: it is not just a vitamin, but also a neuro-regulatory, steroidal hormone that influences nearly 3,000 of the 25,000 different genes in the body.
Alarmingly, most of the population is thought to be deficient in vitamin D because they do not have enough sun exposure, whether due to lifestyle or climate (or even over-use of sun protection products), and should be taking vitamin D supplements since it is not possible to get enough from diet alone. #Vitiligo sufferers generally have an even greater deficiency of vitamin D than the general population and low levels are also observed in patients with other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. So my conclusion was that supplementation is even more important for those of us with a predisposition to vitiligo and autoimmunity.
What I didn't fully understand a year ago, when I was researching this topic, was that the significance of vitamin D to vitiligo goes beyond the fact that deficiency has been linked to this and to other autoimmune conditions. It goes beyond the fact that it acts as a powerful antioxidant combating the oxidative stress that is known to play a part in the depigmentation process. In fact, vitamin D has such a pivotal role in the tanning process that if it is not present in the skin it becomes impossible for calcium to perform its function of regulating the skin's pigmentation cells.
This scientific paper Vitamin D and the skin: Focus on a complex relationship: A review contains a section about vitiligo (you will need to scroll about a third of the way down the page) which states:
Vitamin D protects the epidermal melanin unit and restores melanocyte integrity via several mechanisms including controlling the activation, proliferation, migration of melanocytes and pigmentation pathways by modulating T cell activation, which is apparently correlated with melanocyte disappearance in vitiligo.
The authors go on to describe the various ways in which vitamin D is believed to provide protection against vitiligo, although these are not yet fully understood and their implications for a vitiligo cure are still not yet completely clear.
The science behind this topic is obviously very complex and still being researched. But what is clear to me at this point is that vitamin D supplementation has to be highly recommended for anyone with vitiligo and that, whilst supplementation may or may not restore lost pigment on its own, allowing a vitamin D deficiency to continue seems like a sure way to make your vitiligo – and your general health – much worse.
The supplements I used to repigment my vitiligo contain vitamin D as part of a broader formulation but not in the amounts necessary to correct a specific vitamin D deficiency, so I have added some vitamin D supplements to Vitiligo Store which I can personally recommend. One is in tablet form and is works out incredibly inexpensive to use since one bottle has enough tablets to last a year. The other comes in both adult and children's formulations and is a spray. Although this second option costs a little more per dose than the tablets, it offers a perfect solution for anyone with digestive problems. Because the vitamin D is sprayed under the tongue and absorbed straight into the blood stream it by-passes the digestive system so none is lost through malabsorption and there is no risk of side effects (constipation being one that some people report when taking vitamin D orally). It also provides an option for children.
My name is Caroline.