... wherever you are in the world
Ever since starting my Vit Pro blog more than five years ago I have enjoyed connecting with #vitiligo-friends all over the world. Thanks to the internet and email, I have been privileged to witness, and participate in, the growth of an inspirational, supportive and compassionate global community of people who are taking their physical and emotional health into their own hands. These people are all affected in some way by vitiligo. In most cases, they have the condition themselves; in others they are concerned for a loved one. What unites them is a shared experience that approximately 99% of the population have never had to contend with: the experience of seeing parts of their skin change colour for no apparent reason and without warning. These are the only people who really know how deeply this particular alteration to a person's appearance can affect their self-image. They are the ones who really understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of other people's curiosity and misconceptions about a skin disorder, which is still so under-researched and under-publicised. It is this community (as opposed to the medical profession, who are so often dismissive of the “non life threatening” complaint ) who have developed coping strategies and even effective treatments for vitiligo and who are happy to share them with each other. They are the ones who are gradually bringing the proud, if patchy, face of vitiligo into the public perception with their posts and blogs and photos and videos and campaigning. Above all, it is this global #community of exceptional people (you are superheroes in my eyes) who freely give mutual support and strength on a daily basis and who, in many cases, are helping others to reclaim their sense of dignity, identity and positivity about their future.
So, to all vitiligo friends around the world, I want to thank you for the courage, wisdom, cheerfulness and hope you have shared with the rest of us over past years and wish you a happy 2016 filled with every blessing you wish for (and I especially wish you a happy New Year if yours is one of the many languages I did not quite have the space, or intelligence, to include in the list below :)
Afrikaans - Voorspoedige nuwe jaar
Arabic - Kul 'am wa antum bikhair
Basque - Urte Berri on
Bengali - Shuvo noboborsho
Chinese (Cantonese) - Sun nien fai lok
Chinese (Mandarin) - Xin nian yu kuai
Czech - Stastny Novy Rok
Danish - Godt NytÅr
Dutch - Gelukkig nieuwjaar
English - Happy New Year
Esperanto - Bonan Novjaron
Finnish - Onnellista uutta vuotta
French - Bonne année
German - Ein glückliches neues Jahr
Greek - Eutychismenos o kainourgios chronos
Hawaiian - Hauoli Makahiki hou
Hebrew - Shana Tova
Hungarian - Boldog uj evet
Indonesian (Bahasa) - Selamat Tahun Baru
Italian - Felice Anno Nuovo
Japanese - Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu
Korean - Sehe Bokmanee Bateuseyo
Laotian (Hmong) - Nyob Zoo Xyoo Tshiab
Nigerian (Hausa) - Barka da sabuwar shekara
Norwegian - Godt Nytt År
Philippines (Tagalog) - Manigong Bagong Taon
Polish - Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
Romanian - La Multi Ani si Un An Nou Fericit
Russian - S novim godom
Samoan - Ia manuia le Tausaga Fou
Spanish - Feliz año nuevo
Swahili - Heri za Mwaka Mpya
Swedish - Gott Nytt År
Thai - Sawatdee Pi Mai
Vietnamese - Chuc mung nam moi
Welsh - Blwyddyn Newydd Dda
The Vitiligo 12 Days of Christmas
As a child I used to lie to Father Christmas each year. When my mother took me to Santa's Grotto and I was asked what I would most like for Christmas, I would reply “a Tiny Tears doll” or some other must-have toy of the day. I was too embarrassed to tell him that what would make me happier than any plaything would be to wake up on Christmas morning to find the white #vitiligo patches on my skin had disappeared. So, for anyone who feels like I did, I dedicate my #Twelve-Days-of-Christmas song to you!
I'm sure you know how the famous cumulative song goes. You start with day one and each time you move on to the next day you add the previous days' gifts too so that each new verse is longer than the last. (The original text above will remind you how it works if you have forgotten.) So I have just listed the days and vitiligo solutions in reverse order so you can construct the song for yourself!
On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me...
Some Boost capsules under the tree.
On the second day ... etc.
Now, find yourself a quiet space somewhere (unless you are a real extrovert) and sing away... it really is best sung aloud!!!
Old wives' tale or valuable autoimmune therapy?
These are questions I have been pondering for the past few weeks and, frankly, I still don't have the answers. But I'd like to share my thoughts so far with you and would be very interested to hear from anyone with their own stories to tell on the subject.
First - in case you have somehow managed to miss the buzz created in the media by “#oil-pulling” - I should start by explaining that it is a very old folk remedy, often used in Ayurvedic medicine for a variety of ailments and latterly popularised by Hollywood stars, notably Gwyneth Paltrow, for its teeth-whitening action. In short, it is both a modern health fad and a natural therapy with centuries of anecdotal success behind it.
But what is it exactly? It is the simple, if rather bizarre-sounding, practice of swishing a spoonful of good quality plant oil (usually cold-pressed, organic sesame, sunflower or coconut oils) around the mouth for a period of 20 minutes - on an empty stomach and without swallowing - then spitting out the residue before rinsing with salted water. The cleansing properties of the oil and the action of swilling and “pulling” it around the mouth and between the teeth are said to draw out germs and toxins leaving the mouth, breath and teeth so clean that even some dentists are beginning to recommend the process as part of (not a substitute for) a good oral hygiene routine.
Additional claims are that regular oil pulling benefits the whole internal system too, improving digestion, elimination, immune function and glandular health, to name a few. It is these claims that particularly interest me in my ongoing search to find and make available any and all therapies that might possibly help support recovery from #vitiligo. But that is not to say that the promise of smoother, whiter teeth and healthier gums wouldn't be a welcome bonus too :)
So, in line with my “tried and tested by The Vit Pro” philosophy, I have been trying coconut oil pulling for myself over the past few weeks to see what difference, if any, it would make to my general (and oral) health. I chose #coconut-oil for two reasons. The first is that coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which is known for being antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal and therefore is preferred over other oils for clearing up candida, which can be a persistent problem for anyone with a malfunctioning digestive system. The second reason is that I am already totally sold on the many and varied uses and health benefits of good quality coconut oil and am always happy if I can make one product work hard for me instead of having to buy umpteen different ones.
What I found
Before I get into whether or not there is a sound scientific basis for oil pulling (a question that, for some reason, seems to have prompted more than a few grumpy, if not downright vitriolic, exchanges on various health forums) I will tell you what I have noticed, so far, after about 3 weeks of oil pulling (skipping the odd day here and there for good behaviour):
So, I would have to put a tick in the “improved oral hygiene” box. But what about any wider health benefits?
Did I notice any side effects?
I have not noticed any other adverse reactions. My only slight concern is that some advocates of oil pulling warn against it if you have amalgam fillings due to the supposed risk of mercury leeching into your body. I do have several of these fillings myself (replacing them with non-amalgam alternatives is on my wish list) and have certainly not suffered any symptoms of mercury poisoning since starting my oil pulling experiment but data on just how real a risk this poses is thin on the ground…Which brings me to the next point…
Is oil pulling just an Old Wives' Tale?
I am inclined to think not. (And, by the way, you have to ask yourself how come those Old Wives got to be that old – I am thinking ancient folk remedies just might have something to do with it!) Feelings on the scientific credibility of oil pulling seem to run exceptionally high. One website I came across absolutely hammers the concept and labels it “leg pulling”, citing the fact that research results supporting the therapy are few in number and don't match up to standard drug company protocols. But, for every scathing opinion like that one there are scores of positive testimonials from people who, in most cases, probably don't care who has the strongest argument for or against: they just want to feel better or look better… and, after oil pulling, they do.
I am not recommending jumping onto every passing health fad band wagon – especially not without asking some commonsense questions first. But I think it makes sense to question, just as carefully, the opinions of those who seek to debunk every claim made by the natural therapy community. Such critics sometimes hide their true motives behind an uber-rational and unnecessarily judgemental, if-it-hasn't-been-double-blind-tested-it-can't-be-effective argument which seeks to dismiss everything that isn't controlled by the drug companies and marketed at great expense to the patient.
It occurs to me that if I had relied on the kind of testing and research that the anti-holistic medicine critics would have us demand from every natural remedy ever discovered I would never have tried the supplements that enabled me to reverse my vitiligo. So my default stance is to be open-minded about folk remedies and not to dismiss thousands of anecdotal successes recorded over hundreds of years as worthless simply because they did not take place in a modern-day laboratory.
So, does oil pulling definitely do what its devotees say it does and is there a sound scientific basis for it? I don't know for sure. There is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence (which, after all, is to medicine what eyewitness testimony is to the legal process) and there is some published research to back it up. The lack of thorough clinical research does not really concern me because this has less to do with the efficacy of the therapy than with the fact that there is no profit motive for any drug company to pay for clinical trials on substances that everyone has in their kitchen cabinet.
My own experience so far has put me firmly in the supporters camp as regards the benefits to oral and sinus health. Whether improved digestion and a resultant reduction in #autoimmunity and further improvements to my pigmentation will follow remains to be seen as these would, I am sure take longer than just three weeks.
With the exception of anyone who might be worried about their amalgam fillings, my opinion is that oil pulling is an easy, inexpensive and safe way of cleansing the mouth and potentially detoxing the body on an ongoing basis. If you suspect that your vitiligo is linked to poor digestion and leaky gut (which can lead to a build-up of toxins in the body, triggering a host of chronic conditions) then you will be as interested as I am in anything that could help as part of a wider vitiligo protocol.
Finally, I would love to hear from anyone who has been oil pulling for an extended period of time and has any results or observations they would be happy to share. As ever, you can contact me via the contact form on this site or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The latest chapter in my henna story
Despite my long history of widespread #vitiligo, I consider myself lucky in that I have never developed random clumps of #whitehair. But I did start to grey quite prematurely in the areas that most people eventually do – i.e. around the temples and at the front hairline – which may or may not have something to do with carrying the vitiligo gene.
It's no secret that life can be unfair. It is a well known fact that some men start to look distinguished with a few flecks of silver in their mane (if they are lucky enough not to go bald first) and some women also manage to carry off that stately, elegant look that can result from strands of platinum streaking artistically through their coiffure. I, on the other hand, do not belong to that happy group of people who grey gracefully. In fact, I belong to that other group that just looks tired, like a drab and faded shadow of their former self! As a result, the past couple of decades have found me either sitting in the salon on a regular basis, having my head plastered with an evil-smelling concoction of hazardous chemicals, or reaching for equally noxious over-the-counter dyes every time those white roots threatened to make a re-appearance.
It wasn't until a gradual increase in scalp irritation prompted me to read up on the ingredients contained in commercial #hair-dyes (even in most of the so-called “natural” hair colourants) that I realised what I was doing to my already vitiligo-compromised skin amounted to madness. Repeatedly dying my hair was exposing my scalp, and my entire system, to an unacceptable and unnecessary toxic load and might be causing more of my hair to lose natural pigment by aggravating vitiligo. So I vowed never to go anywhere near chemical dyes again. Which is how I became a devotee of pure henna powder as the best safe and non-irritant alternative available.
My first experience of henna had pros & cons
I have been using henna bricks from Lush for the last couple of years and been relatively happy with the results. From the moment I stopped using chemical dyes I had absolutely no more scalp irritation whatsoever and, better still, I had peace of mind, knowing that colouring my hair was no longer bringing me into contact with any substances that might trigger new areas of vitiligo. Compared to these benefits, the fact that the grey coverage was not always 100% and the process of applying pure henna was time consuming and very, very messy seemed unimportant and well worth the trade-off. But I have to admit that the palaver of melting and mixing the henna with water in a Bain Marie on the stove, until it was just the right consistency, was a bit of a chore. Trying to get the gritty mixture to cover every individual strand of hair - especially the problem white ones - was tricky and messy too. I then used to have to leave the henna on for nearly 3 hours to stand a chance of getting a dark enough shade on the greys. And, then rinsing it off was a bit like trying to wash clods of dried mud out of my hair, to say nothing of the mess it left behind in the shower.
So my latest henna discovery has come as a welcome relief and something of a godsend to me, which is why I want to share it with you, and why I have added it to the tried and tested solutions available at VitiligoStore.com. Not only is the Surya Brasil range of henna and hair care free from all the nasty chemicals usually found in hair products, but it is quick and easy to use at home, it is inexpensive AND it has actually given my hair superior colour, shine and grey coverage compared to the professional salon permanent colours I used to use.
My latest henna discovery
I found this range when I was researching natural products for inclusion in Vitiligo Store. I was a bit skeptical at first because all the products I had found previously that claimed to be "more natural" than salon dyes whilst delivering similar results did not stand up to scrutiny. These were usually marginally better than most hair dyes, in that they did not contain ammonia and boasted a bunch of natural sounding plant extracts, but they still contained hydrogen peroxide (which is the very last thing anyone with vitiligo needs to apply to their skin) and Paraphenylenediamine (PPD: the same chemical as used for dying fabrics and carpets - and the main cause, in hair colourants, of irritation, allergic reaction and even, occasionally, anaphylactic attacks). So I had more or less given up on finding anything that would improve on the slightly disappointing performance of pure henna without compromising on safety. But then I came across Surya Brasil.
I won't go into all the background on Surya Brasil (green credentials, awards, ingredients, etc.) because I have put all this information on Vitiligo Store so that anyone wanting to do research can find everything there. But what is worth mentioning here is the reaction of my hairdresser the first time I went to him for a cut after using my new hair colour. A very chilled and normally laid back man, not given to being easily impressed, he went into ecstasies over the condition of my hair and couldn't get over the rich tones (I use Chocolate, which really lives up to its name) and the fact that there was no sign of my stubborn greys (and this was at least 2 weeks after I had applied the colour). He even asked me to write down the product details for him so that he could pass them on to his wife who also prefers to use natural products.
I am delighted - as I'm sure you can tell - with the ease of use and the lovely results from using this henna product. But the main thing for me is that it allows me to continue to use an alternative, henna-based hair colour that significantly reduces the risk of my suffering any reversal of my vitiligo recovery as a result of coming into contact with harmful chemicals that might cause skin to depigment.
My name is Caroline.