Lessons in vitiligo nutrition
My story has been one of trial and error, serendipity and good fortune. Widespread #vitiligo and generally suboptimal health had become my accepted norm by the time I reached adulthood and this continued to be my lot in life until the age of 50. Only then did a fairly random set of circumstances lead to a dramatic improvement in my general health and an almost total re-pigmentation. Yet it has taken me the past eight years since that turn-around in my fortunes to figure out some of the science behind my recovery – and I don’t suppose I shall ever stop figuring.
A brief background to my recovery
Back in 2010 I had been working in the beauty industry for several decades and had trade accounts with a number of skin care and cosmetics companies. When also faced with the opportunity to try out some of their high quality nutritional supplements at trade prices, I began taking a number of them myself – more or less experimentally – based on certain assumptions I made at the time about how they might help my various chronic health issues. For example, I started taking Boost capsules in the (not very serious) hope that they might help my vitiligo, given that they were formulated to optimise the body’s ability to acquire a natural sun tan. (The idea seemed logical but I only held out a faint hope.) I started taking Five a Day (a green food formula) believing that it might provide me with a base level of good #nutrition, perhaps compensate for my less than perfect diet, possibly improve my IBS symptoms and help my vitiligo by increasing antioxidant levels. And I began taking collagen supplements mainly because I had read about their therapeutic value for arthritis (and for wrinkles too!).
Of course, the fact that I began taking multiple supplements all at the same time made the task of correlating cause and effect more difficult. It was impossible to be sure which supplements were producing which results or whether, in fact, it was the synergistic effect of two or more of them that resulted in such a revolution in my state of health. But at least the advantage of plunging straight in, all nutritional guns blazing as it were, was that I was able to enjoy all of the benefits sooner than if I had introduced each product more scientifically, one at a time. So, if I had to do it all over again I really don’t think I would have done anything different.
Well, all of this nutritional experimentation did indeed produce the intended results - more than I ever could have hoped. Not only did virtually all of my extensive vitiligo re-pigment over a period of 18 months or so, but my IBS symptoms and arthritis went from seriously debilitating to barely noticeable on good days and just moderately annoying on the dwindling number of bad ones. Yet it was much later that I began to realise that my initial assumptions about the respective roles these various supplements would play had only scratched the surface of the truth. Even now I am still discovering new insights into which ingredients may, in fact, have been responsible for which effects and I am gradually discovering more of the science behind these ingredients and their effects on my body.
Digestive benefits of collagen supplementation
Possibly the most surprising of these discoveries was the fact that the therapeutic effects of #collagen-supplementation are not limited to helping with arthritis, reducing wrinkles and strengthening hair and nails. And, whilst I have always recognised Boost and Five a Day as having had the most direct impact on my re-pigmentation, collagen almost certainly played its part too.
From what I have managed to glean from various research papers and scientific documents, there are some significant links between collagen status and vitiligo. (I blogged previously on these and you will find them towards the bottom of this page.) And, if what I have read on a number of health-related websites is correct, then collagen hydrolysate (the form used for supplementation) apparently also improves #digestion by helping to heal #Leaky-Gut-Syndrome, which is thought to be a major underlying cause of vitiligo and many other chronic and autoimmune conditions.
This site, in particular, has some helpful insights on the subject. Evidently, the digestive benefits of collagen supplementation include the following:
So it may well be that taking collagen supplements contributed more to my recovery than just improving my arthritic hip and making my skin look and feel smoother. It seems more than likely that it also helped, not only with my Irritable Bowel, but also with the re-pigmentation process itself by improving my poor nutritional absorption and, in turn, maximising the effects of the nutrients in my diet and in the other supplements I took.
Now that certainly is (highly nutritious) food for thought!
Re-pigmentation and the meat-free myth
Before I get to the “meat” (sorry) of this article, I need to make a couple of things clear because the last thing I want to do is alienate anyone by my choice of title. Firstly, I am the biggest fan of vegetables you can possibly imagine and I believe that the healthiest diets consist predominantly of plants. Secondly, I am not trying to offend those readers who may eat vegetarian or vegan for religious, or other reasons of personal principle. It is just that I am frequently asked what I believe is the best diet for combatting vitiligo and one of the most frequently asked questions is whether or not you should eat meat. So, this blog is – from a purely nutritional point of view - about that very question. So now, having got the appetiser out of the way, let’s move on to the main course...
Everyone knows that veggies are good for you
Everyone on the planet must know by now that eating lots of veggies is good for you. That is not even up for discussion and, besides, I have blogged my socks off on that subject over the past few years so I won't repeat myself.
Not only does common sense tell us that this is true, but so do the health professionals, the scientific studies, the medical journals and even the history books, not to mention the billions of personal experiences shared, and blogs written, on the subject every day. Perhaps, most influential of all, is the testimony of our own bodies, which have a tendency to tell us loud and clear whether or not the food we are consuming day in and day out is giving us the right fuel to keep everything working as it should.
None of this will be news to your ears. Nutritional awareness has probably never been as widespread as it is now, thanks to the internet and our all-encompassing 24 hour global media. Yet nutrition is much like the legal system, only back to front. Just as ignorance of the law is no defence, knowledge of nutrition is no protection – unless, of course, you apply it. As the Chinese proverb says: “To know and not to do is not to know”.
For the average person in today’s well-informed society there is really no convincing excuse for not choosing a predominantly healthy diet over a predominantly unhealthy one. But things are a lot more confusing for those of us with #digestive-disorders or who suffer from chronic conditions like #vitiligo. The dietary guidelines that we need to follow in order to heal ourselves, and then maintain optimum health, may be very broadly the same as for everyone else but, it seems, there are some significant differences.
Why eating right is different for vitiligo
Too little scientific investigation has gone into the nutritional treatment and management of skin conditions – and vitiligo languishes, as ever, at the bottom of the research pile.
Of the conclusions reached, some are credible and backed by scientific knowledge, anecdotal experience or good old common sense. Others are debatable and some seem downright contradictory, as in the case of turmeric for example.
So, unless some solid, comprehensive research is conducted into diet and vitiligo, the sum of our knowledge on the subject will remain a small core of well-supported facts, surrounded by a thick (but useful, nevertheless) cocoon of anecdotal experience and educated guesswork, much of it conflicting and confusing.
In my opinion, the small core of factual knowledge we can rely on would include such indisputable advice as the importance of eating plenty of fresh vegetables, cutting out overly processed foods, reducing excess salts and sugars and drinking plenty of pure water instead of fizzy sodas and alcohol.
The thick cocoon would include, for example, advice on which types and quantities of fruits are good for someone with vitiligo. And it would definitely include the question of whether eating meat helps or hinders vitiligo recovery.
To meat or not to (m)eat?
Whilst there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the healthiest meats are unprocessed, organic, high quality and should make up no more than 20% of your food intake, I can find very little to suggest that a diet without meat is in any way nutritiously superior or even at all helpful to vitiligo sufferers. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Most healthy vegetarians remain healthy because they understand the need to consume vegetable sources of protein and supplement with vitamin B12, and its co-nutrients, to compensate for the absence of meat in their daily diet. But for those of us looking to improve a skin condition by changing our diet, it is not unusual for meat to be simply removed from the menu without such nutritional requirements being taken into account. This oversight is likely to be all the more damaging because the amino acids produced from eating protein are absolutely vital to skin health. And also because there is a well-established link between vitiligo and vitamin B12 deficiency. In addition to B12 deficiency, a lack of vitamin D is common to most vitiligo sufferers, so cutting out fish from the diet (as most vegetarians do) would carry an additional risk of making the condition worse.
Why do some people think avoiding meat helps?
If all the available facts suggest that cutting out meat is more likely to make vitiligo worse instead of better, how can it be that some people claim it helps them? I certainly don't doubt their experience. I am a great believer in the power of anecdotal evidence. My own story of recovery from vitiligo is a good example - it is based entirely on personal experience. If I had waited until scientists somewhere had conducted double blind placebo research into the effectiveness of each ingredient in the supplements I used to reverse my vitiligo before using them, I would still be waiting. And so would a lot of other people who have benefited from my anecdotal evidence. So I am a big fan of learning from the experience of others.
However, I wonder if the belief among some people in the benefits of a vegetarian diet for vitiligo have less to do with the relative nutritional values of a vegetarian versus a non-vegetarian diet and more to do with the fact that meat is harder to digest than fruit and vegetables and therefore aggravates the problems with nutritional absorption experienced by those of us with impaired digestive systems? This would explain why some individuals notice a slight improvement in their symptoms when they avoid hard-to-digest foods.
I would say that the link between poor digestive absorption and vitiligo straddles both of the categories I mentioned earlier (i.e. established fact and anecdotal experience / educated guesswork). I, for one, am utterly convinced it was at the heart of my own vitiligo and it is something that countless other vitiligo sufferers have shared with me over the past 7 years. And the relationship between digestive abnormalities, "leaky gut" and autoimmune conditions (including the serious vitamin B12 deficiency known as pernicious anaemia) is well known.
You might think that all of this is reason enough to stick to a vegetarian diet after all. But that might (if you are not careful about it) be a case of choosing good absorption of insufficient nutrients over poor absorption of sufficient ones: a classic case of Hobson's Choice. Neither option is likely to heal vitiligo. What we really need, of course, is to eat a diet that contains ALL the nutrients our body needs AND be able to digest and utilise them properly. This is why, I believe, a healthy diet plus a combination of appropriate nutritional supplementation and digestive support are so effective in treating vitiligo.
What worked for me... and what I recommend to others
The combination of nutritional supplementation and digestive support I used for my recovery consisted of two main supplements: Boost capsules (containing the nutrients most closely associatied with the tanning process) and Five a Day super-green foods (containing the broad nutritional support, plant protein and powerful antioxidant levels of concentrated vegetables). Because these supplements - combined with regular, moderate sun exposure, resulted in such dramatic re-pigmentation, this is what I recommend to others who want to treat their vitiligo naturally. And to those vitiligo sufferers who ask me about diet, my best advice, based on all of the above, is that a predominantly clean diet, consisting mainly of fresh vegetables, some fruit and (preferably) modest portions of quality meat and fish (or alternatively vegetarian or supplemental protein, vitamin D and B vitamins) is likely to be the best way of supporting a successful re-pigmentation protocol.
as effective therapy for vitiligo
There was a time when any #vitiligo patient who dared mention the word “vitamin” in the presence of their doctor would have earned themselves a patronising smirk and a dismissive assertion that “no evidence exists to show #nutritional-supplementation has any effect on the condition whatsoever”. Sadly, that time is not yet firmly in the past. But I fervently hope, and believe, that an excellent new publication called “The Use of Vitamin Therapy for the Treatment of Vitiligo” will help to consign this kind of reaction to history.
The woeful ignorance of most mainstream doctors on the subject of nutritional therapy for vitiligo was clearly a key motivation for the book's author, Audrey VanStockum @Recouleur. As she explains in her preface, she suffered with vitiligo and psoriasis for years, was misdiagnosed for both conditions and visited a total of 23 clinicians over a 14 year period in her search for answers to her skin problems. She realised that her negative experience highlighted “a paucity of information and specialized training” and it puzzled her that so few healthcare providers seemed to have any knowledge of effective vitiligo treatments, even though published research on the subject - dating as far back as 1945 - was openly available. Her frustration at this state of affairs led her to start doing her own research into the subject of nutritional therapy, trying various vitamin and mineral supplements herself and observing her responses. Her wide reading on the subject and experiments in self-treatment resulted in some re-pigmentation and, ultimately to the creation of her own dietary supplement called Recouleur.
Audrey's expertise in the area of nutritional therapy is a wonderful example of how frustration can sometimes be the mother of invention. The idea that we need to take responsibility for our own vitiligo treatment is a familiar one for many of us because we too have repeatedly met the same brick walls when trying to find constructive help from the medical community. Like Audrey, some of us will have wondered why our doctors have apparently never come across any of the research that we ourselves may have seen whilst trawling the internet for solutions and why it is that they are so resistant to the suggestion that nutritional therapy should be prescribed for vitiligo. In fact, I have sometimes advised vitiligo friends to avoid the subject of food and supplementation completely when visiting their doctor because I could predict the likely reaction and did not want anyone to rain on their parade. My view was that the proof of the pudding was in the re-pigmentation that people were achieving through supplementation and that trying to persuade the medical profession to recognise these successes was futile. But that was because it was not a straightforward matter to have the relevant research at one's fingertips during the typical doctor-patient consultation. Well, that was before Audrey's new publication, which – in addition to its main aim of informing vitiligo sufferers themselves - could also easily be used as a way of presenting their doctors with the nutritional facts, all in one well researched and clearly written 40-page booklet.
One of the strengths of “The Use of Vitamin Therapy for the treatment of Vitiligo” is, in my opinion, the fact that it strikes the perfect balance between scientific detail and simple explanation so that it makes suitable reading for anyone, regardless of whether they have a scientific background or not – and regardless of their prior understanding of vitiligo. The author assumes nil knowledge of the subject, explaining what vitiligo is and the processes thought to be involved in its development. She then reviews key vitamins and minerals used by the body to produce skin pigment and describes the role played by each one, as well as the adverse effects of deficiencies. And, crucially, she backs up all of the information with relevant research studies. As I read through the book, I found references that I had not come across before, as well as some that I had seen but had since lost sight of in the vastness of the internet. So, it was extremely useful to have such a comprehensive overview of the subject and its associated literature all in one place and set out in such a clear and concise way.
I also found myself saying (aloud) “YES!!!” when I read the chapter on what Audrey has termed “The Three-Prong Approach” to vitiligo treatment because her view on this makes total sense and resonates with my own thoughts exactly. This approach states that that the most effective vitiligo therapies involve one component from each of the following categories:
In this way, the condition is being addressed from the inside out as well as the outside in and is benefiting from UV exposure (nature's way of stimulating pigment) as well as active, therapeutic ingredients (to treat the condition).
In my experience, most doctors only ever try to treat vitiligo “from the outside in” (i.e. they might use one, or both, of categories 2 and 3). Many do not even advocate any treatment at all because they claim that improvements are minimal and, at best, temporary. However, I am convinced that this is because they omit category number 1. They neglect to include nutritional therapy in their treatments. It stands to reason that external therapies may help treat skin symptoms but only internal ones can hope to address the root cause and prevent symptoms from recurring over the longer term.
The medical profession has been slow to pick up on the findings of research done as long ago as the 1930s and 1940s that clearly pointed to digestive deficiencies as being at the root of vitiligo. Audrey VanStockum draws on the findings of this research, further supported by anecdotal evidence of vitiligo sufferers whose pigmentation improved with improvements to their diet.
There is no question in my mind that correct nutritional #therapy can reverse vitiligo. Audrey and countless others (including myself) are living proof of the fact. But our modern health systems are heavily biased toward pharmaceutical and surgical solutions, no doubt because these are the areas of research that tend to receive the most funding. Concepts of healthy eating and nutritional supplementation as a means of restoring health receive very little serious attention and therefore do not produce the amounts of clinical research data demanded nowadays by the medical establishment. This is frustrating but perhaps it is understandable. Sophisticated drugs, stem-cell therapies and ground-breaking surgical procedures are needed for all kinds of life-threatening conditions that afflict the human race and they are super-expensive to develop. So this is where the funding tends to go. (And, if we want to be cynical about it, these are the treatments that can be patented and become lucrative for thedrug companies and professionals who administer them. Whereas foods and nutritional supplements already exist and are widely available.) What is lacking is not simply new clinical data to support nutritional therapies but an awareness and acknowledgement on the part of doctors that this approach is sometimes the most effective way of treating certain conditions, and that one of those conditions is vitiligo. And, to be fair, there is another requirement, if things are going to change: and that is individual patient responsibility not to be over-reliant for their own state of health on the men and women in white coats. We need to take charge of our own recovery.
In the final paragraphs of the book, Audrey puts all of this in a nutshell: she says, “First, patients need to be their own health advocates and seek solutions for treatable conditions instead of accepting any answers physicians provide, such as “Nothing can be done,” which is said all too frequently to vitiligo patients. Second, physicians need to be open to complementary therapies for treating highly challenging diseases that do not always respond to conventional treatments. Third, more robust studies are needed to analyze the role of vitamins in treating vitiligo; and fourth, dermatological residencies should include a tract on the role of nutrition.”
Obviously, there is far too much detailed information in this excellent publication for me to do more than scrape the surface in this blog. So, I would recommend it as essential reading for anyone, from any background (scientific or not) who wants to understand the relationship between nutrition and vitiligo and how nutritional therapy can help to treat this complex and frustrating condition.
Congratulations, Audrey - and thank you for sharing your knowledge!
for vitiligo and for general health
Having lived with widespread #vitiligo for almost 50 years, I am eternally grateful for my re-pigmentation and will never take my recovery for granted. Since this life-changing event came about as a result of taking nutritional supplements, I have to suppress a snort of derision every time I hear a doctor or a newscaster announce the latest opinion from the medical community, claiming that supplements are not necessary as long as you eat a “well-balanced diet”.
For a start, no one nowadays eats a well-balanced diet, unless they live in a remote area of the world with exceptionally good soil and unpolluted waters and produce their own organic vegetables, fish and meat. And, more to the point, not everyone enjoys that mythical state of “normal health” to which such a well-balanced diet would be sufficient. Some of us have chronic conditions which involve serious nutritional imbalances that have developed over many years. And it takes more than a plate containing a portion of each food group every day – important though that is – to rectify these imbalances.
It's official: supplementation is recommended
So, this week's research findings, confirming further benefits of vitamin D supplementation, should have come as no surprise. But surprised I was, so jaded am I by the constant refusal of most western health systems to acknowledge the importance of nutritional supplementation as a serious alternative to drugs. It is well-known that #vitamin-D deficiency can lead to bone diseases like rickets and osteoporosis but the new research, conducted at Queen Mary University of London and published this week in the British Medical Journal, confirms that vitamin D supplementation is not only helpful for bone health – as we all knew - but is also a safe and effective way to boost the immune system, helping to prevent upper respiratory infections like colds flu and even pneumonia. Since very little vitamin D is naturally available in our food (relatively small amounts can be found in oily fish, egg yolks, cheese and some types of mushrooms), the researchers conclude that supplementation is advisable and that the benefits of this are even on a par with the flu vaccination.
This information is likely to be of obvious interest to everyone, but since vitamin D plays a role in the process of skin pigmentation and most vitiligo sufferers have subnormal levels of it, it is yet another reason why those of us with a history of vitiligo should ensure we have sufficient intake of this nutrient. Moreover, the suitability of vitamin D supplementation as a real alternative to the flu jab is of additional relevance, since experts tell us that vaccines can actually be counterproductive for people with autoimmune conditions.
It is not known whether vitamin D deficiency is a cause of vitiligo or whether it is a consequence, especially in light of the fact that vitiligo sufferers are typically less likely to boost their levels naturally through the normal channels of sun exposure (since most avoid the sun) and may not absorb much, if any, through their diet (since many have poor digestive absorption). Either way, supplementation seems to be the only way of ensuring an adequate uptake.
So, whilst I am now free to enjoy healthy doses of sun-bathing whenever I go on holiday (or when the weather gods look kindly on us here in the UK), I still take additional vitamin D, in the form of a spray which is easily absorbed into the blood stream and I also get some with my regular top-up courses of Boost, the key supplement I used to re-pigment.
You may need to take action before you re-pigment!
Combating a stubborn and complex condition like #vitiligo is not easy. It is not simply a matter of asking your family doctor for a prescription. Not even your dermatologist can wave a magic wand and make the white patches on your skin disappear. Conventional medicine still offers woefully little in the way of comfort or real, lasting value to vitiligo patients. If you are determined to beat this particular skin disorder you have to be willing to reject the well-worn myths perpetuated by the medical profession (i.e. that the impact is purely cosmetic and that not much can be done, apart from using Protopic and, maybe, a course of UV therapy). Whatever the scientific, financial or political reasons may be for this widespread ignorance and indifference, the fact is that most doctors are not ready, willing or even interested in helping you to beat this condition. So, if you want to improve it, you have to be prepared to do some research of your own and take responsibility for devising your own therapy. And that takes guts. Fortunately, guts are exactly what I am going to discuss in this blog post… because it is my long-held belief that guts are not only the solution to your problem but they are also where you will find its source!
It takes guts to restore intestinal balance
It is ironic that a “skin disease” that is often seen as having purely visual impact should actually originate in areas of our body that cannot be seen at all when we look in the mirror. But all the evidence I can find in my vitiligo research, and my own experience, tell me that this is, in fact, the case. I am convinced, as are many researchers and vitiligo sufferers alike, that the causes of this condition lie deep in the bowels of… well, deep in our gut!
I have gradually come to realise that our digestive system is, in many ways, as complex and influential as our brain. Having thought, for years, that the #digestive system was a fairly simple piece of plumbing, I am now aware that it is, in fact, a highly sophisticated ecosystem (a “second brain” even) which must be kept in balance in order to maintain good health.
When this system works as it should, the entire body functions as nature intended: it receives the nutrition it requires for all of its physiological processes whilst harmful toxins, waste and pathogens are either eliminated or neutralised. But, as in any ecosystem, a disturbance to the natural balance can produce unwanted effects that may appear gradually at first, but then gain momentum as a process of cause and effect creates an ever-worsening vicious cycle. The longer the cycle is allowed to continue, the more of the body's processes are impacted and the more symptoms and syndromes emerge. As the body's largest organ and an important means of elimination of toxins from the body, the skin is often an early indicator of internal problems. It is my belief that the patchy pigment loss that characterises vitiligo is a symptom of such problems and that the clusters of other chronic symptoms and related illnesses that are so often associated with vitiligo are also a consequence of the same gut-based imbalances.
So, what are the events that form this vicious cycle? And which event is the ultimate root cause of it? Well, it probably doesn't matter too much which came first – the important thing is to identify the key issues and deal with as many of them as possible in a bid to interrupt the negative spiral and restore healthy balance. But, if I had to start somewhere, I would say the most likely prime mover in the disease process would be insufficient #stomach-acid.
Low stomach acid leads to chronic ill health
I have blogged before about the link between hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) and vitiligo. Some people are born with too little stomach acid and are not able to produce enough to properly digest their food. The internal problems that this causes may or may not be apparent during early childhood. But the compound effect of inefficient digestion over the longer term inevitably results in symptoms at some point in time. Other people may have sufficient stomach acid when they are young but, since most people experience declining levels as they age, problems may occur later in life. The logic goes that low stomach acid results in incomplete digestion of food, resulting in nutritional deficiencies and “leaky gut” and that pigment loss is just one of many chronic conditions that eventually follow.
It seems that low stomach acid is a condition that, of itself, tends to become a vicious cycle. Evidently, it causes mineral deficiencies which, in turn, raise the acidity of the blood. Acidic blood further reduces mineral levels and lowers stomach acid even more. (And, God forbid that you should then take antacids for the indigestion symptoms that often accompany hypochlorhydria because this will make the cycle even more vicious by lowering what little stomach acid you still have.)
So, this is why, when low levels of stomach acid go unchecked, they can set in motion a downward spiral in the body's ability to absorb nutrition and eliminate waste. There are certainly a whole host of other negative repercussions from this, which (as a non-medic) I will lump together under the very broad term “inflammation”, which includes allergic and autoimmune responses.
The Candid truth about gut flora
Another factor in the vicious cycle of inflammation is undoubtedly Candida Albicans. Most of us have heard of it but we may not have considered its possible involvement in vitiligo. #Candida is a fungus (or yeast) that lives in the digestive tract where it aids normal digestion and nutrient absorption. But it is a part of our internal ecosystem that can easily grow out of control and severely upset its delicate balance. When this happens it is called candidiasis or COS (Candida Overgrowth Syndrome). A person with insufficient stomach acid is highly unlikely to be able to keep the growth of this fungus under control and this can result in damage to the intestinal lining, further contributing to the development of “Leaky Gut” (or intestinal permeability) and lending extra momentum to the whole vicious cycle of digestive impairment and its consequences.
As with low stomach acid, some people may be born with a Candida overgrowth but most of us develop it, to a greater or lesser extent, largely due to a diet that is too high in sugars and starch. Most people can bring it under control by improving their diet and taking a course of probiotics. But, if you have vitiligo, you are very likely to lack sufficient stomach acid to kill off excess fungal organisms and other pathogens and viruses living in your digestive tract. So the problem can be more extreme and more persistent and you may need to take probiotics on an ongoing basis.
Melanocytes are the first line of defence against Candida Albicans
Not only are we more susceptible than the average person to having the balance of our gut hi-jacked in this way, but there is some evidence to suggest that vitiligo sufferers also have fewer defences to fight it. Naturally, the longer the vicious cycle is allowed to continue, the weaker our defences are likely to be anyway. But research has found that melanocytes form the first line of defence against Candida Albicans, which poses the question (in my simple mind, anyway): does a lack of pigment lower our defences even further to this fungus?Vitiligo is known to affect the mucous membrane as well as our outer skin, so it seems logical to assume that vitiligo sufferers would have fewer functioning melanocytes in their gut than the norm.
Having just re-read this blog so far, I realise how alarmist it may sound. So I apologise if it has you clutching your stomach with one hand, whilst frantically googling “how to rid my body of killer fungi” with the other. My aim is not to overstate the case or to spread panic. If you are affected by the type of internal imbalance I have described, rest assured that it has taken time to develop (decades, in most cases) - and has not killed you yet! The good news is that it can be corrected, although it may take a little time and perseverance. But then, those are two of the requirements that you will find in every effective vitiligo treatment anyway.
The downward spiral of poor digestion and poor health that I have described may sound alarming, especially as a number of factors are involved and each of these, in itself, seems to be a vicious cycle within another vicious cycle. So how can we hope to halt the decline, never mind turn it around?
Keep calm and carry on healing yourself!
First of all, it is not necessary to have a perfect understanding of what is going on in order to correct it. After all, I didn't know any of this stuff seven years ago when I tried out a nutritional protocol on the off-chance it might work. I now understand a lot more about why it did work (and also why it improved my digestive symptoms too). But my ignorance at the time didn't prevent it from working. And, second of all, tackling the individual factors involved becomes much simpler when you look at them one at a time. So, let's do that now.
There are tests that can confirm whether or not you suffer from hypochlorhydria but simply checking out the symptoms online will probably give you a pretty good clue. If you are still not sure, then following the recommended HCl test will enable you to discover, by trial and error, whether or not you need to supplement with hydrochloric acid to help you digest your food. If you have a significant lack of stomach acid you will benefit from taking Betaine HCl and Pepsin with meals to boost your levels. Otherwise, just a diet that promotes stomach acid production may be sufficient.
The pH levels of the human body can be a really confusing subject, especially when it comes to deciding what we should eat to promote good health. One of the confusing aspects is that different parts of the body need different levels of acidity. As we know, the stomach requires a very high level of acidity in order to break down food, whereas the duodenum (which is where food goes immediately after leaving the stomach) needs an alkaline environment. The blood should be slightly alkaline too.
The other confusing thing is that foods are often wrongly described as “acid” or “alkalising” and this can be misleading. What our body needs is foods that help to promote healthy levels of stomach acid but also have an alkalising effect on the rest of our body. For example, citrus fruits and cider vinegar will help with acid production in the stomach but, once digested, they actually have an alkalising effect on the body, which seems quite counterintuitive.
So, how do we choose the right foods to satisfy all these different requirements? How do we know which foods are acid and which are alkaline? Luckily, most of the foods that we already know are good for us will help our digestive system to function properly: fresh vegetables and fruits, organic fish and meats will all do this. By eating along the lines of the so-called Cave-Man or “Paleo” diet consisting of exactly these foods (or at least limiting other foods like grains, dairy and all processed foods) it would be hard to go wrong, even if you don't understand all the science behind it. (However, a list of foods that are alkalising can be helpful for reference.)
Since becoming aware of all this information I have adopted a mainly Paleo diet myself and feel better for it (and losing some unwanted weight has been a bonus). But it is obvious to me now that my diet was sadly lacking until relatively recently, so this change in my eating habits cannot have been a factor in my recovery. I strongly suspect that taking daily doses of Five a Day greenfoods was the thing that compensated for deficiencies in my diet back then. I always think of this supplement as being the nutritional equivalent of eating a mountain of organic, leafy green vegetables every day, providing high levels of easily-digestible alkalising nutrition that I would not otherwise be able to eat in sufficient quantity without bursting!
Because low stomach acid and poor diet are two of the key factors in Candida overgrowth, following the same guidelines above for addressing acid imbalances will automatically help to combat it. In my own case, I eat a mainly alkalising, nutritious diet, take Betaine HCl with large meals when necessary and I take two doses of Five a Day daily. Every so often, I also take a course of pro-biotics if I suspect a yeast infection - or just as a precaution. (Probiotics for young children are also available.) But the healthy bacteria content of Five a Day (Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Lactobacillus Bifidus) seems to be sufficient for my needs the rest of the time.
The other factor that can lead to candidiasis is a lack of digestive enzymes. So, supplementing with these also helps to ensure better nutritional absorption.
I entitled this blog “Low stomach acid, Candida and vitiligo” so I shall finish off with this third component – my main reason for writing the blog. I decided to write about digestive issues, in the context of vitiligo, because there are a lot of vitiligo sufferers out there trying all kinds of different treatments to regain their skin colour. Many are not getting the results they want, quite possibly because they have untreated digestive issues that are sabotaging their efforts by preventing or reversing their recovery.
I have had “tummy troubles” all my life and, until the past few years, never made a mental connection between these and my vitiligo. But now that I analyse it, my recovery makes much more sense. At first, my re-pigmentation, using nutritional supplements, just seemed like a lucky fluke. But in fact, the supplements I used worked on both my gastric problems and on my skin's ability to make pigment. I believe that both components of the treatment were equally important. In fact, I doubt that the Boost tanning supplement that triggered by re-pigmentation would have had a chance to work as well as it did (or even at all) if I had not been helping my digestive system at the same time by also taking Five a Day green food.
It seems obvious to me that most of the western world is affected by poor digestion thanks to the average modern diet (although many people either have no symptoms yet, or simply ignore them and pop another antacid). But if you have vitiligo, there is statistically a much higher chance of your having a deficiency of stomach acid and of suffering from the vicious cycle that this sets in motion. Unbelievably – shockingly, in my opinion – very few doctors or dermatologists will ever mention such things. They continue to tell patients that vitiligo is incurable, or else they try to improve it with creams and drugs that only treat the outside, instead of recognising that the cause is internal.
So, my message to you, if you are looking for answers, is to take charge of your own recovery because you are the only person who can do this on a daily basis. Don't let digestive issues interfere with your efforts to re-pigment. Find out if you have low levels of stomach acid. If you do, then follow the recommendations above (or do some more research yourself). Find out if you have a Candida problem and take action to bring it under control. If you can do this, then I am convinced that whatever vitiligo treatment you choose to use will stand a hugely increased chance of working, and working long-term, just as mine has.
In closing, I'm sure you have sometimes heard courage referred to as “Intestinal fortitude”. Well, it does take some guts to manage your own recovery in the face of a lack of effective medical support. But if you can literally build up your intestinal fortitude (physiologically, as well as psychologically), your courage is much more likely to be rewarded with lots of healthy, new pigment!
May 2017 bring you healthy skin!
A belated happy new year (or a slightly early Chinese one) to all my Vitiligo Friends. I think it is fitting that the coming year is the year of the Rooster. This colourful bird is a perfect example of how marvelous nature's pigments can be and a reminder that we all deserve to enjoy our own unique colouring. I hope that 2017 will bring us all healthy skin (not feathers) and that Rooster-like self-confidence that comes with knowing we are all beautiful in our own way :)
The colours of nature are indeed a miracle. But, as with all miracles of nature, there is a truck load of science behind them. Now, science is not my forte and, whilst I was fortunate enough to receive a good education, I still managed to leave school without really knowing, for example, what an amino acid is.
This is a shame because it turns out that #amino-acids play all kinds of extremely crucial roles in how our body functions, including our ability (or inability) to create healthy pigment. If you are as clueless as I am on the subject of amino acids, what they are, what they do, and what relevance a deficiency or imbalance of them can potentially have then click here for a crash course.
Amino acids are no less than the essential chemical building blocks of life. They are the organic compounds that build proteins and, as such, are used in every cell in our body. These busy little compounds are what build our skin and bones, our muscles, ligaments, hair, teeth, organs… and any other part of the human body I may have left out, including our brain. Needless to say, they play a fundamental role in all our physical and mental functions.
Now that I actually understand something about amino acids and what they do, I am quite surprised that they receive so little popular attention outside of the scientific community. Most of us are pretty well versed in the role of vitamins and minerals and the importance of eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. But ask the average person if they think they have sufficient levels of amino acids, and they will probably give you a sideways look and a wide berth. (The exception to this might be body builders and professional athletes, since most of them have been supplementing with amino acids for years to help improve endurance during workouts and boost muscle recovery.)
The body-builder's interest, though, is generally limited to about 10 amino acids, including lysine, arginine, carnitine and the so-called branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine. But there are actually 20 or so amino acids required by the human body for the healthy formation of protein, including its largest organ – the skin. And, like other nutrients, these are categorised into essential (those that cannot be manufactured by the body and therefore are required in the diet) and non-essential (these can be made by the body).
Again, just like other nutrients, a normal, healthy person who eats a well-balanced diet can expect to maintain a healthy level and balance of amino acids naturally. But just as vitiligo sufferers are typically deficient in certain vitamins and minerals – most likely due to poor digestion and inadequate nutritional absorption - a deficiency or inability to utilise amino acids vital to the pigmentation process would seem likely too.
Interestingly, one amino acid in particular is known to be able to help heal "leaky gut", thought by many to be one of the causes of poor nutritional absorption and chronic conditions, including vitiligo. This is #glutamine. So I now take a dose of this amino acid first thing every morning to help protect the lining of my gut and reduce inflammation and IBS symptoms.
There are supplements available that can ensure you are getting enough of all the amino acids. But, of all the amino acids, #Tyrosine is the most closely involved in the production of melanin. (Phenylalanine, as a precursor of tyrosine, is also important.) This explains why it is top of the list of ingredients in “Boost”, one of the two nutritional supplements that helped me to re-pigment my vitiligo. As with all nutrients, amino acids don't work in isolation but rather as part of a “team effort”. In the case of tyrosine, B vitamins are needed to enable the body to utilise tyrosine properly to produce melanin (which is, presumably, why they are included in the formulation of Boost, along with other ingredients like copper and zinc, also known to be involved in the tanning process.
Learning just a little about amino acids has helped me to understand more of the science behind the “miracle” of my re-pigmentation. In addition to the tyrosine content of Boost, I would imagine that the high levels of essential amino acids naturally present in Five a Day+V (the green-food supplement I used, along with Boost) will also have played a role, whereas I had always assumed the key benefits of this green food was its antioxidant and alkalising properties. No doubt the way all these nutrients work together is a lot more complex than anyone knows. Scientists are still learning more about amino acids and exactly how they affect our hormones and all our bodily processes. It is a fascinating subject and is another reminder of how amazing nature is.
So, with that thought in mind, I wish you, once again, the happiest and healthiest of new years and look forward to sharing more information with you on this blog – and to having more conversations with many of you - throughout 2017.
The Vitiligo Plot Thickens
In my last blog post I likened #vitiligo to a convoluted murder mystery, full of contradictions, plot twists, red herrings and a cast consisting of scores of suspects, one of which is histamine. Like all good whodunnits, the mystery of what causes vitiligo continues to keep everyone guessing and, just when you think you have identified all the likely suspects - genes, physical trauma, leaky gut, autoimmunity, oxidative stress, etc. etc. - another unexpected one pops up.
Personally, I had never considered that my allergic rhinitis (one of those annoying, life-long conditions that you learn to live with and almost come to think of as normal) could be connected in any way to my vitiligo. And yet, it is not an unreasonable leap of deduction to suspect that inflammation caused by allergic reactions might not be limited to those symptoms we usually associate with them, like itchy, watering eyes, sneezing, hives and other rashes. Why should we assume that there are no other parts of our body under attack from inflammation when we have elevated levels of #histamine surging through our system? I am not saying that too much histamine in the body is the main cause of vitiligo but I do believe it is involved in the process somewhere along the line. Think of it as an accomplice, rather than the murderer. In fact, now that I come to think of it, our vitiligo detective story is beginning to look a lot like Murder on the Orient Express. (If you are one of the handful of people on the planet who have not read it or seen one of the film versions, I will not spoil it for you. The rest of you know what I mean.)
Following my previous post on this subject, I received an email from a vitiligo friend (who, I am glad to say, has been re-pigmenting well using the same protocol as I did) and this is what he had to say:
I read your article about histamine the other day and interestingly, just before mine started, I had began to suffer with extreme hay fever for the first time in my life. May be a total coincidence but thought I'd drop you an email and let you know…
Evidence that there is histamine involvement in the development of vitiligo is not purely anecdotal. A number of clinical studies have been conducted that support this. For example, the Role of Histamine as a Toxic Mediator in the Pathogenesis of Vitiligo, published in 2013 in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, concludes that:
Histamine appears to play a significant role in the pathogenesis of a particular type of vitiligo characterized by faint hypopigmented patches with significant itching.
I am certainly much more aware than before of the need to avoid any sort of skin irritation, making sure that I don't allow my skin to come into contact with the harsh chemicals that lurk in every day products and clothing. And, from now on, I shall be more careful about the environmental and dietary triggers that can raise histamine levels.
To help you make some diet and lifestyle changes that will minimise so-called Histamine Intolerance (which is actually just the overproduction of histaminhe, rather than an intolerance to it), here are some useful websites.
Natural Remedies for Histamine Intolerance pulls together advice from a number of authority sources and is informative and easy to read.
Another site called Diagnosis Diet features a useful article called Histamine Intolerance: Understanding the Science which explains simply and clearly the science behind food sensitivity reactions caused by histamine.
Joe Cohen, who writes a great blog called Selfhacked, also sheds valuable light on histamine intolerance on this page and suggests a variety of ways of dealing with it.
And further dietary advice aimed at lowering histamine can be found on the Live Strong website by clicking here.
The difference between our vitiligo mystery and a whodunnit
As a result of the reading I have been doing over the past few weeks into ways of reducing inflammation in general, and histamine in particular, I decided to start supplementing with #Quercetin and Bromelain (which together have natural anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties) and have also added this to the Nutrition section of Vitiligo Store for anyone else who would like to include it in their protocol. (Just put Quercetin into the search box at the top of the page if you want to find it quickly.)
So, that wraps up this topic for now. But I would like to end this post by pointing out a crucial difference between the hunt for effective vitiligo treatments and solving a typical whodunnit, a difference that I hope you will find as encouraging as I do. Even the best homicide detective in the world, once he has found all the clues and solved the murder, is not able to bring the victim back to life. But we vitiligo sleuths have the power, with each piece of the puzzle we uncover, to tweak, prod, nurture and coax our body back to full health. And I believe that the holistic nature of this approach, which recognises vitiligo not as a “skin disease” but rather as a symptom of deeper systemic health issues, has a cumulative effect. This means that the results we can achieve using a variety of daily protocols end up being greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, by tackling a number of the known suspects simultaneously, we can reduce harmful influences, increase beneficial ones and support our whole system in its natural tendency to heal itself and, as we do so, each of these individual improvements adds fuel to the others.
I hope that you have found this topic interesting and that it will have provided another small step in your journey to full re-pigmentation. If it has, that will prove that a little bit of histamine knowledge is not to be sneezed at :)
Patients & families deserve better
I have just returned from a wonderful Mediterranean holiday with my husband and should be feeling relaxed and refreshed. I don't mean to sound ungrateful (I am anything but). It really was a fabulous holiday. But the fact that I went down with the flu a few days before the end and am still languishing on the sofa, wrapped in a dressing gown has somewhat marred the benefits.
Like most of us, I find myself more easily goaded to grumpiness when I feel unwell and so I hope you will forgive me if I use my blog this week to have a bit of a rant about something that never ceases to shock and dismay me whenever I come across it… which is altogether too often.
In the course of catching up on my correspondence with #vitiligo contacts, following my trip, I have heard several more examples of how badly our western #health-systems are letting down vitiligo patients and their families and it makes me want to scream.
"Nothing we can do"
One email was from a distraught mother whose 4 month old baby boy has developed several white patches on his skin. When she took him to the doctor she told me she was “just dismissed”. (If I had a penny for every time I have come across this kind of reaction from the medical profession I would probably have enough to fund a masterclass in Clinical Empathy (that's “bedside manner” to you and me) and have enough left over to buy a copy of Dermatology for Dummies for every family doctor in the land.) So she did some research and found a vitiligo specialist in London, who told her that her son's patches were not vitiligo but birthmarks. (Maybe I am being unduly grumpy here but those of us who have vitiligo can recognise it at 100 paces and I really would expect a so-called specialist to be able to identify it when it is right under his nose. Admittedly, vitiligo in young babies is rare but certainly not unheard of.) A week later the mother noticed another new patch and went back to the specialist who consulted a colleague and concluded it “probably” was vitiligo after all but that, because of the baby's age, “there isn't much they can do”. From what I can tell, this woman was left with no constructive advice or solutions and she is now spending much of her time in tears, worrying about her son's future and desperately trawling the internet to find answers. Her own mother, who has also had vitiligo for about 50 years, had also been told “there is nothing she can do”. Here are 3 generations of the same family who, in my opinion, deserve a better response from the health system than this tired old refrain "nothing we can do".
"the doctor handed me paper work which was printed off Wikipedia"
Another email was from a guy with an obviously philosophical and proactive attitude towards his vitiligo. He, too, was searching for answers and looking forward to trying the nutritional supplements I used to re-pigment with phototherapy to see if this would help. When I asked him if he had tried to get his GP to refer him for UVB treatment on the NHS, he replied, “ The NHS was a pretty useless experience for me, the doctor handed me paper work which was printed off Wikipedia and told me nothing could be done.” (Wikipedia - what? And again, that incessant refrain – the one all doctors seem to learn by heart in their non-existent vitiligo lectures “nothing can be done!” Aaaarghhh!!! Sorry – I'm getting grumpier by the minute here.)
"At your age I'm surprised you carry on trying"
Another recent email was from a vitiligo friend, whose courage and dignity has really affected me as I have come to know her story through our correspondence. She put her concerns over her vitiligo – and everything else in her life – on hold while she nursed her terminally ill husband. After he passed away she started, gradually, to pick up the pieces. Part of that process was to renew her efforts to improve her vitiligo. She had previously seen some good re-pigmentation as a result of using the supplements I used and went to her GP to ask for a UVB referral. This is what she told me happened:
“He said the wait to see a specialist was very long so I decided to pay. Went along to my appointment about 4 days later armed with my before and after pics, he wasn't really bothered!!! I was so upset with experience, he said pigment doesn't come back in white people, only temporarily! ! He said the vitamins that we take won't harm you but they are not responsible for my skin colour coming back!! I could of throttled him hahaha. He also said "you must be in a good place in your life to get some colour back " you can only image what I said!, he also said "at your age I am surprised you carry on trying " this was the last straw!!!"
"When I left I was in tears"
Another woman who had seen some re-pigmentation using the supplements went to a dermatologist seeking UVB therapy and related this experience in an email a while back:
“My appointment was very disappointing. I was met by a consultant who looked at the ingredients and pulled a face telling me that he does not believe that the supplements have had anything to do with my re-pigmentation. He stated a number of research 'facts' that prove that diet has no affect on re pigmentation. After telling him that I saw results within 2-3 weeks of taking the supplements I was told it was a coincidence! . After what seemed like hours trying to get him to agree to the light treatment he told me that he would first prescribe an 8 week course of protopic cream and reassess the situation in 8 weeks. He would then issue a course of light therapy treatment if the protopic showed no improvement. Well this was a blow to me because I really wanted the light treatment during the colder months. When I left I was in tears. It took me days to get over the trauma and I haven't even taken the prescription to the chemist yet.”
I would have laughed out loud when I read this, if it had been remotely funny, because I have also been told by doctors that my re-pigmentation, which started within weeks of beginning supplementation was also a fluke, as have a number of others who have emailed me with similar accounts.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no end to such stories. It may be that, as you read this, you are mentally adding your own experiences to the list. I ask myself how this state of affairs has persisted for so long and why vitiligo alone among skin conditions seems to have been singled out for such woefully poor patient care. Can you imagine someone with psoriasis, eczema or acne meeting with this kind of dismissive and offhand response from their doctor or consultant?
What I think
I am not usually the ranting kind and I will probably post this in a fit of flu-fuelled frustration and later regret it. But I am just going to say what I think on the subject, okay?
I think it is unacceptable in the 21st century that anyone who seeks help from a medical professional for a condition that they find deeply worrying and distressing, maybe even devastating, should be made to feel as if it is not important.
I think it is irresponsible – I would even say immoral – to tell a patient “there is no hope of improvement”. There is always hope. Sometime hope is all a person has to hang on to. If I had had more hope during my 50 years living with spreading vitiligo I would have wasted a lot less time feeling depressed about it.
I think it is arrogant to state that something cannot be successfully treated simply because most successes are not achieved with drugs.
I think it is the height of ignorance to think that diet and nutrition cannot impact on skin health (what medical school did that nugget come from?)
I think it is negligent to be uninformed about existing therapies, promising current clinical research and anecdotal successes and not to mention these to patients
I think that it is unfeeling and unprofessional not to consider the far-reaching psychological effects that vitiligo can have on patients and their families.
I also think.... that I have probably made my point!
Okay - rant over!
The deeper I delve into the subject of #supplementation for #vitiligo (and general health, for that matter), the more aware I become that getting it right is a real balancing act. A lot of people mistakenly believe that eating a varied #diet provides enough good nutrition to maintain optimum health. This might have been true once upon a time, before our soil became badly depleted and when all farming was organic by default. But modern farming and food processing methods have robbed even our "healthy" foods of a lot of their goodness, meaning that supplementation has become essential for many of us, and even more so for those of us who suffer chronic illness.
vitiligo sufferers typically lack certain nutrients
The fact that vitiligo sufferers are typically lacking in certain nutrients is now generally accepted, as is the fact that supplementation can therefore help to restore normal pigmentation. Although most family doctors still never so much as mention nutrition to their vitiligo patients (which is a sad reflection on their lack of nutritional knowledge, in my opinion) I was encouraged to read the following information in the April 21, 2016 Recouleur blog which shows that some dermatologists and other well-informed medical practitioners do.
According to the blog, one such specialist is Dr. Pearl Grimes of the Vitiligo and Pigmentation Institute of Southern California (also a member of the Medical & Scientific Advisory Committee of Vitiligo Support International and the Medical Advisory Board of the American Vitiligo Research Foundation) who recommends vitamins, along with topical treatments and phototherapy, to her vitiligo patients.
In Argentina Dr. Leopoldo Montes, who has also served on the same Vitiligo committees as D Grimes, and holds a US patent for the Method and Composition of Treatment Vitiligo with vitamins, has conducted research over several decades into the use of vitamin therapy for vitiligo, culminating in the publication of his book Vitiligo: Current Knowledge and Nutritional Therapy.
Dr. Ben Kim (a chiropractor and acupuncturist in Toronto and a vitiligo sufferer himself) also advocates dietary and lifestyle changes including nutritional supplementation. And for every health care practitioner who - like the examples above - recognises the link between vitiligo and nutrition, there must be thousands, like me, whose own experiences have clearly demonstrated the connection.
I regained my lost skin colour
If you are familiar with my story you will know that I regained virtually all my lost skin colour several years ago, thanks to a combination of nutritional supplementation and moderate sun exposure. When I first tried the supplements, it was a case of “let's give it a go and see what happens”. So I really didn't give much thought to what all the individual ingredients were and how they work together in the body. That side of things had already been taken care of by the manufacturers. The two main supplements I used contained a specifically balanced ratio of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients.
Boost-ing pigment & fighting free radicals
The natural tanning capsules (Boost) were evidently formulated specifically to provide the skin with the right combination of nutrients for creating healthy pigment, so the nutritional composition of this product was obviously scientifically created with this as its main purpose. The super-green food (Five a Day+V which I believe to be so effective for vitiligo because it fights oxidative stress) is also a well balanced formulation, but in this case one created by nature as it is a blend of whole green foods, rather than a supplement in the usual sense. Because of their ready-made formulations, using these products has never required any guesswork or nutritional knowledge on my part. But, when it comes to other supplements (and my everyday food choices) I realise that – since there is no nutrition guru in a white coat looking over my shoulder - it is up to me to do my homework and try to achieve the right balance for optimum health for myself.
good health is a work in progress
Taking the supplements every day and coaxing the process along with regular bouts of sunshine has certainly worked dramatically well for me as a vitiligo protocol, ridding me of around 98% of my white patches over a period of a year or so and the improvement has so far been permanent.
Ecstatic though I am about this (and I really am – I never take my recovery for granted) I realise that keeping my vitiligo away and maintaining a good level of general health is, for me, always going to be a work in progress. It seems that a genetic predisposition to vitiligo, coupled with poor nutritional absorption, means that I will never be able to rely simply on eating a “healthy diet”. This is why I have become so interested in learning more about nutritional supplementation and why I continue to look for products that will create the best “internal environment” for my body as possible – and this is where the question of balance comes in.
So, in future posts (as in recent ones) I plan to revisit the important topic of nutritional balance. I hope that you will find these posts informative but, above all, I hope to be able to pass on, not just information, but better health, better skin and a better quality of life.
Takes more than a knee-jerk reaction
Today, we are probably better informed about diet, #nutrition and health than at any time in history, due, in the main, to modern media and the miracle of search engines. And yet (no doubt for the very same reasons) most of us have a tendency to oversimplify the subject. We gather so much of our knowledge about nutrition from headlines, advertisements and sound bites that we start to think in terms of one problem: one solution. For example, colds and flu? Take vitamin C. Indigestion? You need antacids. Weak bones and teeth? Take calcium, and so on.
Knee-jerk diagnoses like these can be like putting 2 and 2 together and making 22. It's all too easy to forget that the human body is a complex eco-system and that for every problem there is usually more than one solution. And, equally, every solution can usually address more than one problem. The examples above are a case in point. Whilst it is true that vitamin C does help protect against viruses, it is just one of numerous essential nutrients involved in supporting the immune system. Whilst we have been virtually brain-washed by the advertisers into believing that all indigestion is the result of excess stomach acid, a deficiency of stomach acid can cause identical symptoms and is actually thought to be far more common. And whilst most people instantly think of calcium as the one and only supplement for bone health, yet calcium intake does not help very much unless you also have adequate levels of vitamin D.
So, what am I saying? Well, what I am not saying is to avoid nutritional solutions. I am a firm believer in food as the best medicine. But what I am saying is that just because nutrition is natural does not mean that it is simple. Figuring out what is most likely to help your #vitiligo may well be complicated. Discovering what deficiencies you may have, how they are affecting your health and how to address them, can take a fair bit of detective work, in-depth reading and even, on occasion, a bit of trial and error.
For example, it was really only after writing last week's blog about vitamin D that I made a connection between a number of health problems I have had (in addition to vitiligo) that may also have resulted from my (typically for vitiligo sufferers) low levels of this vitamin. These include joint problems,fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, allergies and a near miss with ovarian cancer. I realise that linking all these conditions together could be a classic case of knee-jerk diagnosis but there is no doubt that vitamin D deficiency (and other nutritional deficiencies) can cause a host of seemingly unrelated health issues.
Dr James Dowd, who works at the Arthritis Institute of Michigan, has been prescribing vitamin D to people suffering from chronic disorders such as arthritis, back pain and headaches and the result, he claims, is a huge improvement in their symptoms.
My own doctor recently voiced the opinion that the arthritis I developed as an adult in my hip might well have been avoided if the original abnormality in the joint had been spotted and corrected when I was an infant. I certainly don't blame anyone for not picking up on this at the time, given that screening for this sort of problem probably wasn't around then. But I do wonder how much better, as an adult, my health might have been if my vitamin D deficiency (also undiagnosed at the time) had been identified and corrected when I was very young. With that experience in mind, I have now added a D supplement for infants to the adult and junior products already available in Vitiligo Store because what I have learned since last week's post is that most babies are also low in vitamin D and require supplementation (especially those who are breast fed).
My approach to vitiligo, and other chronic conditions, is that addressing their root causes is almost always a better first option than treating the symptoms with drugs or surgery and that this can very often be done through nutrition. And the particular message I wanted to share with you this week is that it is worth becoming a student of nutrition (if only at the "University of Cyberspace"), thinking intelligently about your own health and diet, being willing to test your knowledge by trying different foods and supplements and being aware that finding the right vitiligo and general health solutions for you might take some detective work and avoiding over-simplistic knee-jerk assumptions.
Finally, it must be said that it is not just the layman, like myself, who can be guilty of making knee-jerk assumptions. The medical profession are infamous for doing exactly that in their response to vitiligo. Their reaction, too often, is “white patches? Vitiligo. There's no cure – stay out of the sun and don't worry about it.” Whilst I agree that worrying does not help, I know from personal experience that sun exposure definitely can. And I know that reading, learning, reasoning and being proactive in taking responsibility for your own health definitely pays big dividends.
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.