What is the best diet for vitiligo?
I am often asked whether I ate any special #diet in the course of my repigmentation and whether I would recommend #vitiligo sufferers avoid any particular #foods. So, I thought this might be a helpful topic to cover this week in my blog. The quick answer is, no and yes! No - I didn't follow any particular diet, and yes – I probably would recommend avoiding certain foods. This sounds contradictory, so I will explain.
The main reason I did not change my eating habits was that, at that time, I really had not made the connection between my vitiligo and nutritional deficiency, so a dietary approach to healing my skin had never occurred to me. It was only once I started, rather half-heartedly, to experiment with some supplements and began to see my pigment returning, that I realised there must be a link. And, since my recovery was then so dramatic and so fast, I didn’t feel the need to change my diet because the supplements were proving to be effective without any other type of intervention.
However, roughly five years on and many, many internet pages of research later, I now believe that I might have experienced an even faster recovery if I had paid more attention to my diet and this has led me to be a bit more selective about what I put on my plate than I used to be. I still use the same supplements and none of my white patches have returned, so I don’t feel the need to worry too much about achieving the perfect diet. But I have come to realise that certain foods don’t agree with me and I therefore keep their consumption to a minimum.
Before I go any further, I want to stress that my list of foods-best-avoided will not necessarily be relevant to everyone with vitiligo. The reason I say this is that vitiligo, or #leukoderma, is a notoriously complex condition for which there is no single, common cause or #cure. Having said that, there are definitely enough similarities in the experiences of other vitiligo sufferers to suggest that a significant proportion of people with the condition might benefit from the following information. So, here goes…
Do white foods cause vitiligo?
Quite a prevalent theory at one time, albeit a widely discredited one, was that white foods should be avoided. I have always viewed this advice with the utmost scepticism because it seems to be based on a naively literal interpretation of the adage “you are what you eat”. However, since my own vitiligo appears to have been caused by digestive issues, specifically an inability to absorb all the nutrients in my food, a logical explanation for the white food theory comes to mind. There can be all sorts of reasons for poor digestion, a fairly common one being an allergy or sensitivity to a particular food. Dairy products (which are typically white) are commonly implicated when it comes to food intolerance. So maybe the idea is not as crazy as it sounds. Added to this is the fact that eating too many processed foods like refined sugar, white flour and rice and trans fats has an adverse effect on digestion and elimination and contributes very little nutritional value to the diet. So, perhaps there is some merit in avoiding a great many white foods, whether you have vitiligo or not.
Should I cut out coffee and alcohol?
Personally, I have never cut coffee, wine and the occasional gin and tonic out of my routine. Maybe I should have done since they do place a burden on the liver and there is a significant amount of evidence to suggest a link between vitiligo and #liver disease. I suppose I have always justified my position on this on the basis that a little of what you fancy does you good! If I were to be completely honest with myself, I think I might have recovered even faster if I had cut these treats out (I suppose I will never know) but I am convinced that the reason I was able to get away with it was because the Five a Day+ supplement I took – and still take – every day is such a powerful detoxifier that it more than compensates for the negative effects of these stimulants.
Should I cut out meat?
Some people with vitiligo recommend sticking to a vegetarian diet but I have not heard of any dramatic success stories based on this advice and I have never gone vegetarian myself. I do think that the best diet for vitiligo (and for everyone, some to that) is one that consists mainly of fresh vegetables but I also think that smaller ratios of the other food groups can be important in maintaining good health and my “meat” of choice is actually fish. I eat very little red meat and I avoid pork, not for any religious reason, but because I find it very hard to digest and I don’t want to put additional strain on an already compromised digestive system.
Should I cut out gluten and dairy?
I don’t think there is necessarily a direct link between #gluten or #dairy and vitiligo. However, I do believe there is a definite link between digestive abnormalities and vitiligo. There are many reasons for digestive problems but an inability to break down certain proteins is certainly one of them and gluten and lactose are two of the most common culprits. My advice to anyone with a chronic condition like vitiligo would be to avoid eating any foods that you notice cause you digestive symptoms even if you test negative for those allergies. I had myself tested for gluten #allergy and the result was negative. However, I do notice my digestion improves when I minimise my gluten intake, so I avoid it as much as I can.
So, what am I saying?
To summarise, I don’t think there is any particular vitiligo diet that will magically restore lost pigment. However, I believe that the foods that are typically good for the average person (i.e. nutritious, fresh, preferably organic vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, olive oil, dairy and whole grains) will be beneficial for vitiligo sufferers just as the foods that are typically bad for the average person (i.e. highly processed, refined or sugary, salty and fatty foods) will probably be even more harmful for anyone with a chronic condition like vitiligo. More specifically though, if vitiligo really is – as I think it is – a symptom of underlying health problems, then vitiligo sufferers should pay particular attention to any foods that cause digestive symptoms like bloating, stomach cramps, acid reflux, indigestion, abnormal bowel movements, etc. or more general symptoms like fatigue or headaches. These are all typical symptoms of food #intolerance and should give you a clue as to what to avoid in your diet.
Eating healthily and avoiding allergens and irritants will almost certainly improve your health so I would definitely recommend you do this in order to give you the best chance of recovery. However, it is unlikely to be enough on its own to cure your vitiligo. In my case, what really made the difference was a daily intake of highly nutritious green foods (in concentrated form to ensure high enough doses) and other vitamins and minerals (specifically a product called Boost containing those nutrients affecting the pigmentation process) taken over a period of months. Whether or not this would be the answer for everyone with vitiligo probably depends on whether the root cause of their pigment loss was the same as mine but I would certainly say it is well worth considering.
My name is Caroline.