Some of the most frequent questions asked by our patients and their families are “Am I lacking in something?” or “Has it got something to do with my diet?”
A google search on the internet will find millions of claims about how special diets and/or vitamins may treat or even cure vitiligo, and suggestions on which foods and supplements are best to avoid, as they supposedly make vitiligo worse. As a result of this misinformation, many of our patients maintain a gluten-free diet, whilst others take vitamins like vitamin B12 and vitamin D, or antioxidants like vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C in the hope that they will control or improve their vitiligo. Unfortunately, rarely is a positive outcome noted.
The majority of these supplements and dietary recommendations are born not from true science, but instead from misinterpretation of information. A good example of this is vitamin D. Many healthy individuals around the world are deficient in vitamin D. In addition, many patients with lots of skin disorders are deficient in vitamin D, and vitiligo patients are no exception. In fact, when compared to patients with other skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis, vitiligo patients tend to have higher levels (less deficient) than these other skin disorders. So, if you have vitiligo and find out your vitamin D levels are low, this doesn’t mean that your low vitamin D caused, or is even affecting your vitiligo, and hence whilst supplementing your vitamin D may be a good idea for your overall health, it is unlikely to help your vitiligo. Another area that attracts vitiligo patients is antioxidant supplements. Many vitiligo sufferers have read that their pigment cells are under what is referred to as “oxidative stress” perhaps due to increased reactive oxygen species in their melanocytes. Whilst research has confirmed this to occur, we can’t know for sure if antioxidants or any other supplement for that matter, will help vitiligo until they’re tested in clinical trials, so for now no benefit of antioxidants can be guaranteed.
At The Vitiligo Centre Australia, we warn vitiligo patients that if something sounds too good to be true then it usually is, so don’t throw away good money at what will undoubtedly be a bad treatment.
At your first consultation, our Dermatologists will organise a blood test to exclude any underlying disease associations or vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Any problems will be corrected. Beyond this we recommend maintaining perfect mental health, a well-balanced low GI diet, and suggest that the following supplements be considered as potentially beneficial based on the currently available scientific evidence:
If proven deficient on blood testing and after discussion with your dermatologist:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Iron (ferritin)
If proven after blood/bowel screening and after discussion with your dermatologist:
- Gluten free diet (Coeliac disease)
After discussion with your dermatologist and combined with traditional treatment:
- Green tea (Japanese T2)
- Alpha-lipoic acid 300mg daily
- Gingko biloba 120mg daily
Alpha lipoic acid
Alpha lipoic acid is an organosulfur compound with important antioxidant properties.
It is commonly found in many dietary products, such as tea, wine, beer, vegetable (e.g. broccoli, spinach), fruit, soy products, yeast, kidney and liver.
Due to its antioxidant properties, recently, alpha-lipoic acid has been proposed in the treatment of vitiligo, to prevent the destruction of melanocytes by free radicals.
Alpha lipoic acid is recommended in combination with more conventional treatments
Recent research underlines its safe profile and effectiveness in terms of acceleration of cutaneous re-pigmentation in vitiligo patients
Recommended daily dose: 200-300mg daily
Gingko biloba extract is collected from the dried green leaves of the plant and is available as liquid extracts, capsules, and tablets.
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant therapeutic properties are said to include treatment for blood disorders and memory problems, enhancement of cardiovascular function and to improve eye health.
In vitiligo monotherapy at 40mg three times daily over 6 months was shown to arrest activity of vitiligo in 80% (compared to 36% in the placebo group) and induce repigmentation in 75% (compared to 9% in the placebo group)
Recommended daily dose: 60mg twice a day
L-Phenylalanine is an essential α-amino acid, the natural precursor for tyrosine, which is further converted into the skin pigment melanin.
L-Phenylalanine may be supplemented with dietary products (e.g. eggs, chicken, liver, beef, milk, cheese, soybeans) or nutritional supplements
L-phenylalanine is usually safe, except for people affected by the condition phenylketonuria
L-Phenylalanine may be administrated both orally (500 mg daily) or 10% topically, and provides better results if combined with narrow band UVB phototherapy.