Vitiligo - Vitiligo & Nutrition - Vitiligo General Information

Vitiligo & Nutrition - Vitiligo General Information

If - you have vitiligo, it's often possible to partially or even completely restore pigmentation by improving digestive function and using a combination of several supplemental nutrients. Before you hear about them, though, it's helpful to understand another condition most often closely related to vitiligo.

In the 1940s, it was discovered that the large majority of people with vitiligo also have stomach malfunction, with partial or complete lack of hydrochloric acid and pepsin production. At that time, hydrochloric acid and pepsin supplementation was recommended in some cases, repigmentataon was achieved in 2 to 3 years time with this replacement supplement alone. In the 1990s, hydrochloric acid and pepsin supplements are still recommended for those who need those who need them, and still are part of overall vitiligo treatment. However, its best to check first with a health care professional knowledgeable and skilled in nutritional and natural therapies. To find one near you who can carefully and precisely test and recommend treatment for stomach malfunction, please call 800-241-7517.

Individuals with malfunctioning stomachs do not absorb vitamin B12 and folic acid very well. This may be part of the reason why these nutrients, along with vitamin C, are often successfully used as part of a vitiligo repigmentation program. I usually recommend folic acid, 5 milligrams along with vitamin C, 1000 milligrams, twice daily. For the best chance of success, the vitamin B12 should be given by injection, 1000 micrograms weekly. Since vitamin B12'S usually safe, I recommend learning self-injection both for convenience and to control costs. Several months are usually required before early repigmentation is seen. If you need to locate a physician who can help you with necessary prescriptions, you might call the American College of Advancement in Medicine, I'll give you their number later in this brief.

Melanin, the normal body pigment, is synthesized from the essential amino acid L-phenylalanine by an enzyme system dependent on copper, vitamin B6, vitamin C. That's why these nutrients are all part of vitiligo repigmentation programs, also.

I usually recommend 2 to 3 grams of L-phenylalanine daily, depending on the severity of the vitiligo. For best absorption, L-phenylalanine should be taken in between meals. Although 4 milligram of copper sebacate seb-ah-kate daily is usually a safe minimum amount its best to have red cell copper levels tested before settling on an amount of copper for long term treatment. I usually recommend 1000 milligrams of vitamin B6 and 1000 milligrams of vitamin C, twice daily, to complete this nutrient group.

para-aminobenzoic acid (pABA), a member of the B-vitamin group, can also help in vitiligo repigmentation. Depending on the severity of the problem, I usually recommend between 500 and 2000 milligrams, three times daily. However, since unwanted side effects including skin rash and fever are possible at higher quantities, it's best to work with pABA along with a health care professional skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional therapy.

Even under the most favorable circumstances, using all of the treatment recommendations, usually very little progress is seen in the first few months, and it takes two to three years to achieve as much as possible. However, the majority of the time partial or complete repigmentation can be achieved. No results are seen in only a minority of individuals.

Because of differences in age, sex, metabolism, or potential allergy, these diet and supplement therapies may not be suitable for you. Consult a health care professional skilled in nutritional and natural therapies. To locate one near you, you might call the American College of Advancement in Medicine at 800-532-3688 or the American Association of Naturopathic physicians at 206-323-7610.

General information

Vitiligo is a condition in which the pigment cells in the skin are destroyed, resulting in irregularly shaped white patches. Any part of the body where pigment cells are present may be involved.

Common sites include:

  • Exposed areas - face, neck, eyes, nostrils, nipples, navel, genitals

  • Body folds - armpits, groin

  • Sites of injury - cuts, scrapes, burns

  • Surrounding pigmented moles

  • Hair - early graying of the hair on the scalp

  • Retina of the eyes

This disease could not be called rare, as it affects about 1% of the population and affects all sexes, ages and background. At least half the people who develop this skin disorder experience some pigment loss before they are 20 years old. About 20% of all vitiligo sufferers have other family members with it.

Even though most people with vitiligo are in good general health, they are at greater risk of:

  • Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism (respectively, increased or decreased thyroid function)

  • pernicious anaemia (vitamin B12 deficiency)

  • Addison's disease (decreased adrenal gland function)

  • Alopecia areata (round patches of hair loss)

How does it occur

The cause of vitiligo is not known. Some people have reported pigment loss soon after suffering emotional stress, or physical injury such as severe sunburn.

There are 3 theories about the cause of this disorder:

  • Abnormally functioning nerve cells may injure nearby pigment cells

  • The body may destroy its own tissue (an autoimmune reaction). Researchers speculate that the pigment in the cells may be destroyed in response to a substance the body perceives as foreign

  • Some researchers believe that pigment producing cells are self destructive (auto toxic). While new cells form, the body produces highly toxic by-products which may destroy pigment cells

The beginning of vitiligo, and the severity of pigment loss, differs with each person. Light-skinned people notice the pigment loss more during the summer as the contrast between the vitiligous skin and the suntanned skin becomes more distinct. Darker-skinned people notice the contrast any time.

Those who have very severe pigment loss may lose colour over their entire bodies (except for their eyes, which do not change colour).

There is no way to predict how much pigment an individual will lose. Illness and stress can result in more pigment loss.

The degree of pigment loss can vary within each patch. A border of darker skin may circle an area of light skin. Cycles of pigment loss, followed by periods of stability, may continue indefinitely.

  • The depigmentation commonly causes much concern and distress

  • There is a 30% chance of a spontaneous cure

  • Camouflage makeup will help to hide the areas of depigmentation

  • Trauma or injury to the skin should be avoided as much as possible (e.g. playing with animals which scratch)

  • If the skin is almost completely depigmented, removal of the remaining pigment may be preferred (byusing bleaching agents)

  • Local steroid creams are sometimes used in the early stages of a rapidly progressive depigmentation. Affected skin should be protected against direct sunlight to prevent sunburn


  • (1994) Mosby's Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary, - 4th ed., Edition, New York: Mosby Year Book Inc. 1994

  • Vitilgo (pamphlet), American Academy of Dermatology 1990

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