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supplements for vitiligo

Supplements for Vitiligo

Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition and as such certain dietary protocols as well as supplements can be used to support the immune system for those that experience the characteristic skin depigmentation. The scope of this article however is to discuss the supplements that have been shown in clinical trials to help the repigmentation of the skin.

In most cases supplementation was accompanied by the use of light therapy.

KHELLIN

For thousand of years the treatment of “leukoderma” (vitiligo) involved the topical application or ingestion of seeds or plant extracts and the subsequent exposure to sunlight. supplements for vitiligoKhellin is an extract from the seeds of the plant khella found in the eastern Meditteranean area. Supplementation of Khellin has been repeatedly shown (Abdel-Fattah, A. et al., 1982, Orecchia, G. et al., 1998, de LEEUW, J. et al., 2003) to improve the repigmentation of the skin.

 

There have been cases though (Ortel, B. et al., 1988) that after 4-6 weeks of khellin supplementation the elevation of transaminases was observed and for these individuals had to discontinue the treatment.

 

L-PHENYLALANINE

In search for re-pigmentation solutions for vitiligo, a group of scientists in Amsterdam – NL (Cormane R et al., 1985), noted that patients with phenylketonuria (who among other symptoms have lighter than normal skin) when administrated tyrosine and were incubated with UV-light had normal melanin production. Cormane’s team initially tried the tyrosine & UV-A protocol in a pilot study of 5 without any success. Sequentially they tried phenylalanine (a precursor of tyrosine) seeing improvement in 95% of the subjects after 6 to 8 months. The theory put forward on why phenylalanine benefits vitiligo patches was that it stops antibodies and allows sun radiation to stimulate melanocytes from other areas to migrate to the damaged ones (Camacho, F. and Mazuecos, J., 1999).

 

50 mg/kg of body weight per day of phenylalanine was administered 1 hour prior to UV A irradiation (twice per week). Of the 19 participants:

i. 5 noted dense re-pigmentation in 6 to 8 months

ii. 13 saw sparse re-pigmentation in the same period

iii. and 1 had no re-pigmentation even after 8 months.

supplements for vitiligo

Since the 1980’s there has been no more research examining the benefits of phenylalanine for vitiligo. All 3 studies combining the administration of the amino acid & UVA exposure as well as the 1 that used just the amino acid reported positive outcomes (Szczurko, O. and Boon, H.S., 2008).

 

Additional Supplements

PABA is an ingredient often used in sunscreen lotions. One study showed PABA to support repigmentation (Sieve B F, 1942) but currently there is limited research to confirm these findings. An 8 years old girl developed hemolytic anemia and hepatotoxicity after administration of PABA for 4 months. Symptoms were reversed 2 months after discontinuing the supplement (Tootoonchi, P., 2018). PABA has also been reported to cause depigmentation (Hughes, C. G., 1983)

 

Vitamin E (Szczurko, O. and Boon, H.S., 2008) and vitamin C have also been shown to support re-pigmentation potentially due to their antioxidant properties.

 

Conclusion

The results in the above studies are very promising. However, as I mentioned already, in certain cases there have been adverse effects such as the development of cirrhosis which highlights the importance of complementary testing and supervision.

 

 

References

Abdel-Fattah, A., Aboul-Enein, M. N., Wasset, G. M., & El-Menshawi, B. S. (1982). An approach to the treatment of vitiligo by khellin. Dermatology165(2), 136-140.

 

Camacho, F. and Mazuecos, J., 1999. Treatment of vitiligo with oral and topical phenylalanine: 6 years of experience. Archives of dermatology, 135(2), pp.216-217.

 

Cormane, R.H., Siddiqui, A.H., Westerhof, W. and Schutgens, R.B.H., 1985. Phenylalanine and UVA light for the treatment of vitiligo. Archives of Dermatological Research, 277(2), pp.126-130.

 

de LEEUW, J., MAIERHOFER, G., & NEUGEBAUER, W. D. (2003). A case study to evaluate the treatment of vitiligo with khellin encapsulated in L‐phenylalanin stabilized phosphatidylcholine liposomes in combination with ultraviolet light therapy. European Journal of Dermatology13(5), 474-477.

 

Hughes, C. G. (1983). Oral PABA and vitiligo. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology9(5), 770.

 

Szczurko, O. and Boon, H.S., 2008. A systematic review of natural health product treatment for vitiligo. BMC dermatology, 8(1), p.2.

 

Sieve, B. F. (1942). The clinical effects of a new B-complex factor, para-aminobenzoic acid, on pigmentation and fertility. South Med Surg104(135), 9.

 

Orecchia, G., Sangalli, M. E., Gazzaniga, A., & Giordano, F. (1998). Topical photochemotherapy of vitiligo with a new khellin formulation: preliminary clinical results. Journal of dermatological treatment9(2), 65-69.

 

Ortel, B., Tanew, A., & Hönigsmann, H. (1988). Treatment of vitiligo with khellin and ultraviolet A. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology18(4), 693-701.

 

Tootoonchi, P. (2018). Hemolytic Anemia and Other Side Effects of Para-amino Benzoic Acid in an 8-Year-Old Girl. Iranian Journal of Pediatric Hematology & Oncology8(3).

Reversing Vitiligo

(Updated: 17th Oct 2018)

Vitiligo (also called “leukoma”) is an autoimmune condition where loss of pigment from areas of the skin result in irregular white patches, the texture of which remain normal. Similar with all autoimmune disorders:

i. the body is attacking its own tissue. In the case of vitiligo the body is attacking the melanocytes (the cells responsible for skin colouring).

ii. the triggering cause may vary. I have seen 1 case where it started after a car accident at an early stage of life & another where it developed after a stressful period at late 40s.

iii. the development of the disease is the result of genetic predisposition as well as environmental factors.

iv. there is a higher than normal risk for the simultaneous presence of other autoimmune conditions.

 

Cease the Fire.

As an autoimmune condition vitiligo has to be treated as an immunological problem and not solely as a skin one. While the symptoms manifest in the skin it is the immune system that is over-reacting. This is the reason why in many cases immunosuppressive drugs are prescribed (Boone B., et al., 2007). Stopping the over-activity of the immune system may not be as straight forward as we wish. Foods, heavy metals, infections have been shown or speculated to be the root cause of this unfavourable behaviour of the immune system (IS).

In order to address each of the above one can:

i. follow an anti-inflammatory diet.

ii. remove any obvious toxic deposits in the body (i.e. mercury fillings, tattoos)

iii. get tested for carrying any of the common viruses associated with autoimmunity (i.e. Epstein Barr virus)

 

Test for other AI conditions.

While there are 100s of autoimmune conditions, Hashimoto’s & Celiac Disease have been shown to have a higher prevalence among patients of vitiligo. Hashimoto’s can be easily diagnosed through an inexpensive blood test for TPO (Thyroid peroxidase) & TgAB (Thyroglobulin) antibodies. The diagnosis of Celiac Disease requires a biopsy which is why a lot of patients with vitiligo decide to eliminate gluten from their diet without going through the hustle of testing.

 

If the body is attacking more than one of its own tissue it is best for all autoimmune cases to be supported at the same time.

 

Light Therapy.

For the depigmentation is of the “milky” patches the 2 versions of light therapy have been used successfully are: Narrowband UVB & Targeted light therapy (Grimers PE 2005).

 

Narrowband UV-B involves the use of UV lamps with a peak emission around 311 nm. It induces local immunosuppression while stimulating the production of melanocyte-stimulating hormone, and the increase of melanocyte proliferation and melanogenesis. In a study (Njoo M D et al., 2000) where 51 children with generalised vitiligo were treated with narrowband UV-B:

a) 53% achieved >75% of repigmentation

b) 29% had 26-50% of repigmentation

c) 18% had <25% of repigmentation

 

The main advantages of narrowband UV-B include:

a) safety for both adults & children

b) lack of systemic adverse effects

Source: Njoo M D et al., 1998

 

A number of supplements have been shown to help reverse vitiligo. Accompanying light therapy with supplementation is likely to amply its benefits.

 

Which Genes?

NLRP1 gene

NLRP1 is a gene involved in the production of proteins called inflammasomes. Inflammasomes participate in the regulation of the immune system & mutations in NLRP1 have been associated with the presence of autoimmune disorders. The rs6502867 variant of the NLRP1 gene (risky allele: T) was associated with vitiligo in an Indian study (Dwivedi M et al., 2013).

 

Phytonutrient (EGCG) in green tea has been shown to inhibit the action of the NLRP1 gene (Ellis L et al., 2010).

 

Methylation

Methylation is a process responsible for many functions in the body including cell replication and DNA repair. A study published among 80 individuals (40 with vitiligo & 40 controls) (Yasar, A et al., 2012) showed no correlation between mutations in MTHFR or the levels of serum folate & vitamin B12 among the patients. Had the study measured red blood cell folate and vitamin B12 their findings would have been more significant.

Both folate & vitamin B12 (which directly support the methylation pathway) have been used by vitiligo patients with positive outcomes.

 

Case Study.

The photos in the image above are from a female client in her 50’s. She was following the Wahls dietary protocol for 6 months as an anti-inflammatory / auto-immune friendly approach. The main adjustments in her diet where the increase of fats through nuts & seeds as well as progressing from 2 meals and 1 snack a day to a 16-8 hours fast and then to 1 meal a day (twice per week). Breathing exercises as well as progressive exposure to cold (through showers) were also part of her protocol.

 

References.

Boone, B., Ongenae, K., Van Geel, N., Vernijns, S., De Keyser, S. and Naeyaert, J.M., 2007. Topical pimecrolimus in the treatment of vitiligo. European Journal of Dermatology, 17(1), pp.55-61.

Dwivedi, M., Laddha, N.C., Mansuri, M.S., Marfatia, Y.S. and Begum, R., 2013. Association of NLRP1 genetic variants and mRNA overexpression with generalized vitiligo and disease activity in a Gujarat population. British Journal of Dermatology, 169(5), pp.1114-1125.

Ellis, L.Z., Liu, W., Luo, Y., Okamoto, M., Qu, D., Dunn, J.H. and Fujita, M., 2011. Green tea polyphenol epigallocatechin-3-gallate suppresses melanoma growth by inhibiting inflammasome and IL-1β secretion. Biochemical and biophysical research communications, 414(3), pp.551-556.

Grimes, P. E. (2005). New insights and new therapies in vitiligo. Jama293(6), 730-735.

Njoo, M. D., Bos, J. D., & Westerhof, W. (2000). Treatment of generalized vitiligo in children with narrow-band (TL-01) UVB radiation therapy. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology42(2), 245-253.

Njoo, M. D., Spuls, P., Bos, J. T. A., Westerhof, W., & Bossuyt, P. M. M. (1998). Nonsurgical repigmentation therapies in vitiligo: meta-analysis of the literature. Archives of dermatology134(12), 1532-1540.

Yasar, A., Gunduz, K., Onur, E. and Calkan, M., 2012. Serum homocysteine, vitamin B12, folic acid levels and methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene polymorphism in vitiligo. Disease markers, 33(2), pp.85-89.