Over the years, many dietary change strategies have been suggested to play a role in the development and management of chronic skin conditions, including vitiligo. Although all immune-mediated and inflammatory conditions of the skin have distinct clinical features, they often share a chronic inflammatory background. This explains why many living with these conditions strongly believe that their dietary habits affect the progression of their skin disorders. As a result, they are frequently seen discussing their diet’s role in triggering, worsening, or controlling the progression of their skin condition(s) (like vitiligo) with their doctors.
Recently, a group of researchers in Italy conducted a study on the role of nutrition in immune-mediated skin diseases, including vitiligo. They examined the clinical course, breadth, and variability of human nutrition. Their prior studies have shown that certain components of food products (like processed foods and their additives) and low nutrient levels (such as vitamin D serum levels) may trigger or exacerbate immune-mediated skin diseases.
The authors also investigated whether specific dietary adjustments could lead to a therapeutic approach given immune dysregulation caused by oxidative stress in people with a genetic predisposition may cause vitiligo. They found that nutrition plays a conditioning role in many immune-mediated and “thought-to-be” inflammatory skin conditions, including vitiligo. They found some recent studies that investigated the role of nutrition in vitiligo, some of which showed some degree of re-pigmentation after a gluten-free diet. The researchers concluded that certain dietary modifications, such as avoiding established triggers or taking supplements, could be beneficial in some cases.
A Word of Caution – While traditional therapies such as corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and phototherapy can control the progression of vitiligo, nutrition can play a useful role in bridging the gap and making traditional therapy more effective and safer. Having said that, more research is needed to better understand and treat patients with vitiligo.