March, 2024

Having skin issues can be very frustrating and make you feel so self conscious. If you have Vitiligo, then you know this struggle. 

I’ve seen this condition many times in my dermatology practice over the years. It is not physically painful per say, but it can leave psychological and emotional “scars”. 

What is it – do YOU have it?!

Vitiligo is a long-term skin condition characterized by patches of the skin losing their pigment, leaving white patches in various areas on the body. The condition can be unpredictable, with patches of depigmentation sometimes spreading or remaining stable for long periods.


Vitiligo is considered an autoimmune disease, and is a multifactorial disease with genetic susceptibility and environmental factors playing a role.

Vitiligo can be associated with other autoimmune conditions like: Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, alopecia aerate, lupus erythematosus, and celiac disease.

There are two different types of Vitiligo.  Non segmental- there is usually some form of symmetry in the location of patches of pigmentation loss.  Segmental vitiligo is most often unilateral and tends to affect areas of skin that are associated with dorsal roots of the spinal cord.


Other General signs and how we would diagnose:

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Patches of Depigmented Skin: The most prominent sign of vitiligo is the presence of white or light-colored patches on the skin. These patches can vary in size and often have irregular shapes and borders.

Symmetrical Distribution: In many cases, vitiligo patches occur symmetrically on both sides of the body. 

Location: Vitiligo can affect small areas of the skin or be more widespread, covering large portions of the body. It can also occur in specific areas, such as around the eyes, mouth, or joints.

Premature Graying of Hair: Vitiligo can cause the hair located in affected areas to turn prematurely white or gray.

Typical Conventional Treatments:

  • Topical Corticosteroids
  • Topical Calcineurin Inhibitors/Medications 
  • Phototherapy
  • Excimer Laser Therapy
  • Depigmentation
  • Surgical Treatments such as skin grafting
  • Cosmetic Makeup/Tanning 

The Functional Medicine View Point

We are learning in Functional Medicine that it may be caused by an autoimmune response – which is not surprising, since many other skin conditions are also linked to the immune system & the gut! 

We treat vitiligo by investigating the gut and levels of toxicity in the body.

Here are some other factors thought to contribute to the development of vitiligo:

Genetic Predisposition: There appears to be a genetic component to vitiligo, as it often runs in families. Certain genes may predispose individuals to developing vitiligo or increase their susceptibility to autoimmune responses targeting melanocytes.

Neurochemical Factors: Some studies suggest that neurochemicals, such as neurotransmitters or neuropeptides, may play a role. because Stress can be a trigger for flares, possibly due to its effects on the nervous and immune systems.

Environmental Triggers: Chemical exposure and/or skin trauma may also contribute to the development or exacerbation of vitiligo in genetically susceptible individuals. 

Oxidative Stress: Oxidative stress occurs when there’s an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and the body’s ability to neutralize them with antioxidants. 

Viral Infections: Some research has suggested a potential link between certain viral infections, such as herpes simplex virus, and the development of vitiligo, triggered from an auto-immune response.


What can we do about it?!

It may seem like there is no cure or strong treatment for it. But good news – your lifestyle can TOTALLY affect it, in a positive way! 

Here are some tactics we may use in our protocols with patients:

Dietary Modifications

Addressing your nutrition will have a huge impact on your whole body, including your skin! Top recommendations would include removing as many inflammatory foods as possible, such as reducing or eliminating gluten, dairy, and processed foods, and increasing intake of antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.


These include vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin C, zinc, and copper. 

Herbal Remedies

Top options  include Ginkgo biloba, Picrorhiza kurroa, and Psoralea corylifolia (Babchi). 

Stress Management

Managing an auto-immune response means addressing how your nervous system and immune system communicate and function.

Reducing your stress load is crucial here!

Techniques such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation may help manage stress and improve overall well-being.

Topical Natural Remedies

Some natural substances may be applied topically to vitiligo patches to help promote repigmentation, like bergamot oil, black seed oil, and ginger oil, khellin,  ginkgo biloba extract. 

Sun Protection

Sun exposure can worsen vitiligo. It’s essential to protect depigmented areas of skin from UV radiation by wearing sunscreen with a high SPF, protective clothing, and seeking shade when outdoors.

If you’re curious to learn how to manage your vitiligo using our functional medicine approach, please reach out to our office for a complimentary call!

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