Four Seasons Naturopathic Approach to Vitiligo ©
By Dr. Rahim Habib ND – Naturopathic Doctor
When the colour, or pigmentation of your skin starts to fade in spots or areas, you may have a skin disorder called vitiligo. Sometimes it only affects one side of the body, or it could involve a significant area of the body. Many vitiligo sufferers feel embarrassed, ashamed, or worried about how others will react, especially when it is in an exposed area of the body, like on the face or hands. No matter how much of the body is affected, it almost always makes the sufferer feel out of place, often affecting their level of self-confidence, possibly leading to isolation and even depression.
From the perspective of a naturopathic doctor, I have found that helping people with vitiligo means not only focusing on improving their skin, but also their mind and emotions. There are a variety of nature-based approaches, though a combination approach often works best, as described below.
The Cause of Vitiligo
Vitiligo is the result of a combination of factors including environmental, genetic, toxicity, and immunologic aspects. Some research shows that there is a genetic susceptibility, as vitiligo is also associated with other genetically-associated auto-immune illnesses affecting the thyroid, joints, stomach, etc. From my experience, genetics do not mean you are destined to get an illness and often there is a trigger which sets the process in motion – such triggers can include toxic chemical exposures, mental-emotional stress, nutritional deficiency, oxidative/free radical stress, trauma/injury, or sunburn.
Naturopathic Treatment of Vitiligo
From a naturopathic perspective, I always search to find the underlying factors that cause the problem. By testing for nutritional deficiencies, toxic elements, the level of free radicals and understanding the mental-emotional environment of when the vitiligo began, we can start to develop a targeted program to help address the cause. In some cases, poor digestion leading to malabsorption of nutrients is also a factor in the development of vitiligo. In my experience, correcting nutritional deficiencies with vitiligo sufferers can improve pigmentation in at least 25% of people. Common nutritional deficiencies are vitamin A, vitamin B12, L-methyl folate (an important form of folic acid), zinc, copper, carnitine, vitamin C, vitamin D, sulphur, etc. Correcting the digestive and absorptive functions can make a significant difference. Arsenic is a toxic metal which may also play a role in the development of vitiligo, as well as a chemical form of vitiligo related to occupational chemical exposures, or people who react to hair dyes, deodorants, spray perfumes and detergents. By removing the toxic chemicals that people are exposed to and starting a cleansing, or detoxification program (for instance utilizing saunas, promoting effective bowel movements, supporting the liver and kidneys, etc.), the skin can start to heal properly.
By incorporating ‘mind-body’ techniques, we can also use one of the biggest factors affecting people’s health, their mind. For example, when people are stressed and anxious, the whole body is affected – the nerves, the hormones, and even the nutritional state, this can even have an impact on the skin. The mind has a tremendous role in also helping to change the internal environment of the body, and can help people with a variety of disorders, including skin disorders like vitiligo. My preference is to combine herbal essential oil extracts with a mind-body technique to help turn the person’s health around, into a better state of balance. When using herbal essential oils in a bath, or what’s called “oil-dispersion hydrotherapy,” the results can come much quicker, particularly on the skin. Other water based therapies that are helpful are using Dead Sea Salt in hydrotherapy. Some herbal extracts are also helpful. For example, ginkgo biloba, ammi visnaga, as well as many East Asian herbal extracts.
From a naturopathic perspective, which incorporates a deeper assessment, with a combination of treatments – nutritional, herbal, cleansing, topical, ultraviolet-B (UV-B) light and mental-emotional factors, the best results can come for people who have vitiligo.
For a customized naturopathic skin care program, contact the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing at 905-597-7201.