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Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition where there is the destruction of melanocytes. This results in patches of skin becoming white, hence the word ‘vitiligo,’ which means ‘loss of colour.’ Scientists believe that some people are more likely to develop vitiligo because they have certain inherited (genetic) traits. However, the factors that trigger vitiligo are still unclear. It is thought to be an autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly attacks the pigment cells, which results in their destruction by white blood cells. The skin parts with less melanin get lighter and look lighter than your normal skin tone.
What is melanin?
Melanin is the pigment that gives color to our hair, skin, and eyes. It can range from reddish-brown to black, and it determines how tanned or sunburned we can get. The more melanin we have in our bodies, the darker our skin tone is, and vice versa, those with lighter skin tones produce less melanin than those with darker complexions. People who develop vitiligo usually first notice patches of discolored skin on their face or hands. These patches may spread across their whole body as their immune system continues attacking melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin pigment). This causes loss of pigmentation, which results in white patches appearing on the skin.
Why is there low melanin in vitiligo?
Reduced melanin production is caused by the chemical or physical destruction of cells (melanocytes) in the skin that produce melanin’s pigment (color). Though no definite cause has been found, vitiligo seems to be an autoimmune disease where the body’s defense mechanism malfunctions and sees the pigment cells as foreign invaders. How this triggers vitiligo is still unclear, but it may be an inherited susceptibility. Typically, melanin is produced in melanocytes. In vitiligo, the cause of decreased melanin appears to be a reduction in enzyme tyrosinase reactions. When pigment cells cannot have normal levels of tyrosine, they can eventually disappear or become less active, making it harder for these cells to respond when the body needs them.
Can you increase melanin?
Yes, there are ways to increase the production of melanin. Melanocytes derive their pigment from tyrosine and tryptophan via a metabolic process. Evidence indicates that using specific types of sunscreens may help stimulate melanocyte activity and improve affected skin. One study showed that applying sunscreen with a high sun protection factor usually results in a short-term increase in the production of melanocytes before the onset of hypersensitivity to ultraviolet radiation. This is because it takes a few days for the skin to start showing signs of sunburn, which then leads to fewer pigment cells being active and an eventual decline in melanin production.
You can also increase melanin with the help of skin treatment like:
- Topical Treatments:Â Topical application of a combination of alpha-MSH, a naturally occurring peptide found in the body that stimulates melanocyte activity, and vitamins A and C are effective in stimulating pigment cells to resume their normal function.
- PUVA Therapy:Psoralen combined with ultraviolet A therapy (PUVA) is another form of treatment that can help stimulate pigment cells to increase melanin production. In this therapy, psoralen is applied before exposure to UV light over several sessions. This allows the melanocytes a more significant opportunity for activation from the weak UV radiation. This therapy may be given orally or topically depending on whether it’s used for vitiligo patches or lentigines spots( spots). Although often successful in the short term, results are not permanent.
- Narrow Band UVB Therapy:Â Another form of treatment for vitiligo is narrowband ultraviolet B phototherapy (nBUVB), which uses a specific part of the UV light spectrum to help stimulate melanocyte activity in people with vitiligo patches. This method is relatively safe and effective when applied daily for prolonged periods.
- Oral Medication:Â Oral medications may stimulate melanocyte activity and increase the production of melanin pigment. Some people make these supplements by themselves or ask a doctor for them:
- -Phenylalanine â€“ This amino acid is converted to tyrosine, which stimulates the enzyme tyrosinase and aids in producing melanin. It may be possible that taking this supplement orally might help the skin have more melanin pigment.
- -Sulphatoxymelatonin (melatonin) â€“ This ingredient derived from the pineal gland is not only used as a natural sleeping aid but also speeds up skin regeneration and enhances pigmentation; however, it shouldn’t be given to children or pregnant women without first consulting with their physician.
- L-Tryptophan:Â This supplement is an amino acid converted to 5-HTP, which helps the body manufacture melanin by stimulating the skin and central nervous system cells.
Melatonin – Derived from serotonin. It regulates our sleep and waking cycles and mediates the pigmentation of skin and hair.
- Niacinamide –There is evidence that taking niacinamide orally, which can cause skin flushing, may make the skin turn darker. Some people have tried this to increase melanin production, but the results are variable and not yet known to be safe or effective.
- Analgesics -Â This method is also used by some people who complain of sunburn during PUVA therapy. The painkillers ease this symptom and allow more time in the sun to receive their treatment sessions.
- Sun Protection:Â Scientists have shown that Phototherapy causes an initial pigmentary response followed by melanocyte destruction or depletion due to UV damage after repeated Phototherapy treatments. However, many scientists believe it’s essential for those with vitiligo patches to protect themselves from excessive sunlight exposure because it may worsen depigmentation. Those with vitiligo should avoid the sun as much as possible and use sunscreen when exposed to it to prevent further damage.
- Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) –This peptide is a naturally occurring body chemical that stimulates melanin production and reduces the destruction of pigment cells. Because of its ability to restore skin color, MSH has been used by doctors for treating vitiligo. However, because this drug also affects other hormones and enzymes in the body, it has serious side effects that limit its value as a treatment for vitiligo.
- Skin grafts:Â This is an option for restoring color to a specific part of their skin. The doctor will take a small piece of uninvolved skin and move it over the area to be treated by melanocytes.
- Melanocyte transplantation -Â A more extreme form of treating vitiligo patches is transplanting melanocytes into the depigmented areas of the body. However, because this procedure requires surgery and general anesthesia, its use has declined since more effective treatments are available.
Â How to increase melanin production by diet and supplements?
- Antioxidants are found in most fruits and vegetables. A study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Francisco showed that vitamin C applied to skin cells in a laboratory increased their production of melanin pigments when exposed to ultraviolet light (UVB). Fruits and vegetables such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, green peppers, oranges, strawberries, etc., are rich sources of antioxidants like Vitamin E and beta-carotene, which also help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.
- Catechins in green tea may stimulate melanocyte activity for producing more pigment in vitiligo patches when used orally or topically with exposure to UVB light. Green tea has also been shown to help reduce inflammation in skin cells. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a potent antioxidant that stimulates the production of melanin pigments in laboratory studies. ALA occurs naturally in certain foods, including spinach, broccoli, yeast, organ meats, and potatoes. Several studies have suggested that orally administered ALA may be beneficial for treating vitiligo. However, it may cause nausea when used orally, so topical application is preferred.
- This chemical produced by cruciferous vegetables has also been shown to stimulate melanocytes in lab experiments. It can be found in vegetables such as kale, choy, brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
- Vitamin A:
- Vitamin A has been shown to prolong survival and stimulate the development of melanocytes in laboratory experiments. It may help treat vitiligo patches when used topically, although it is usually more effective when used orally. Clinical studies have shown that slow-release forms of Vitamin A given by injections or as a dietary supplement can significantly reduce the relapse rate of vitiligo even after treatment has stopped.
- Vitamin E:
- This is a fat-soluble vitamin that has antioxidant properties. It helps protect cell membranes from damage by free radicals, which destroy melanocytes in vitiligo patches. Sunflower oil, almonds, safflower oil are some of the familiar sources of Vitamin E.
- These pigmenting compounds help protect the skin against UVA and UVB sun rays, which can cause hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation, respectively. Lutein and beta-carotene are carotenoids found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, etc., while lycopene is found in tomatoes and pink grapefruit. Studies have shown that people with levels of lutein tend to have less risk of developing vitiligo.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids:Â
- A diet rich in fish oil, flaxseed oil, and walnuts may help keep the skin healthy by preventing dryness, scaling, or inflammation that can damage cells and lead to their destruction. A study at Stanford University showed that Omega 3 fatty acids help prevent the death of melanocytes exposed to UVB light. Fish oils are also found to reduce inflammation in skin cells after exposure to UV light. According to health experts, fish oil supplements can be used if dietary changes fail to induce significant results.
- Probiotics & Prebiotics:Â
- Probiotic supplements may answer those who don’t consume yogurt with good bacteria because of lactose intolerance. Prebiotics are digestive enzymes that increase probiotic levels in the bowel, thereby strengthening their effectiveness when used topically with exposure to UVB light.
- A spice used in Indian cuisine, turmeric has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help protect the skin from further damage. It has also been shown to help delay the progression of existing pigmentation in vitiligo patches.
- Green Tea:Â
- This is a drink made by infusing or decocting leaves of Camellia Sinensis, which contains polyphenols with antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that green tea has an inhibitory effect on the melanin-producing enzyme Tyrosinase in laboratory experiments. However, whether green tea can be used topically for vitiligo patches without being orally administered remains investigated.
- Aloe Vera:Â
- Derived from the aloe barbadensis Miller plant, aloe vera juice helps moisturize the skin and soothe inflammation when applied directly to the skin. It is also known to help heal wounds faster by reducing pain and allowing new tissue to regenerate more quickly. Its benefits are proven scientifically, and it may also help stimulate melanocytes in vitiligo patches.
- Vitamin D3:Â
- Sunlight is an effective stimulus for Vitamin D3, which helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate. These minerals are essential for normal melanocyte development and function. People who spend a lot of time indoors, especially in the winter months, should consider Vitamin D3 supplements to treat vitiligo patches.
- This mineral helps stimulate the immune system to fight infections more effectively while preventing other autoimmune disorders from developing. It is found in oysters, beef, chicken, turkey, black-eyed peas, squash seeds, and pumpkin seeds, among other foods.
- Homeopathic treatment for vitiligo:
- Homeopathic treatment for vitiligo is one of the natural ways to increase melanin pigment in psoriasis patients. Homeopathic treatment, vitiligo, is a safe and effective natural remedy to treat the disorder. This treatment has been used for centuries in treating numerous skin conditions. It can be used as an alternative to reduce loss of pigmentation, which causes the formation of white patches on any area of the body. Homeopathic treatment for vitiligo involves taking homeopathic medicines that are prepared from natural sources. Homeopathic treatment for vitiligo has holistic treatment and cure for various skin problems that cause loss of colour.
Nowadays, the demand for natural remedies is increasing due to their effectiveness and fewer side effects at higher doses than conventional medicine. Homeopathic treatment for vitiligo has numerous benefits, but the significant advantage is its safety without any adverse effects. Visit a homeopathy doctor and increase melanin pigment with the help of homeopathic treatment. You can book an appointment through OHO Homeopathy and get an effective natural treatment for vitiligo.