The Founder Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation, Ogo Maduwesi says modification in lifestyle help vitiligans recover some pigmentation lost to vitiligo.
Vitiligo, which is pronounced vit-ill-EYE-go, is a pigmentation disorder in which the cells that make pigment in the skin are destroyed.
This results to white patches appearing on the body.
These patches could also appear on the mucous membranes such as the linings of the mouth, nose and eyes.
The hairs growing on the part affected may also turn white.
Dr John Harris, University of Massachusetts, Medical School, said in his article titled “How to treat your vitiligo’, that though there is no cure for vitiligo there are good treatments for it.
According to him, many times patients go to their doctors and they’re told there’s no cure for vitiligo,that doesn’t mean there aren’t good treatments.
Maduwesi said there were many treatments available, but she recommended a non-clinical option.
According to her, living with vitiligo since she was first diagnosed in 2005 and getting back some of her pigmentation had been a journey in self-discovery.
One of the things she learned early was that it may be a lifelong journey and she couldn’t imagine herself taking medications for the rest of her life.
Maduwesi said she had always reacted adversely to some foods and medications.
“So, when I discovered the white patch on the mucous membrane of my lip, I assumed I am reacting to something,’’ she said.
The founder of VITSAF said she discovered more white patches on her skin whic appeared small initially but began to join and spread into larger patches.
“So when my vitiligo started, I got confused and threw away everything I was eating. Thinking I must be reacting to something,” she said.
According to her, a dermatologist at a hospital later confirmed that she had vitiligo upon investigation.
“Then I was told, ‘You’re not the first, you won’t be the last. Don’t let this bother you.
“How can I not be bothered when I see my skin change daily?” she asked.
She was also told there was no cure, “but it was difficult accepting it’’.
Determined to find something that would work, Maduwesi said: “ I started reading and researching. I found out there were so many theories as to its cause.”
She confirmed that vitiligo was an autoimmune disease without a cure, adding that certain foods can help.
“I came across the Indian sites with the Ayurvedic medicines (an Indian method of treating illnesses with foods, herbs and special physical exercise).
“I lived as a vegetarian for one year and a vegan for six months.
When I became a vegan, I realised that we (vitiligans) had issues absorbing Vitamin B12 (folic acid). I was having issues with my red blood cells,” Maduwesi revealed.
According to her, many vitiligans struggled with anaemia because of their difficulty absorbing B12.
“Folic acid is one thing I must take,” she said.
She disclosed that she didn’t eat beef except for rare occasions and was lactose intolerant, getting the needed vitamin became more challenging until she discovered other foods rich in antioxidants that helped.
Maduwesi said she stopped the vegan and vegetarian diets eventually but discovered other herbs like gingko biloba, though not originally made for vitiligo, of great help.
“At some point I was taking St John’s worth, herbal drugs and supplements that somehow helped.
Those early days, this was how I attacked it head-on because I wasn’t finding it funny.
The patch on my face and this spot on my neck is what is left. I keep getting new pigments coming together by the day,” she said.
Maduwesi also encoraged vitiligans to read research studies to get information to address their challenge.
However, she noted that what works for one person may not work for another.
Besides, she advised vitiligans to reduce their sugar, alcohol, carbonated water intake and quit smoking.