Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks pigment cells in the skin. This causes inflammation that damages the cells, leading to loss of skin color.

To treat vitiligo, a dermatologist may recommend:

  • medication
  • light therapy
  • surgery

They may also recommend lifestyle strategies to manage the condition, including diet changes.

Scientists have not identified any diets or foods that can cure vitiligo, but certain eating patterns may help limit inflammation and promote overall wellness.

A Black woman with vitiligo eats an appleShare on Pinterest
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A diet rich in certain nutrients can help promote physical and mental health. Antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids may be particularly helpful for limiting inflammation and promoting a healthy immune system.

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids may provide a variety of health benefits.

Antioxidants are compounds that limit oxidation, a chemical reaction that damages cells in the body. Antioxidant-rich foods may help prevent cellular damage and limit inflammation.

Fruits, such as raspberries and strawberries, and vegetables, such as kale and spinach, are particularly rich sources of antioxidants.

Different types of fruits and vegetables contain different antioxidants, so eating an assortment of different colored fruits and vegetables can help a person consume a variety of these compounds.

Antioxidants are also present in other plant-based foods, including:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • whole grains
  • spices

People with vitiligo can consider including these foods in their diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. The body uses them to produce hormones for regulating blood clotting, artery function, and inflammation.

Eating foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids may help limit inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids may also provide other health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include oily fish and shellfish, such as:

  • anchovies
  • herring
  • mackerel
  • mussels
  • oysters
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • swordfish
  • trout
  • tuna

Swordfish contains high levels of mercury. Doctors advise children and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding to eat fish lower in mercury.

Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • nuts, particularly walnuts
  • seeds, such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds
  • seaweed, such as dulse, hijiki, kombu, nori, or wakame
  • plant-based oils, such as flaxseed and canola oil

People may also increase their consumption of omega-3 fatty acids by taking a fish oil or algal oil supplement.

Some foods may increase inflammation in the body. These include:

  • red meat, including beef
  • processed meat, such as hot dogs and deli meats
  • refined grains, such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, and pastries
  • fried foods, such as french fries and chips
  • sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda

Limiting or avoiding these foods may help limit inflammation.

It is also best to avoid foods that contain trans fats. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned trans fats in the United States. However, manufacturers in many other countries still add trans fats to processed foods, such as commercial baked goods, margarine, and shortening.

Some people with vitiligo may have gluten sensitivity or intolerance. They may benefit from avoiding gluten, which is present in:

  • wheat and wheat-based flour, including all-purpose flour
  • ancient forms of wheat, including einkorn, emmer, spelt, and Khorasan (Kamut)
  • barley and barley-based malt
  • rye

A person should speak with their doctor before cutting gluten from their diet. Their doctor can help them understand the potential benefits and risks of a gluten-free diet.

According to a 2017 review, some research suggests that taking one or more of the following supplements may help reduce symptoms of vitiligo in people with low levels of these nutrients:

  • vitamin B12 and folic acid
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin E
  • zinc

Some studies have also found potential benefits from taking certain herbal supplements, such as ginkgo biloba and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (green tea).

However, the research evidence is limited, and not all studies have found benefits from taking supplements for vitiligo. More research is necessary to learn whether certain supplements can help treat this condition.

A person should speak with their doctor before taking a dietary or herbal supplement. Their doctor can help them understand the potential benefits and risks.

In some cases, a person’s doctor may order blood tests to learn whether the person has low levels of certain nutrients.

Scientists have conducted few studies on vitiligo and diet. More research is necessary to learn whether eating or avoiding certain foods may help limit vitiligo symptoms. More studies are also necessary to assess the potential benefits and risks of taking certain dietary or herbal supplements.

Eating a nutrient-rich diet that contains a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, seafood, and lean protein may help limit inflammation and promote good overall health.

Limiting red and processed meats, refined grains, fried foods, and sugar-sweetened beverages also provides health benefits.

A person can talk with their doctor to learn whether they might benefit from changing their diet or taking a supplement. Their doctor may also refer them to a dietitian who can help them develop an eating plan that works best for them.