Does Gluten Free Diet Help Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a skin disorder in which white patches are formed on the skin. This pigmentation can cover the whole body with irregular borders. The pigmentation is observed usually where the skin is exposed to the sun such as arms, feet, face and hands. Vitiligo can be treated but they cannot be cured completely in most cases. Considering its impact on individual’s skin, it is essential for to keep an eye on the symptoms and take sufficient steps to prevent its occurrence.

For people with vitiligo, it is believed that certain types of food can affect the pigmentation and hence must be avoided. A gluten free diet is often recommended to manage vitiligo, which makes it necessary to understand the link between the two.

Does Gluten Free Diet Help Vitiligo?

Does Gluten Free Diet Help Vitiligo?

In order to understand if gluten free diet helps vitiligo or not, it is important to be well versed with the disorder. In vitiligo, the pigmentation change is caused due to loss of melanin. For some reason, melanocytes are destroyed as they are the pigment forming cells. The main symptom of vitiligo is loss of skin color as a small patch initially but gradually it starts to cover the whole area.

The main cause of the disorder is still unknown, but vitiligo can be caused due to autoimmune response which means the body attacks itself. This disorder can be inherited. Some studies have pointed towards the possibility that certain types of foods can trigger such a response, which begins the loss of pigmentation. It is possible that intolerance to such foods may trigger an autoimmune response and result in such conditions like vitiligo. Hence, certain foods like those containing gluten, if eliminated from the body, can help in managing the symptoms of vitiligo.

What is Gluten Free Diet?

The diet which includes the protein gluten is known as gluten free diet. Wheat, rye, barley and triticale contain gluten. Gluten free diet can remove starch and other additives from the body. Suddenly switching to gluten free diet is very hard but when people get used to it they feel healthy and strong. Coeliac disorder is a lifetime issue which is caused by the immune system reacting to gluten. The best treatment is following a strict gluten free diet.

Generally gluten free diet is mainly recommended for people who suffer from coeliac disease, in which there is intolerance to gluten. Vitiligo, similar to coeliac disorder, is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. In vitiligo the pigmentation of the skin is lost and large patches are caused all over the body which is exposed to the sun. When vitiligo and coeliac disorder occur together then gluten free diet can be of great help.

Vitiligo is not a contagious disorder and affects one percent of the population. Vitiligo is not a life threatening disorder but the skin condition can impact a person’s emotional wellbeing and social life.

According to research and development it has been observed that vitiligo is caused by autoimmune disorder. There are 14 known genes which are associated with vitiligo disorder while 13 genes play an important role with celiac disease. Blood samples were collected from people who suffer from vitiligo disorder and it has been found that antibodies which causes celiac disorder.

In 2011, a girl who was suffering from vitiligo and celiac disorder started following gluten free diet. It has been proved that vitiligo started to reduce but not completely. Various other vitiligo victims also shared their experiences online that the skin pigmentation reduced after taking up a gluten free diet. Gluten free diet is in fact harmless and does not cause any sorts of side effects. They help people to improve their health condition and make them stay strong.

Researchers believe that there are three common factors which can affect celiac disorder and vitiligo. Genetic predisposition is one, environmental trigger is second and abnormal intestine walls add to it. Changes in diet can help to a great extent and following a gluten free diet may be one of those.

Facts about Vitiligo

Anyone can suffer from vitiligo and it does not have any relation with age, gender and race. The exact reason for vitiligo is still unknown but scientists believe that it is caused by autoimmune disorder. Few scientists believe that vitiligo is caused by a virus. Vitiligo is not contagious.

Melanocyte, which produces melanin are affected by vitiligo. Non-segmental and segmental vitiligo is the two types of vitiligo. At present there is no cure for vitiligo. UVA and UVB treatment can help few people who suffer from vitiligo. When 50% of the skin is affected by vitiligo then depigmentation can be an option.

Tips for a Gluten Free Diet to Help Vitiligo

Initially following the gluten free diet can be difficult but with regular efforts, it can be made possible. Many of the grocery stores sell gluten free products, hence look for those.

Here are few tips for a gluten free diet for treating vitiligo.

  • Always check for gluten free substitutes rather than food which contain gluten. Bread and pasta contains gluten so it doesn’t mean you have to give up eating them.
  • There are substitutes which are available in the market which are gluten free.
  • Make sure to read the food labels. When you go through the list of ingredients of the products you will get to know whether the product is gluten free or not. So based on it you can make your choice.
  • Majority of the natural foods are gluten free. Fresh vegetables, fruits, poultry, fish, eggs and cheese are naturally gluten free. Hence you can start to use them in your daily gluten free diet.
  • Make sure to avoid few of the alcohols. Gluten free alcohol includes wine, cider, port, spirit and liqueurs. Make sure you stay away from beer, stouts, ales and lagers as they contain varying quantity of gluten. If you still wish, choose from the gluten free beers available in the market.
  • Make sure to skip sauces which contain gluten. Majority of the pasta sauces, stocks and gravies contain gluten so make sure to read the food label before your purchase. If you wish to include sauces then you can make your own which is gluten free.


Vitiligo does not lead to any other serious health issues but people with vitiligo are at increased risk of thyroid, type 1 diabetics and Addison’s disease. Following a proper gluten free diet for vitiligo helps people stay healthy and safe.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 2, 2017

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