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Vitiligo and gluten intolerance

Posted on December 14th, 2010 by Alison Read 207 Comments - Add Your Own »

Vitiligo and celiac disease is a topic I have been meaning to write about for a while now. I have both, and believe there is a connection between vitiligo and gluten intolerance. I have found out more on this topic from the readers of this blog than any other source out there, and hope that this incredible information reaches those with vitiligo who are told there is no known cause.

Vitiligo is a skin disorder characterized by smooth, white patches on various parts of the body that occur due to loss of pigment. This loss of pigment often starts on the hands, feet and face, and then can progress to other parts of the body. Hair can turn white where there is a vitiligo patch. Vitiligo is not physically painful, but can be quite emotionally devastating as it affects one’s appearance.

The picture below is of me as a child with vitiligo on my face. It appeared symmetrically below my eyes, but asymmetrically on my legs — 8 spots on only one side of my body.


The spots on my face re-pigmented with the treatment at that time (1973) which was psoralen pills and UV light treatments at Stanford. The spots on my legs remained into adulthood, never getting any bigger or smaller. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2002, I didn’t think about the vitiligo, but over the past years since being on a gluten-free diet, the patches have begun filling in with spots of pigment of various colors, even some darker than my original skin color. I was always self-conscious about the white patches on my legs as a child. Today, you can barely make out their outlines.

Vitiligo is an auto-immune disease, because the immune system attacks the pigment-producing cells of the body. It is thought that lack of folic acid and B12 could be a contributing factor to the onset and spread of vitiligo. Vitiligo has been associated with celiac disease, which causes malabsorption of vital nutrients, so it makes sense that these two conditions can coexist. Though studies have stated the relationship of the two autoimmune diseases, little or no information has been presented from an anecdotal point of view — what happens to the patient with vitiligo if they go on a gluten-free diet?

I have received many emails asking me if vitiligo will go away on a gluten-free diet. Because of these inquiries, I decided to ask celiac disease expert Peter Green about it when I saw him at a conference. He said that he has seen vitiligo reverse on a gluten-free diet if caught early enough. I also decided to follow up with some of the people that emailed me to see if anything had changed with their vitiligo since being on a gluten-free diet. I was astounded at what I found. Out of 8 people I emailed, 5 emailed me back. Of those 5, 3 people had seen the vitiligo reverse! Of the remaining 2, one had not tried a gluten-free diet, and one had not seen change with the gluten-free diet, but had also been diagnosed with dairy and yeast allergy, so perhaps there is more to eliminate from the diet before seeing a change. So, of 4 people who tried a gluten-free diet, 3 had positive results: 75%! Here is what they said:

Woman with vitiligo: “Yes, my pigment is coming back on my knees where I’ve had lesions since age 9 (I’m 38). I also have not had any advancing vitiligo lesions since I’ve been gluten free. I’m not currently doing any treatment, and my pigment is coming back slowly but surely on my legs, some on my hands, and a little on my shoulders. There doesn’t seem to be any changes on my lesions on my abdomen or feet, however. As previously stated, I do have freckling on my
hands, which is surprising. The best part of all is that I feel so much better physically and mentally. I can’t even think of consuming gluten . . . YUCK!”

Father of a child with vitiligo: “It has substantially improved. We finally found a physician who took this very serious, performed subsequent tests and found that due to her inflamed bowels she was not absorbing vitamins (she also has very short hair). In a very short time, with increased vitamin intake, gluten free everything has improved!”

Woman with vitiligo: “Yes the vitiligo did change. I think I remember telling you that it was not noticeable until I got a tan. Then portions of my upper thigh would not tan with the rest of my skin. When I was feeling my worst it spread to my upper back and shoulder in small patches. The upper thigh has not changed since my teens BUT this past summer I got a tan while planning my destination wedding and no patches on my back or shoulder! This is very exciting news since my wedding dress is backless.”

Please, if any others out there have seen their vitiligo change on a gluten-free diet, leave a comment here. And if you have vitiligo and are reading about this connection for the first time, you should consider getting tested for celiac disease or gluten intolerance and going on a gluten-free diet. Even if your vitiligo can’t reverse, the fact that you have this autoimmune condition means that you may have an intolerance to gluten and there could be damage being done inside the body.

I hope that my personal story and the comments shared by others will cause some of you out there to have an “Aha!” moment!

UPDATE: Articles I have found since writing this article in 2010:

Repigmentation of Vitiligo Lesions in a Child with Celiac Disease after a Gluten-Free Diet

Rapid Partial Repigmentation of Vitiligo in a Young Female Adult with a Gluten-Free Diet

Vitiligo and Autoantibodies of Celiac Disease

Vitiligo and Celiac Disease: Is There a Link?

Improvement of vitiligo after oral treatment with vitamin B12 and folic acid and the importance of sun exposure

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  1. Hi im 26 ive also been diognosed with vit my dad has it as well, its not as bad but i would try to go on gluten free diet to halt the progression, over the years iv had of stomach aches feeling bloted and tired sometimes vomiting as well thinking its food poisoning followed by a huge miggrane and sore muscules,iv also had low iron when i was young, so puting it all together and seeing everyone elses condition looks like gluten is the problem, i also had a blood test for celiac it came back negative.

  2. I’ve had vitiligo 16 years starting at age 30. Within 5-6 years I had no remaining patches of my natural olive skin. I believe my Vitiligo is referred to as Universal Vitiligo. On my own I went gluten free 7 years ago and have never felt better. I also went back to the Eat Right For Your Type book (blood type), therefore adding no dairy and no on many other foods. Again, I feel great at 56! I’m so happy my daughter who is now 30 years old is gluten free, too. She’s at that age when vitiligo struck me and watching her strive for a non-inflammatory way of eating brings such joy to me as a mom. I wish I had known before age 30 about celiac and gluten intolerance. I have a positive outlook on having vitiligo for 16 years because it has kept me out of the sun and I’m told I look younger than my age of 56. I also have Raynauds autoimmune disease which my dad and both my children have. Living life to the fullest includes a healthy lifestyle.

  3. can anybody send me acopy of michael dawson vitilligo program. my id is manoj.shintre@yahoo.com.for all those people going glutten free how is a diet of millets esp jowar and bajra.

  4. My son first developed white patches some time in 2013, after which i had consulted at-least a hand full of Dermatologists, and they had us test his Thyroid and allergy tests,all came back as negative. Recently we consulted a Homeopath in Bangalore who specializes in skin related diseases and she asked us to check his Vitamin-D level, when we did…Surprise surprise, it was at 8.2 (below 20 deficiency and Above 30 optimal). With Vitamin d supplements weekly and 15mins of sun exposure after applying some jelly the doctor gave us, we can make out the re-pigmentation(its just been 2 weeks since we started this).

    Its shameful that this simple test was not prescribed by qualified Dermatologists of leading hospitals in India, but a Homeopathic Doctor.

    Hope all of you have not overlooked this test.If any one of you are from Bangalore, i can share the Doctor`s contact details.

  5. Sunil, I had similar if not worst experience in another part if the world …so it’s nit just India…may I get info on the Bangalore Dr. I will fly to India.
    Thanks do much!

  6. Hi,

    Dr.Pranjal Shamsher
    080-23568290 to 91 or 080-42067474 to 75 (+91 country code)

  7. NET is nambudripads allergy elimination technique

  8. Having had negative test results for gluten sensitivity but still feeling rough with the slightest hidden gluten, I decided only two weeks ago to take gf seriously. I also have MS and decided to get back into the regime of taking high(ish) daily doses of Vit D. I first had Vit a couple of years after MS dx 11 years ago. It took off a year or so later after a bout of high stress. Last week I thought saw new skin coloured spots on my hands. My daughter suggested I take photos to see if it changes – I did and after taking another a week later, I really think I am ‘growing’ new bursts of colour. I stumbled across this blog and had tears reading the wonderful outcomes for some people. And I feel I have hope for something good to happen in a long long time Thanks people. 🙂

  9. for the chap that asked about a natural look cover up – try Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Legs. Waterproof, great cover, wears well, looks natural, comes in light, medium and dark shades. Use sparingly and blend. Expensive but worth every cent. Been using it for years. Awesome. Fake tans are also fabulous for a great base to even out before using Airbrush Legs. Gees I am high maintenance.

  10. I’ve learned a lot since I first posted in August 2011! I easily remain gluten free and have also gone dairy free, avoid corn and soy and I’m doing a few things to restore my gut lining. and to enjoy her bike ride this morning!I am so delighted that functional medicine physicians and researchers are coming up with excellent information about leaky gut and autoimmunity. I recommend checking out Susan Blums book “The Immune System Recovery Plan”. She walks you through a process that helps determine your unique sensitivities and provides great suggestions for healing your gut and supporting a healthy immune system. Also, Amy Myers hosted an Autoimmune Summit in November in which about 40 experts weighed in on autoimmunity and gut function. I think it is still accessible online. One import and tidbit I learned is that nearly everyone who is gluten sensitive is likely to be very sensitive as well. She also has a recently published book about healing that gut and reversing autoimmunity. Thank you for creating this blog! You were way ahead of your time 🙂

  11. Oh my goodness, it’s hard to type these comments from an iPhone! In my last comment, ignore the comment about enjoying a bike ride (accidentally cut and pasted from a text!) and about gluten sensitivities, I meant to say that most everyone sensitive to gluten is also sensitive to dairy, not simply sensitive 😏!

  12. Hi i had the iGg test done and iam wheat and dairy intolerant, so i guess my vitiligo is caused by the antibodies trying to fight the wheat and dairy are also atacking my skin

  13. Lucy, what does iGg test stand for?
    Thank you!

  14. Hi Maria IgG stands for Immunoglobulin G i think, its a test to see if your body produces antibodies against certain foods as far as i know, in my case its wheat and dairy. Hope this helps

  15. Thank you! It does.

  16. I am a 51 yr od woman with vitiligo. My son is celiac. I’m going to start a gf diet to see if it helps. How long before you noticed a difference? I see this was posted 5 yrs ago. Has your vitiligo reoccurred? Are you still on a gf diet?

  17. So glad I found your site! I was diagnosed with vitaligo as a small child, maybe 6 or 7 years old. Patches covered my whole body. I did UV treatments and it mostly went away as a teenager. I am 34 years old and only have patches (faintly) on my feet and abdomen. I was recently diagnosed with APS aka Huges syndrome (cardiolipin antibodies, lupus anticoagulant)after having a pulmonary embolism after a cesarean section. I plan on going gluten free and am amazed at what you are saying about vitaligo reversing being related to a gluten free diet. Excited to go gf!

  18. Its true, gluten free will help. I started developing light spots on my dark skinned cheeks. I was concerned. I started gluten free diet to help with constant nose bleeds and what I now consider to be celiacs or high intolerance to wheat products, however I noticed the spots have started to darken and are less noticeable. I’m gonna add some urine therapy to top it off. Thanks for posting. I will spread the word too. Peace and natural health. X

  19. I have been gluten free for 5 years now. I did it for other health reasons and didn’t expect it to have an effect on my vitiligo. However, for a period of time — about 3 months GF forward — it improved. Then I was accidentally “glutened” three times in one month from going out to eat often. The white patches seemed to grow again. All in all, I know the rate of growth has slowed considerably (almost halted when I can remain completely gf) and regimentation has occurred in some places. I have also ceased to develop any other autoimmune diseases. So I believe gf is protecting me against progression of the autoimmune problems I had and it has helped prevent new ones from developing. There is no science to back that up yet — its just an educated guess.

  20. Hi Sunil,
    Which one do you think worked better for your son, the gluten free diet or vitamin d supplements.

  21. Hi Andrea

    Are you deficient in vitamin d3?

  22. My girl is almost 8 years now and thanks to this article we started on a gluten free diet when she was almost five. She has repigmented white patches in her face after days outside at the beach. Sometimes she eats some homemade bread with gluten -from a friend-but with no complications. Even though, this week we noticed she developed episcleritis in one eye. Have any of you experienced it? Thanks for sharing knowledge.

    Health to you all!🌻

  23. Hi Adria,
    I’m happy to hear this! Did it take 3 years for her to repigment or did she begin to repigment right away after beginning the GF diet?
    Regarding eye conditions, I have definitely heard of this and here is a personal account I found: Gluten Intolerance and uveitis, episcleritis and iritis

  24. I am glad that some of you are experiencing repigmentation with GF. I have been GF for several years now and I have not experienced any repigmentation. So it does not work for all.

  25. So glad I came across this site. I am 39 and have had vitiligo since I was about 22–mainly my hands, chin, knees and feet. Hands seems to bear the brunt of the depigmentation. I also developed Hashimotos Hypothyroid after the birth of my first child 8 years ago. My 8 year old boy appears to get eczema on his face and sometimes arm. He is biracial so on him it looks almost like vitiligo because the patches appear pale but they come, hang out for a while and then totally disappear for months. I’ve been considering going gluten free and doing the Autoimmune Paleo diet for my Hashimotos disease and hoping that it could also help with my vitiligo and my son’s eczema. My mom also has vitiligo although I think she’d sooner live with that than give up her bread 🙂 Reading your posts have given me hope that this could be an answer or at lease a huge piece in my mystery. Will give it a shot for me and both my boys. Fingers crossed!

  26. This is incredible and very hopeful. I’ve had vitiligo since I was three years old. It’s mostly on my left leg and ankle, with small white spots on my right ankle. My right knee has filled in over time, and I have slightly lighter “clouds” around my hips, and a perfect white spot right in my belly button. I kinda think that one’s cute. I’m very pale, so after getting through the humiliation as a teen, I’ve almost forgotten I have them. The idea that I might be able to treat them by getting more B12 and Folic Acid, or less gluten, is exciting. This is also consistent with the fact that I’ve gotten more spots during both of my pregnancies. More of the B12 and Folic Acid go to the developing fetus at that point, so that might account for the increase in spots. I’m going to contact an allergen and see if I have Celiac disease. I’ll let you know if I see any repigmentation if and when I do this. Please, if you learn anything more, do let me know. Just curious: How long do people generally have to go gluten free before they see results? Based on your small sample, of course. Thanks so much for taking the time to share! Leila

  27. My son was born with a dairy intolerance and found to have soya intolerance by the age of 7 months. He had bloods taken at 18 months and was told he had a mild intollerance. However he was on the last milk a baby can have. I now have a daughter 3 years apart and is mostly bf but noticed she too was having problems and took dairy and soya out of my diet and she is happy and content once again but both children we have notice something else with my son it was foods with gluten but as they were made in a factory with dairy and results coming back fine, we never thought anything of it. I should mention he was starting to get a small patch of vitiligo on his leg. He has recently had a bad reaction to dairy that would suggest the original results went as reliable. but many people (including a celiac relative) has suggested he be tested again (dairy,soya and gluten I think we asked for wheat gluten last time not sure what they tested though). I’ll now explain I have vitiligo that covers about 80% of my body since I was about 5\6, from being pregnant with my first I had problems with dairy (always varied how much I had growing up as it sometimes made me feel unwell) and took it out of my diet and since I’ve had very little and the last 6 months ive taken it out completely along with soya. My vitiligo has started to get pigment back over the last 3 years. I’m interested to take gluten out of my diet to see if this to works. I’ve often wondered over the last 3 years if diet is the cause of vitiligo my main focus was to make sure my children don’t develop it but now looking at improving my own 🙂

  28. Greetings All,
    Being gluten, sugar and dairy free has slowed the vitiligo from spreading but has not stopped or reversed the condition for me. I just read a few articles this week about the assistant professor of dermatology at Yale who had success in using an arthritis drug to cure one woman’s vitiligo. Hopefully he has found a cure but the drug is very expensive and so far it has only worked on one woman.
    You can read the articles here:



  29. Hallo,
    2 years ago (august ’13) I posted some progression in the regression of the white patches with the gluten free diet, but it stagnated after that summer. Since then, my skin didn’t peel off again to regenerate the skin tissue. The pigmentation stopped suddenly, even with gluten free 🙁

    But this summer I tried gluten- and milk free diet and a lot of capsules vitamin D and sun: great success! 🙂 🙂
    Every week, a few cm² over all my body my skin peel off and followed by pigmentation.
    I hope that this experience may help others.
    Nicholas, from Belgium

  30. I developed vitilago at 13 (now 62) and it spread continuously and was quite extensive. I went gluten free 4 years ago and so much of the pigment returned, and continues to do so. I recently went one step further and adopted the Paleo/Autoimmune diet to reverse my 3 autoimmune conditions. p.s. my chiropractor also has his pigment returning since going gluten free.

  31. Janet,
    That is amazing. I wish I had taken pictures of mine before and after. Thanks for sharing.

  32. I am very interested to read everything here. I have gradually developed numerous autoimmune conditions over the past 5 years, including Hashimotos and pernicious anaemia. After much research I believe that gluten intolerance is somewhere at the root of my problems. My levels of B12 were almost non existent and I am unable to absorb B12 through my stomach and will have to have injections for the rest of my life. The reason I’m sending this message is because about 11 years ago I suddenly developed vitiligo, completely out of the blue. I did not know anything about it and due to my circumstances at the time (travelling) I never sought medical attention. It cleared up completely within a year. However I can now see that my autoimmune problems were obviously starting then and I think that gluten and B12 deficiency are at the root of all these issues. I now follow a gluten free diet and have regular B12 shots but unfortunatley both conditions are irreversible so will have to live with them for the rest of my life. Luckily the vitiligo has not returned and I have very few scars so I have been very lucky in that respect.

  33. Hi I have Vitiligo for 20 years and 3 months ago started Gluten Free. Under my arm pits were completely white and they have started repigmenting they are itching too. My feet are still whit but its early days.

  34. First at all THANK YOU VERY MUCH Allison, for sharing your case. This will help to many people, like me for example.

    I ve been diagnosed Vitiligo.

    I ve NOT been diagnosed Celiac Disease, but I suspect since many years that gluten is really a bad thing to eat.

    Indeed, I work in an hypothesis that try to link gluten and casein with many, many diseases…

  35. My son had vitiligo at the age of 12 years. 3 spots . Shortly after I found out that his sister had celiac disease ( she also had a small spot on the arm ) . I did exams for the whole family but NONE of us ( except my daughter ) had antibodies from celiac disease . I started as a convenience to make a diet for the whole family without gluten and milk . The spots of vitiligo to both sons are gone . My son also disappeared and sinusitis from which he suffered . Sorry for the bad English but I am from Italy.

  36. Hi… I m 20 year old .Recently I had seen some white patches on my left hand .I consult my docter and he said that is vitiligo . So please kindly suggest me what can I do for this.I am take anti oxident pills because my docter reccomend these. so please kindly help me.

  37. I’ve been diagnosed with Vitiligo about 20 years ago. For about 10-15 years I only had a few patches here and there, mainly hands and a tiny one on my eye lid. Well about 4 years ago it started to spread more and more. I started the UV treatment and felt like a slight re-pigmentation was happening, however I moved from California to Australia and stopped the therapy. Within 1 year Vitiligo completely “bleached” me. It took over! Today, I’m as pale as you can imagine. White!!! I do see more white hairs on my eyebrows and hair these days as well.

    I am now just coming across there might be connection to Celiac which I suspect I might suffer from as well.

    That said, if your Vitiligo is in early stages only: do try the gluten free attempt. If there is the slightest chance of stopping or slowing down the process…:go for it! Turning white was (and still is) the most difficult challenge in my life. (I’m 38)
    Its the hardest for me….

  38. Hallo everyone,I want to thank you first Alison. This is really giving a hope. I recently found out my 6 weeks old son have vitiligo. It’s really hurtful and I have been stressing since then,is there anyone pls can give me any advice what to do at least to stop spreading. at the moment he have the white paches on his shoulder, under one arm and bit on his chin. So please anyone help me. Thank you.

  39. Wow Betty,
    That is so young to have vitiligo already. Are you breastfeeding? Gluten does pass through breastmilk. It could also be dairy. It can be difficult, but you may consider cutting both gluten and dairy out and see if it helps.

  40. So interesting to see this connection! I am a 46 year old female with vitiligo since the age of 6. Last summer I tried the folic acid, B12 and sunlight exposure but also added in Zinc and copper. I did get some re pigmentation to skin that has not changed in 30 years! I am now going to a functional medicine doctor and just got a whole bunch of bloodwork today. I cannot wait for the results to see if we can reverse this!

  41. Thanks for sharing Alison! I have vitiligo since the age of 24 (now I am 40). I got it a year after I gave born to my son. In addition I have Hypothyroidism hashimoto with increadible results TAT=4000/MAT=400. During the years I’ve passed through many other problems based on autoimmune character like: Guillain-barre syndorm, erythema nodosum, endometriosis… and to not forget my asthma with no autoimmune connection. So there is any doctor who thinks about all my problems connected together. So I will try GF diet and will come back here with the result.

  42. Hi, ive posted before, i started gluten free years ago when i read this. I now have reasons to belive a ketogenic diet might be best for repigmentetion. Look into it. I hope it helps!

  43. Hi, I just read everyone’s posts and wanted to share my story. I developed a gluten allergy in my 20s and just last summer at the age of 31 I developed white patches on my elbows and other random places. I am strictly gluten free but also a pescatarian (ie no meat but eat fish). I just finished ready Amy Myers’ book about healing the gut and it turns out that all the legumes and grains I’ve been eating are still creating inflammation in my body so my body is attacking my skin cells. I hate the word autoimmune because it’s a cop out for modern medicine when the doctors don’t understand the ‘what, why, how’ of your symptoms. I’m going to try the Myers diet which is essentially gluten free but also cuts out alcohol, caffeine, legumes and grains. I’m still going to try and stay away from meat because I love animals so I won’t be able to drink bone broth which is supposed to be a big help in healing your gut but instead I will go for colonics to try and get the toxins out quickly so my body can repair itself. I’ll post about my progress.

  44. Hi my name is Petra, born and raised in Germany I have had vitiligo since school age. I am 48 and over the years it has spread, my hands, feet, knees, groin area, neck and part of my chin are white, because I am European, I am naturally very pale anyways,this doesn’t seem to bother me as much now as it did when I was a young kid. I moved to the US as a teenager and being exposed to the sun more, I thought was the reason why it was spreading. I also battled infertility, have type two diabetes and I have Hypothyroidism. When I saw an Endocrinologist in Baton Rouge,He gave me meds for Thyroids,and I started on B12 injections. I have two healthy boys now, and I am a pretty healthy individual, recently I was diagnosed with dairy and egg allergy, and my hope is that cutting them out of my diet will get rid of these skin conditions that I have seen numerous doctors for, and all of them gave me cream that only treated the symptoms, I have been dairy and egg free for almost 2 weeks and I already feel better, of course I am willing to cut out gluten as well and see if I can help get some results. I was always told there was no cure, and now that I am 48 it really doesn’t bother me, of course I would love to have beautiful tanned feet for once in my life and I would get the most colorful toe nail polish to show off my tan feet. lol.
    I will certainly let you know, I wish I would have known of this years ago. But either way, it’s a healthier life style all together. Thank you so much for sharing, and I will get back with you if I see any changes.
    Take care and God Bless. Petra

  45. I get back here with my first impression after my gluten free diet. As I wrote I started this March and wrote about it on the 14th of March. At the middle of the summer I’ve seen a lot of small dark points over my white hands. They appear very seldom but they started to be visible fo my relatives. So I am completely sure about the conection between gluten intolerance and vitiligo but the process is so slow that it could take years to recove my skin if I don’ t lose my pation. Thanks to Christian to share about ketogenig diet but it looks quite dificult for me at this stage. I will continue with gluten free diet and will get back here after some months.

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