Is coconut oil good for Vitiligo?
My answer is- yes, if you use the ‘right’ kind of coconut oil. Before you start scratching your head, let me explain the meaning of ‘right’ coconut oil. I am talking about the ‘virgin’ coconut oil- it is pure, non filtered and non bleached variety of coconut oil which is extracted from the coconut kernels using the cold pressing method without using any external heat or chemical solvents. Thus, it is the purest form of coconut oil that retains all the intrinsic health benefits of coconut. It is one of the healthiest fats available and has tremendous benefits when consumed orally or applied externally.
Don’t compare it to the cosmetic grade coconut oil which is available in the market as a hair oil or massage oil. The cosmetic grade coconut oil is bleached, refined and in most of the cases, it is adulterated with chemical solvents or cheap oils. These varieties of coconut oils stand no where near to the sweet aroma, taste and health benefits of virgin coconut oil.
I have already shared the guidelines for buying virgin coconut oil at the end of this article. Before that, let us try to understand the various benefits of virgin coconut oil for vitiligo.
What is Vitiligo
Vitiligo, also known as leucoderma, is an autoimmune skin issue. The autoimmunity means that the immune system whose role is to defend your body against the disease causes microbes and other foreign matters, becomes faulty and starts attacking the body’s own cells. In case of vitiligo, it attacks the pigment (color) producing healthy skin cells of your body. These skin cells got destroyed (or damaged) and results in loss of skin pigment in the form of white patches on various parts of the body. Thus, vitiligo refers to skin de-pigmentation as a result of the uncontrolled and stressed immune system.
The various possible reasons for autoimmunity are:
- Chronic stress
- Poor gut health (gut means the gastrointestinal tract that starts at the mouth and terminates at the anus)
- Faulty genes
- Infections such as strep throat
- Any skin injury
- Excessive consumption of steroids and antibiotics
- Over consumption of alcohol
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Heavy metal toxicity due to contaminated drinking water or pesticides in food
- Poor diet and lifestyle
The exact cause of autoimmunity is still unknown, hence, the exact cure is also unavailable as of now.
But, when it comes to the natural (holistic) healing concept, poor gut health is the root of all autoimmune diseases including vitiligo and psoriasis. It is rightly so because more than 70% of the immune system is located in the gut. (1)
In recent years, many health experts have identified ‘leaky gut’ as the principle culprit for autoimmunity. The linings (walls) of your gut have a net like porous structure with micro holes to allow only the food nutrients to pass through and enter the blood stream. These tight junctions act as a barrier against the body toxins (undigested food, bad bacteria and heavy metals etc.) from entering the blood stream. But, in case of leaky gut, these tight junctions get damaged and allows the body toxins to leak into the blood stream. The immune system considers these body toxins as threat and triggers autoimmune response.
In short, whatever be the cause of vitiligo in your cause, improving the gut health would help attain long term, stable improvement in your vitiligo symptoms.
The optimum gut health means:
- Smooth bowel movements (no constipation)
- Healthy digestion (no signs of gas, bloating and acid reflux)
- Healthy liver functioning
- Optimum gut flora- Your gut houses trillions of microbes. Some are good bacteria, also known as probiotics, and some are bad ones, also known as pathogens. For healthy digestion and immune system, these two types of microbes should remain in balance. If this equilibrium gets disturbed and the bad microbes overpower the probiotics, then it would create all sorts of problems.
Overcrowding of bad microbes>> Poor digestion>> Accumulation of undigested food
This lethal combination of undigested food and bad microbes would damage the gut walls to cause leaky gut and worsen vitiligo symptoms.
How Virgin coconut oil can help with Vitiligo
It can be used in 2 ways to help relieve vitiligo symptoms:
- Oral consumption
- External application
Oral consumption of Virgin coconut oil
Virgin coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat, a type of medium chain fatty acid, that breaks down easily during the digestion process to provide instant energy. It is rapidly metabolized and easily transferred to the liver from the digestive tract where it is directly converted into energy rather than being stored as fat. Unlike other saturated fats, it doesn’t store in your body and hence, doesn’t pose any risk of obesity or chronic heart problems. Also, it is completely safe for cooking purposes because it is quite stable to heat and doesn’t oxidize when heated. On the other hand, many vegetable oils such as soybean, peanut, corn and sunflower oils are oxidized during high temperature heating to produce trans fats which increase inflammation in the body. Thus, it is one of the healthiest options as cooking oil. In fact, people in Kerala, India extensively use coconut oil for cooking and it can be a reason for less incidences of heart problems in Kerala than the rest of India.
According to Dr Mehmet Oz, the host of “The Dr. Oz Show”, Virgin coconut oil contains lauric acid and certain fatty fats that fight yeasts, parasites, viruses and bad bacteria overgrowth in the gut to improve digestion and nutritional profile of the body. It is beneficial in inflammatory bowel diseases as it reduces gut inflammation. Also, recommended during weight loss diet protocols as it boosts body metabolism and accelerate energy expenditure rate without piling up fat in your body.
- Eliminates bad microbes from the gut
Around 50% of coconut oil is lauric acid, a fatty acid which is found in breast milk. Lauric acid has research proven antimicrobial activity against many of the harmful disease causing bacteria, fungi and viruses. (2)
Due to these healthy fatty acids, oral consumption of virgin coconut oil helps kill the bad bugs in your gut to reduce inflammation and leaky gut symptoms. Candida (yeast overgrowth) in your gut is also a potential reason for leaky gut and the antimicrobial activity of virgin coconut oil would neutralize Candida also. (6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
- Improves digestion and absorption of food nutrients
By eliminating bad gut microbes, virgin coconut oil can help maintain the equilibrium of good and bad microbes to improve digestion and hence, better absorption of food nutrients.
- Relieves constipation and promotes body detox
Virgin coconut oil acts as a mild laxative that accelerates body metabolism and imparts a colon cleansing action. It helps in frequent, softer bowel movements.
- Reduces liver congestion
Mild to moderate consumption of virgin coconut oil reduces liver toxicity and improves its functioning. (11)
- Boost body metabolism to reduce toxins overload
Good to know– Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurveda technique that means using virgin coconut oil as mouthwash. Primarily, it was used to improve dental health by killing the harmful bacteria in the mouth, but recently alternative health experts have been exploring its potential to heal autoimmune disorders by reducing inflammation. Ukrainian doctor, Dr F. Karach has claimed that oil pulling can help treat a variety of health disorders including autoimmune disorders, allergies, heart problems and hormonal imbalances.
External use of virgin coconut oil
As we have understood, vitiligo is not just a skin problem, rather, it is related to the inner body system. The vitiligo patches on the skin are just a reflection of the problems inside your body. Thus, any kind of external treatment- oil, cream or whatever- will not provide much relief until you address the inner body issues. However, keeping the skin moisturized and protected against sunburn will definitely relieve vitiligo symptoms.
- Virgin coconut oil is a wonderful body moisturizer– Skin dryness can make the white patches itchy to worsen vitiligo symptoms. The virgin coconut oil is all natural and cost effective skin moisturizer- non sticky in nature, easily absorbed by the skin and have a pleasant smell. Enriched with healthy fatty acids and vitamin E, regular use of virgin coconut oil will make your skin soft, supple and hydrated to slow down the ageing process.
- Virgin coconut oil is a natural sun screen– Many people with vitiligo can’t stand sunlight for long because it causes mild sunburn. The sunlight exposure can turn the white patches bright red to cause a burning sensation. Virgin coconut oil is a natural sunscreen with mild sun protection (SPF 4). It provides excellent relief from mild sunburn symptoms- reduces redness, moisturize the skin and soothes the inflammation (burning sensation). Hence, either use it alone or mix it with your sunscreen lotion for enhanced results.
For those interested, SPF 4 means virgin coconut oil can block 75% of UV rays in 45 minutes of sunlight exposure whereas a sunscreen lotion with SPF 40 can block 98% of UV rays.
Considering these healing effects, many of the natural (herbal) oils and creams that claim anti-vitiligo effect use coconut oil as the base ingredient.
How to use virgin coconut oil
The optimum dosage is 1-2 tablespoons (around 15-30 ml) per day. The virgin coconut oil gets solidified below 24 deg C (76 deg F). Hence, simply ingest the solid or semi solid oil from spoon and let it melt in your mouth. It will be difficult to consume 15 ml in one go. So, divide it into 2-3 installments throughout the day.
The other ways of consuming virgin coconut oil are:
- Replace your cooking oil/butter with virgin coconut oil
- Add coconut oil in your oatmeal, yogurt, salad dressings or smoothies.
Topical (external) application
Simply apply coconut oil on your skin as and when required- after bathing, before going outside in the sun and at night before sleep. If you are going through phototherapy (UV light therapy), then virgin coconut oil can be used after the phototherapy sessions to reduce the phototherapy induced skin irritation.
From where to buy
Now, this is important because I really don’t find virgin coconut oil here in Indian grocery stores. Online shopping can help here. Check below Amazon links to buy cold pressed virgin coconut oil of reputed brand:
If you are from USA, click here to check
If you are from India, click here to check
If you are from UK, click here to check
Turmeric and Coconut oil paste- Any benefits in Vitiligo?
I don’t see any harm in trying this combination, but, for me, it’s not going to do any magic either. The fact of the matter is any external treatment can’t provide serious benefits in vitiligo healing. Simply sort out the gut related issues with the help of a restricted, healthy diet, positive lifestyle, stress management and proper use of dietary supplements and natural herbs. A healthy gut would automatically calm down the immune system to improve vitiligo naturally.
Read more: Turmeric (curcumin) for Vitiligo
If you want to try, then add 5 teaspoons (10 grams) of pure turmeric powder in 250 ml of virgin coconut oil, mix it well and apply on the vitiligo marks for 30 minutes to 2 hours as per your comfort. You can do it everyday for 6 to 8 weeks to see if it helps.
Virgin coconut oil for Vitiligo- User review
I found this comment on a discussion forum where a mother has found success in re-pigmentation of her daughter ‘s skin with the help of a clean diet and rubbing virgin coconut oil.
Got more questions? Ask Dr Rekha Jain
Please send your questions to Dr Rekha Jain at [email protected]