I had the chance to chat with T.J., who has created an amazing online community for those with vitiligo. Like me, T.J (aka the vitiligo girl) was able to cure a lot of her vitiligo by changing her diet and lifestyle. Now, she runs a site where she documents her own journey and brings together various individuals who have been able to cure their vitiligo using non-traditional methods. You can see some of the pigment that has come back to spots on her shins! There are even more impressive before and after photos up on her site (my measly computer can’t hold them all) so I definitely recommend you check her out. And without further ado, meet the Vitiligo Girl!
Tell me more about your blog. What inspired you to start it?
Initially, my blog started out as my own special place where I could talk openly about my vitiligo and document my journey to stop and reverse my vitiligo-for my own benefit as well as for others. I found it therapeutic to share with others what I had learned through the things I was reading, which was anything and everything about autoimmune disease and why the body begins to attack itself. I quickly realized, though that I could do something more with my blog.
When I was first diagnosed with vitiligo three years ago, I desperately needed hope and reassurance from others who had overcome their vitiligo-I wanted to hear that I, too could heal. However, I wasn’t able to find very many personal experiences. Besides yours, there was Caroline’s over at TheVitPro.com, Dr. Wanakee Hill’s in her book, and the free online book, Emily’s Vitiligo. That’s it.
I knew that there were likely hundreds, if not thousands of other people just like me who were searching for answers. It was then that I decided that I wanted my blog to be an inspiring and comforting place where all of those people could go and ease their fears. I felt it was important that my blog be a place that would help reduce that terrible stress we all feel about our vitiligo by showing that it isn’t the hopeless condition many doctors would have us believe it is-because as we know, stressing about it can make it worse!
The blog has now grown into a little community where I’ve gathered and continue to gather the experiences and success stories of others with vitiligo as well.
How long have you had vitiligo? When did it start?
I was first diagnosed with vitiligo about a year after I had my son, so I’ve had it for about 3 years now. I was horrified to say the least. It is incredibly distressing to watch your skin color disappear before your very eyes. It’s indescribable, really.
I got my first spot on my left thumb after I had been taking my son for swimming lessons at the city pool. I have always felt that the swimming pool had something to do with my vitiligo starting, but I could never pinpoint the exact trigger. Was it the chlorine? The sun? Fungus? All of the above? The swimming pool was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I scoured the internet night and day looking for answers. I bought books on Amazon, purchased every eBook online I came across, and checked out books at the library.
I read the experience you have on your blog about overcoming your vitiligo over, and over, and over again to reassure myself and try to find commonalities that would allow me to gain some sort of insight into myself.
What do you think caused your vitiligo?
Looking back over the last 10 years, I’ve realized the tremendous amount of stress I had/have been under.
I believe that I became especially nutritionally depleted after a series of both physical and emotional traumas that ultimately set me up for developing vitiligo.
I had been in a bad car accident and subsequently diagnosed with fibromyalgia a couple of years later. Fast forward a few years later to a happy marriage, but severe financial struggles, a miscarriage, and then a physically stressful and difficult pregnancy that caused me to develop sacro-iliac dysfunction. Caring for my son (who never slept) and nursing him for two years further depleted whatever little nutritional reserves I had left.
By the time my son was a year old, I was struggling to make it through the day due to my severe exhaustion. My complexion was gray, I was very thin, my blood pressure was extremely low, I was cold all the time, and I had terrible dizzy spells when I would get out of bed in the morning. I had developed severe adrenal fatigue, and my thyroid was suffering as well.
What do you believe has helped the most with vitiligo?
#1 of course has been stress reduction.
But I’ve learned something very interesting about stress through my Nutritional Balancing program, and that is that stress can be from both internal and external sources.
Usually we tend to only think of stress in terms of being external, as in our jobs, relationships, emotional trauma, etc. But we don’t really think of the daily internal stress we put on our bodies. The wrong diet, or an unhealthy one that is high in refined carbs, sugar, processed foods, and that is nutritionally deficient puts a tremendous amount of stress on the body. Add to that toxic exposure from the air we breathe, the pesticides we eat on non-organic fruits and vegetables, and the medicines we take. These things clog our livers and ruin our digestive tracts.
As for external stress, it’s impossible to eliminate it completely since it’s a part of this life that we live. However, many times we can be the cause of our own stress to a certain degree. I found this to be true of myself. I had to change the form of exercise I was doing, change my thinking, and change the way that I do things, which included getting more organized and minimizing as much clutter in my house as possible…which is still a work in progress with a four year old running around ☺.
We can also change the way that we respond to upsetting situations. I know you mentioned in your interview on my blog that meditation helped you. For me it’s my shower that I turned into a near infrared sauna. Walking is also a wonderful stress reducer as well.
What advice would you give to readers with vitiligo?
I agree 100% with you when you say that stress reduction is probably the most important thing when it comes to vitiligo. Stress depletes us nutritionally which ultimately causes a breakdown in bodily functions, and can contribute to the development of autoimmune disease.
Once I understood this, vitiligo wasn’t nearly as scary and there wasn’t a day that went by where I wasn’t absolutely sure that I would overcome it. In my mind, it was just a matter of time. As a result I was able to relax and figure out an effective plan of attack against my vitiligo.
Another thing I would like to mention is that no regular doctor/MD is going to tell you anything positive about vitiligo, so don’t feel down-hearted when you hear over and over again that there is nothing you can do about it. Ignore nay-sayers and well-meaning family members who tell you to just accept it and live with it. You don’t have to. Have an open mind and realize that there are effective, alternative ways to deal with vitiligo.
I personally don’t feel that there will ever be a cure for vitiligo that works for everyone–not because I am not hopeful-but because there is simply no way to prevent stress and its effect on our bodies, not to mention the fact that each of us responds to stress differently. Lifestyles must be changed, and body systems and functions must be repaired and corrected before any healing can take place. And the reality is that most people don’t have any interest in taking the time to do this. They’d much rather just pop a pill and be healed. Vitiligo is much too complex for that.
I realized early on that I needed to be aggressive and take control of my health, not just the vitiligo. Sure, I desperately wanted it to stop spreading. But the more I focused on how fast it was spreading, the more anxious I became. It helped me to just simply focus on getting healthy-because really the vitiligo was a clue of a much bigger issue that was looming. My health had not yet deteriorated to such a degree that I couldn’t fix it, although it was headed in that direction. I didn’t have cancer, I didn’t have Lupus (yet)…I still had time to fix myself. It’s still a work in progress, but my vitiligo has stopped spreading and I am getting lots of new freckles with (almost) daily sun exposure.
I know that were it not for my vitiligo, I would never have made significant changes in my lifestyle and embarked on such a healthy journey, and so for me, my vitiligo has been a blessing in disguise.
Who’s going home for the holidays? I know that a lot of us are taking vacations and leaving our everyday routines to join feasts full of honey-baked ham, eggnog, potato pancakes –you name it. And don’t get me wrong- there is always room for mindful holiday indulgences. But if we’re going to take part in these holidays traditions, let’s not leave our fitness routines by the wayside. Here are some tips to keep up your exercise game during the holidays.
Glam Your Winter Workout Gear
If you’re a runner, this is the time where your workout routine is likely to lag. Even if you’re not a runner, the walk in the cold to your local gym/yoga/dance studio might feel like a trek. My solution? Invest (or drop some gift-giving hints…) in getting warm workout clothes that you will enjoy wearing. I personally just bought myself some super warm running pants and hot pink sneakers. Don’t mind me while I run in style!
Try a Winter Sport
Embrace the cold! It’s the one time of year where you can go snowboarding, ice-skating, snowshoeing, and snow skating. A full day of one of these activities will give you more than your fair share of exercise. If you haven’t tried one of these before, try taking a lesson with your significant other, parents, siblings (I’m talking to you, David!), or children. It’s a great way to spend quality time together while also staying active.
Do it Indoors
If outdoor sports or going to the gym in the winter isn’t your thing, there is still no excuse in today’s electronic age! Try out a new DVD or online routine. Circuit workouts are especially effective in getting your heart rate up and staying in shape. Some of my favorites are Jillian Michaels 30 day shred (can purchase on amazon or itunes) and Body Rock TV.
Winter may mean chilly weather, but it also means delicious warming foods that are perfect post- workout. Why not use your workouts as an extra excuse to try some new winter recipes like my pumpkin butter with grain-free toast or some of the amazing recipes featured over at Aloha… I’m especially feeling their superbee fruit plate!
Remind Yourself of the Benefits of Exercise – Other Than Weight
Let’s be honest, you’re probably going to be eating some foods that will make weight loss – well let’s say – a little more difficult. If you think about exercise as a tool to lose weight during this time, you will likely be more susceptible to either overdoing it or to give up altogether, thinking there’s no way you can burn off more than what you ate. Instead, think about how exercising will help you enjoy the time that you will be spending with your loved ones. Here are just a few non-weight related benefits of exercise:
– Improves mood
– Increases focus
– Increases energy
– Reduces Stress
Convinced yet? Just think about how much better your holiday will be if you are happy, focused, relaxed, and energized. Now let’s get to it!
Losing belly fat is the most common goal among those trying to lean down and improve their physique. Even if you maintain a great diet and you are exercising intensely several times a week, you still may have excess fat in the stomach area that you just can’t get rid of. One of the primary reasons you may be retaining excess fat in the stomach area is from long-term stress that results in chronically elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is not inherently bad. In fact it is essential for having energy, but too much cortisol, or cortisol being elevated when you should be sleeping, promotes fat storage in the belly and can lead to many other health issues like chronic fatigue and digestive disorders if left unchecked.
You may think of stress as being mental or emotional, but keep in mind that physical stress and environmental stress are contributing factors as well. Training excessively without enough recovery and exposure to pollutants in the environment are examples of physical and environmental stress. Most of us who live in a hectic urban environment will not be able to avoid stress, so our best option is to manage stress as best as we can and to support ourselves nutritionally so that our bodies are better able to cope with stressful situations.
Here are three nutritional supplements that will help you to lose belly fat and manage stress in your daily life:
Phosphatidylserine is a supplement that is known for its positive effects on mental function and brain health, but it can also be a powerful tool to aid in fat loss, especially in the belly area. Phosphatidylserine has been demonstrated to have a powerful effect on lowering cortisol. Because of this, it is best taken in the evening or after workouts. Many people who supplement with phosphatidylserine also report much improved sleep. Good sleep is vital for those seeking to lose belly fat because it is the sleeping hours when your body produces the most growth hormone which promotes muscle building and fat loss. About 300mg of phosphatidylserine in the evening is a good dose to start with.
Magnesium is one of the most prevalent mineral deficiencies because modern agricultural practices deplete the soil of this mineral so that it is found in sufficient concentrations in the diet. Having enough magnesium is very important for quality of sleep, insulin sensitivity, and stress management. All three of which are key factors for creating and maintaining a healthy and lean body. Magnesium in supplement form comes in different varieties. Using a variety of the chelated forms of magnesium, such as magnesium glycinate, magnesium orotate, magnesium fumerate, and magnesium taurate, is your best bet in restoring your magnesium levels quickly. I would advise against using magnesium oxide because it is poorly absorbed by the body and is commonly found in low quality supplements. Those who are deficient may need up to 1g of magnesium a day. If you are curious about your magnesium levels, I recommend asking your doctor to test for your red blood cell magnesium levels (not serum magnesium).
Carnitine is an essential nutrient for fat metabolism and overall energy levels. Without enough carnitine, your body is not able to efficiently use the fat stored in your body for fuel. Carnitine has also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, especially when taken with carbohydrates. Because carnitine is found in the highest concentrations in meat, it is especially useful for vegans and vegetarians to supplement with carnitine to obtain sufficient amounts of this valuable nutrient. 2-6g of carnitine is a potent dose for fat loss purposes, with the higher dose being indicated for those with higher a body fat percentage and more significant insulin resistance issues. Carnitine is synergistic when taken with a fish oil supplement.
Javier Garza is a personal trainer, nutritionist, and competitive weightlifter based in Jersey City and New York City. He runs the website www.strongtimes.com as a resource for training enthusiasts and health conscious people around the world.
Uh-oh. It’s that time. You know, that time where all your work just piles onto you in one dreadful, stressful, time-consuming week? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, it just happens to be one of those weeks for me! Here’s how I’m getting through it.
Remember chia pets? Well, believe it or not, those little seeds that were once used to create your green little plant friends can also give you tons of energy and mental stamina! The Tarahumara tribe—also known as “the running people”—have a diet primarily consisting of these seeds, which helps them to sustain 40 mile runs with ease. In addition to containing tons of omegas and protein to keep you alert, these seeds also expand when you soak them in water, keeping you full and away from distracting study snacks! Fill up a glass of water with chia seeds, or make a chia seed smoothie with almond milk and almond butter for long-lasting stamina. Buy them at any health food store.
B vitamins are essential for regulating the nervous system and increasing circulation, thus helping brain functioning. Studies also show that a diet high in vitamin B can help increase memory and recall. Eating a wide variety of greens will help you get a great amount of B-vitamins; cauliflower itself also has a ton of b-vitamins alone. The only B-vitamin that is not easily available in vegetables is b-12; for this reason, it is important that vegans take either a b-12 supplement or chlorella and blue-algae tablets—although these are a bit harder to find.
For those of you who take Adderall (and hopefully with a legal prescription!) you probably know that although it does increase mental stamina, it does so with the horrible side effects of irritability, increased heart rate, and loss of appetite. L-tyrosine acts as a great alternative. Adderall acts by regulating the production of dopamine in the brain; this is a good thing for those of us with ADD symptoms. However, it also decreases the amount of serotonin produced in the brain, which can result in depression. Not so good! L-tyrosine regulates dopamine without decreasing serotonin, so you can be focused and happy! L-tyrosine can be found in pumpkin seeds, spinach, spirulina, and mustard seeds. If you need a more concentrated dose, you can also take a 500 mg tablet in the morning on an empty stomach.
Exercise is incredibly important to increase mental alertness and energy. However I know that going to the gym can take up a good amount of time if you’re in a crunch. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t fit exercise into your life. My friend David likes to set a 30-minute timer while he is studying to do push-ups. It keeps his heart rate up so that he’s pumped to study for the next 30-minutes. I personally like to jump rope, do crunches, or have a mini dance party every half-hour. It’s not like I’m going to the club while in law school, so I might as well set one up in my apartment!
On that note, I’ve got tons of law school reading and research, so I’m signing off. Good luck getting it all done!