3 skin discolorations that indicate systemic causes

Photo by Melan Cholia

A soft skin with even tone is everyone’s dream. While you may conceal discolorations, they speak of underlying internal health problems. White, dark or red – they each indicate different issues that is not localized, but rooted deep within your system. Unless the cause is addressed, the skin cannot heal.

The average person has 300 million skin cells and contributes to 15% of the body weight. It has many physiological function, including protection, heat regulation and Vitamin D production. Connected to many of our systems, metabolic and immune problems can affect its function and appearance.


White skin patches

Small circles of white patches – loss of skin color anywhere may be due to excessive fungal growth on the skin and inside you – especially if it is more visible after sunbathing. This skin condition is called tinea versicolor, or pityriasis versicolor, where yeast colonies shade the skin from the sunshine, preventing tanning.1

If larger areas affected with continuous color loss throughout the year, or visible even on the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose, it is more than likely due to an autoimmune condition (where your immune system mistakenly attacks your own healthy cells) called vitiligo, when your own immune system attacks the melanin producing cells of the skin.2 There is a strong genetic component, but anything that affects the immune system, including stress and an imbalance in the gut microbes may set it off.

It is sometimes accompanied or preceded by other autoimmune conditions, such as Type 1 diabetes or hemolytic anemia. Instead of suppressing the immune system with steroid creams and drugs, it should be balanced from within – not surprisingly starting from the gut, where 80% of our immune system resides and its regulatory cells are matured.3


Dark skin patches and skin tags

Darkening of the skin at the nape of the neck could be an early indication of insulin resistance and diabetes. The condition, called Acanthosis Nigricans (AN), is marked by the darkening and thickening of the skin on the sides or back of the neck, the armpits, under the breast and groin. Dr Anoop Misra, a leading researcher for insulin resistance, followed adult patients with AN who had no history of diabetes and discovered that 58% of the patients reviewed had metabolic syndrome, 24% had full-blown diabetes, yet most never knew about it.4 In a recent study, varying degrees of insulin resistance was noted in 82.34% of the individuals with AN.5

Having skin tags may also be a sign of having high blood sugar and / or insulin levels in the body and can help identify persons who run the risk of developing diabetes in the future. A skin tag is a small, soft, benign skin growth, often on a stalk that appear in skin fold areas. High blood sugar levels raise insulin hormone. A high concentration of insulin results in a direct and indirect activation of IGF-1 receptors in keratinocytes and fibroblasts in the skin, leading to their proliferation – thus excessive cell growth.6 Skin tags may also be caused by hormonal imbalances or viruses.

Once identified, the necessary dietary measures to lower the insulin levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes or support hormone balance can be taken and the acanthosis nigricans markers will begin to fade, skin tags may be removed and will not return.


Red skin patches

If you have red patches on your skin, this indicate inflammatory process of the skin and in your system. You might have received the diagnosis of dermatitis – which is just the Latin name for inflamed skin. You might have been told you have urticaria, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis or rosacea – each meaning oversensitive skin of one type or another and each with its own individual underlying causes that affect skin barrier function and immune response. Inflammation may be related to infection by fungal, bacterial or viral agents, in which case the immune system should be placed under the microscope – literally; an analysis of your blood and stool samples might highlight the problem.

Broken capillaries  are small, permanently dilated blood vessels in the skin. They form following repeated external temperature or chemical irritation and flushing (such as after repeated alcohol consumption). These so called spider veins show weakness in the cardiovascular system and the need for high levels of antioxidants such as vitamin C and phytochemicals from strong colored fruits and vegetables in your diet.7 These antioxidants may strengthen the blood vessels, preventing further formation, but do not make existing ones disappear. For that you will need laser treatment, I’m afraid. Broken capillaries are often linked to poor digestion and infection by Helicobacter Pylori in the stomach. These bacteria stimulate the production of bradykinin, a small vasoactive protein known to cause blood vessels to dilate.8

Unless these are addressed, new red patches will keep popping up.

Find Your root cause

If you struggle with any skin condition, don’t just cover it up or suppress its symptoms – investigate the underlying causes and address those. Your skin might show the signs and symptoms, because that’s where you have a genetic weakness, but your entire body is struggling with a deep seated imbalance that should not be ignored. Chronic inflammation and/or infections will sooner or later affect other body parts and lead to chronic degenerative diseases. Targeted private testing and dietary interventions can support your body to heal itself.

So don’t hesitate; find Your ‘root’ to better health.



1, WebMD – Tinea Versicolor. Available at <https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tinea-versicolor-cause-symptoms-treatments#1>

2, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER) 2019. Vitiligo. Available at < https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vitiligo/symptoms-causes/syc-20355912 >

3, Opazo, M. C., Ortega-Rocha, E. M., Coronado-Arrázola, I., Bonifaz, L. C., Boudin, H., Neunlist, M., … Riedel, C. A. (2018). Intestinal Microbiota Influences Non-intestinal Related Autoimmune Diseases. Frontiers in microbiology9, 432. Available at < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5857604/ >

4, Misra A, Chowbey P, Makkar BM, Vikram NK, Wasir JS, Chadha D, et al. Consensus statement for diagnosis of obesity, abdominal obesity and the metabolic syndrome for Asian Indians and recommendations for physical activity, medical and surgical management. J Assoc Physicians India. 2009;57:163–70. Available at < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19582986 >

5, Verma, S., Vasani, R., Joshi, R., Phiske, M., Punjabi, P., & Toprani, T. (2016). A descriptive study of facial acanthosis nigricans and its association with body mass index, waist circumference and insulin resistance using HOMA2 IR. Indian dermatology online journal7(6), 498–503. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.193898

6, Barbato, M., Barbaresco, G., Criado, P., & Vasconcelos, V. (2012) Association between multiple skin tags and insulin resistance. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 66(4), 1, AB127. Available at< http://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(11)01765-8/abstract>

7, May, J. M. & Harrison, F. E. (2013) Role of vitamin C in the function of the vascular endothelium. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling19(17), 2068–2083. Available at < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3869438/>

8, Stanghellini, V. , Barbara, G. , De Giorgio, R. , Tosetti, C. , Cogliandro, R. , Cogliandro, L. , Salvioli, B. and Corinaldesi, R. (2001), Helicobacter pylori, mucosal inflammation and symptom perception – new insights into an old hypothesis. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 15: 28-32. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2036.2001.00104.x

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