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What Causes Rosacea? Natural Treatments that Work!

Updated on August 1, 2016
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Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home." She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated."

What is Rosacea?

According to Mayo Clinic, rosacea is a skin condition that causes redness of the face, pus-filled bumps and/or spider veins (telangiectasia). It can be mistaken for acne and often affects fair-skinned, middle-aged women. Patients diagnosed with rosacea are called rosaceans. Rosacea ebbs and flows, rearing its ugly head before dissipating or disappearing for a time.

Although there is no recognized cure for rosacea, it is important to seek medical advice as this skin condition will worsen if not treated. Although uncommon, rosacea can also become ocular and affect the vision. Or it may cause thickening of the skin on the nose, called, rhinophyma, making the nose appear bulbous and bumpy. W.C. Fields was a famous sufferer of this malady. Other famous faces with rosacea include but are not limited to Princess Diana and Prince William, Cynthia Nixon, Bill Clinton, Renee Zellweger and Cameron Diaz

If you suddenly experience redness of the face or increase redness, it´s important to seek a medical diagnosis and treatment before attempting home remedies. If you can catch rosacea in its early stages, you may be able to keep it from worsening. Although I´m not a doctor, I was diagnosed with rosacea five years ago and have successfully controlled my condition with alternative therapies. In this article, I will share the treatments that have helped me the most.


Rosacea and Gut Health

Rosacea can be a genetic condition. Princess Diana and her son William are a famous example of rosacea that runs in families. However, studies show a direct link between rosacea and digestive problems. These issues can include gastritis, GERD, ulcers, leaky gut syndrome, H. Pylori and SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth).

A study was conducted by the Department of Internal Medicine in the University of Genoa, Italy, which connected rosacea and digestive health. Among other things, the study showed a higher prevalence of SIBO in rosacea patients and found that treating this digestive condition completely eliminated rosacea symptoms. Seventy-eight percent of patients´ skin lesions cleared and ninety-six percent of these patients remained in remission for at least nine months. This is a sharp contrast with the frequent relapses experienced with traditional approaches such as antibiotic therapy. Although systemic antibiotics such as tetracycline are a quick-fix for clearing rosacea, they do not guarantee a prolonged period of remission. And antibiotics will aggravate digestive health in the long run, destroying beneficial bacteria in the gut. Ask your physician about being tested for SIBO.

When I was first diagnosed with rosacea, I was desperate for relief from the pustules and redness. I took a month cycle of Tetracycline. It did clear the acne-like lesions, but it also worsened GERD. I began to do intensive research, visited a naturopath and started my own journey in rosacea care.

If you are reading this article, you are most likely battling a rosacea flare up. Don´t despair! You can get the symptoms under control if you are willing to face it head-on. But you have to be serious about healing yourself from the inside out. You can only do that by modifying your diet.

Consider this a wakeup call. Your body is warning you that something is wrong. And although you see it on your face, there is more damage on the inside. If you'd rather take antibiotics that mask the symptoms instead of dealing with the root cause, you don't need to read on. In this article I share diet modifications that will get your rosacea under control. The goal is to heal your stomach, balance your system and strengthen your immune system. If after three months of following the diet you neither feel better nor has your rosacea improved, then you can return to your old eating habits. But I´m willing to bet you will find the benefits of these diets far outweigh the disadvantages.


What About Acid Blockers?

Why not take acid blockers to deal with your stomach issues and thus your rosacea? Acid blockers and proton pump inhibiters (PPIs) ease the symptoms of excess stomach acid, but the paradox is that many who suffer from acid reflux may actually have an insufficiency of stomach acid. Acid blocking medications give the stomach lining a chance to regenerate, but not if the patient refuses to change their diet. I was diagnosed with GERD over 10 years ago. The doctor handed me a list of foods that should be avoided. I'm ashamed to say that I took acid blockers and ignored the list of taboo foods.

This is a recipe for disaster. Studies have found that acid blockers and PPIs such as Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid, with long term use, increase risk of deficiencies of vitamin B-12, zinc, magnesium and other minerals. These deficiencies cause tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite and an overly acidic system. Certainly, acid blocking drugs may provide temporary relief of symptoms but are not a long-term solution for digestive issues such as GERD and skin conditions like rosacea. In the long run, they may actually aggravate rosacea. I can't help but wonder if I had treated my GERD years ago, perhaps I wouldn't have developed rosacea.

If you must take acid blockers to heal you stomach, don't use them as a crutch. The only real solution is to modify your diet. Set a short-term goal. Choose a diet and try it for one month. If you´re up for it after one month, set another goal of three months. Then six months. Then a year. I guarantee your stomach will reward you with less pain and better digestion, your skin will improve and your immune system will become stronger.


Rosacea Diet

If you suspect food allergies or sensitivities, ask your physician about being tested. Sensitivities such as gluten intolerance or dairy allergies can be the root cause of GERD and rosacea. Or you can try an elimination diet such as the Whole30 which eliminates most foods that commonly cause sensitivities and slowly adds them back. Before beginning any new diet, it´s wise to seek the advice of your family physician or a licensed dietician.

  • The Paleo diet decreases inflammation in the body caused by grains, sugar and refined foods.
  • The GERD diet eliminates foods that aggravate an already sensitive stomach. These include tomatoes and tomato-based sauces, alcoholic beverages, chocolate, coffee and citrus among others.
  • The Rosacea Diet is basically an anti-inflammatory diet that encourages the consumption of alkaline rather than acidic foods.
  • The Body Types Diet by Dr. Abravanel changed my life. I tested out as a thyroid body type. Just 30 days on the diet gave me a new viewpoint toward food. I learned so much about how the foods I chose, although I viewed them as healthy, were impacting my health and aggravating my rosacea. First, though, you will need to take the Body Types Test. You can find it by clicking on this link: Test for Dr. Abravanel´s Body Type Diet.

Whichever diet you choose, the bottom line is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. You might consider juicing. Eat high quality proteins. Limit your intake of simple carbs, refined foods and sugars.


Learn About Triggers for Longer Remission

Once rosacea calms down, you need to learn to recognize the triggers that can cause flare-ups. You will find many of the food triggers for rosacea also need to be avoided for those who suffer from digestive complaints. These may include: spicy food, hot foods, dairy, chocolate, coffee and citrus. Foods high in histamine, such as alcohol, pickled foods, mature cheeses, smoked and preserved meats and shellfish may need to be avoided as they will irritate your already sensitive stomach lining.

Sugar, refined foods and simple carbohydrates also cause inflammation in the body. Do you feel bloated after eating sweets or simple carbs? Sugars and refined foods feed the harmful bacteria that inhabit your intestine if you suffer from ISBO.

Other triggers are emotional and environmental in nature. Stress, temperature changes (caused by entering a hot room after being outside in the cold, dry winter air), overly strenuous exercise, blushing and too much exposure to the sun may aggravate rosacea.

Just reading this list may seem overwhelming to many rosaceans. Do your research, set reasonable goals and have the courage to stick to them!


In Conclusion

The bottom line is get control of your digestive health. If you suspect any digestive disorders such as GERD, ISBO, H. Pylori or acid reflux, get tested. Talk to your physician about a healthy diet that will heal your inflamed stomach lining. Don't rely on acid blockers and PPIs as a long-term solution. Heal yourself from the inside out, and your rosacea symptoms will gradually improve and maybe even disappear. Treat the whole body.

If you have been diagnosed with rosacea, please share in the comments section any measures you have taken to improve your general health and/or any medical treatments that have helped you.

If you're interested in skin care for rosaceans and how to heal your skin during a rosacea flare up, please click here: So you Have Rosacea? How to Care For Your Skin. In the article Supplements and Foods That Heal Rosacea, learn about a powerful mineral supplement that keeps my rosacea at bay.

Have you been diagnosed with both rosacea and a stomach disorder?

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