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by Dr. Scott Olson,
Naturopathic Doctor (ND)
If you are one of the unlucky people who have rosacea, you have probably searched for a solution to your problem and maybe you have tried a few approaches including various creams, light therapy (phototherapy), or even some alternative treatments. While some of these approaches may have worked for a while, eventually, the rosacea returned.
Not all is lost, though, and you have probably learned a lot during your search. You may have discovered that harsh chemical creams or lotions can actually make rosacea much worse, despite what the package claimed. You may have also learned that phototherapy worked, at least for a while. And you probably learned that many treatments simply don't work at all, despite whatever the hype was about the product.
All of these approaches are doomed because they fail to understand and address the underlying cause of the disease. What you need to do is forget trying to treat rosacea as a skin problem and think of it as a whole-body problem; or, more specifically, a gut problem.
The old saying that "beauty is more than skin deep" has never been truer than when you are dealing with a skin disease such as rosacea. Skin diseases are reflections of overall health. It is well-known, for example, that people who eat a non-Western diet have fewer skin diseases: including rosacea, acne, eczema and others. This is because non-Western diets focus on more fruits and vegetables and fewer sugars, grains, and processed foods. People eating a non-Western diet are healthier than the average American and their skin shows it.
Brady Barrows and author of a book on diet and rosacea, called Rosacea Diet: A simple method to control rosacea, commented on the relationship between processed foods and rosacea:
As the processed food industry of the developed world makes inroads into the underdeveloped world the result is a diet producing obesity. Rosacea during this same period has increased dramatically worldwide. The current number of Americans with rosacea is over 14 million.
There is a healthy path to clearer skin and, while it may take more effort on your part than simply buying a cream or lotion, the results will be dramatic and long-lasting.
Rosacea is a chronic skin disease that produces a red rash across the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead. The rash goes through periods of remission followed by periods where the rash is much worse (flare-ups). What exactly causes a flare-up is a bit of a mystery, but most people, over time, uncover their own triggers that seem to make the rash much worse. For some people, their trigger is coffee or other hot drinks, for others it is stress or anxiety, and for others it may be some food they ate.
What you need to recognize about triggers is that they point to you in the right direction: Triggers tell you that rosacea is a whole-body disease and not just a skin disease.
While rosacea can be severe and produce permanent swelling of the nose called rhinophyma, or even severe eye symptoms, for most people rosacea remains an unsightly, embarrassing blotch on their face.
While it can sound strange, there is actually a very close relationship between the health of your digestive tract and the health of your skin. Some researchers have gone as far as to say that inflammation or the rash on the face means that there is also inflammation throughout the gut.
Although the precise etiology of rosacea is not known, numerous associations with inflammatory gastrointestinal tract disorders have been reported. Furthermore, substance P-immunoreactive neurones occur in considerably greater numbers in tissue surrounding affected blood vessels suggesting involvement of neurogenic inflammation and moreover plasma kallikrein-kinin activation is consistently found in patients.
While there is a lot of technical jargon in the quote above, it is basically saying that there is a close relationship between inflammatory conditions of the gut (such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease or even Celiac disease) including body-wide inflammation and a disease like rosacea.
Slow transit time, better known as constipation, has also been known to be associated with rosacea. In a recent study, researchers treated a rosacea patient with slow transit time and saw a complete removal of his symptoms. This study, while incredibly small, shows the relationship between gut health and rosacea.
Other studies on diet and rosacea have also been preformed. A vegetarian alkaline diet was shown to dramatically reduce the symptoms of rosacea over two months. Not only did the symptoms of rosacea reduce or disappear in almost every participant, but eating an alkaline diet also reduced body-wide inflammation in the participants.
A whole-body approach to rosacea recognizes that what you put into your mouth matters and what you eat can affect your health and the look of your skin. A whole-body approach is also an understanding that the body needs balance in order to thrive, and that most of what we typically eat puts us way out of balance.
The basic balance in your body is called the acid/base or acid/alkaline balance. You might have heard of pH balance, but not known what it is exactly. Every food that we eat has a certain pH: it is either a low pH (1 —7) and considered an acid, or it is a high pH (7-14) and considered a base. Water is right in the middle; it is not either an acid or a base. Your body likes to mimic water and keep its own pH close to neutral as possible; the blood, for instance, is slightly basic (pH of 7.3—7.4).
It is this at this neutral or slightly alkaline pH that your body functions its best.
When your body is in an acidic state, instead of the natural alkaline state, it doesn't function well. This means that the body's basic mechanisms such as detoxification, elimination, and repair all don't function as they should. When these mechanisms fail, the result is disease, in your case, this means that rosacea once again flairs up.
This acid problem is made worse by many of the activities we engage in: eating poorly, not sleeping well, not exercising, and feeling stressed... all of these push us to an acidic state.
It is very easy to discover what you own personal acid base balance is by testing either your saliva or urine every morning. You can use pH strips, which are multicolored strips that can let you know if you are too acid or alkaline (although it is hard to be too alkaline).
In order to test your pH simply put a pH strip in your mouth or touch the paper to your urine stream. You want to do this first thing in the morning. As you eat an alkaline diet, you can watch how your pH readings will change from acidic to more basic (from unhealthy to healthy). You can also notice how different foods will change your morning pH and how you feel when you are more acidic.
Since many of the activities you engage in push you towards a more acidic state, you have to develop an action plan to push back. The easiest way to do this is to eat a diet that is more alkaline. While you do not have to eat a purely vegetarian diet, you do want to include a large number of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Much like giving a car the right fuel, our bodies thrive when we give it what it needs. Interestingly, eating an alkaline diet not only means that your body is more in the proper balance, but it is also getting more of the nutrients your body needs.
Diet—far from being just a source of potential triggers for Rosacea—is actually the key to a permanent solution to the disease. Eating an alkaline diet means that in as little as a few weeks, your skin should start looking better and you will feel much better.
The best diet for someone with rosacea is an alkaline diet.
Here are the basics to an alkaline diet:
While not a complete list, here are the most common acid and alkaline foods:
Acid-forming foods: alcoholic drinks, breads, cake, coffee, cereals, crackers, grains (except millet and quinoa), vinegar, eggs, oils or foods cooked in oils, meat, seafood and fish, nuts, seeds, pastas, salt, sugar, tofu
Alkaline-forming foods: fresh fruit, vegetable, salad green, sprouts, raw cider vinegar, lima beans, potatoes, citrus fruits, millet, quinoa
When following this diet, you don't want to completely avoid all acid-forming foods, but you want to balance them with as many alkaline-forming foods as possible. A good rule of thumb is to have a meal of 80 percent alkaline-forming foods and 20 percent acid-forming foods.
Don't just stop at changing your diet, there are other ways to keep your body in an alkaline state. Try the rest of these for an added punch to your anti-rosacea diet:
Despite what you may think, you don't have to live with rosacea; as your body becomes healthier, so too, will your skin. The side effects of a choosing an alkaline diet is not only that you have healthier skin, but your whole body will feel better.
Read on for the answers you seek, then give us a call if you would like additional guidance.