Rosy cheeks are considered by many to be an attractive feature. They are associated with beauty, femininity, youth, and good health. However, for the more than 16 million Americans who live with the chronic condition – rosacea – rosy cheeks mean something different. What might start as redness from eating certain foods, drinking wine, or going from one temperature to another in a person’s twenties may become the inflammatory, chronic skin condition rosacea in their thirties and beyond.
Rosacea most often appears on the nose and cheeks, but can also appear on the chin, neck, chest, and even in the eyes for some people. It is characterized by an inflammatory redness, swelling, small and visible dilated or distended (“broken”) capillaries, bumps and acne pustules, irritated and watery eyes, and in severe cases, areas of thickened skin known as phyma, which could lead to disfigurement. While most Western medical doctors and dermatologists state that the cause of rosacea is unknown, more integrative practices such as naturopathy, functional medicine and nutrition, Ayurveda, and holistic aesthetics have linked rosacea to certain specific triggers and internal maladies.
In my own holistic health and image coaching practice, I’ve helped several clients successfully manage their rosacea flare-ups, improve their skin, and reduce the self-image and anxiety issues associated with the condition. Some clients see results quite early on, others take more time—but the changes made to their diets and lifestyle choices are lasting changes. These changes lead to improvements to their rosacea lasting as well.
Here are my top 5 holistic recommendations for rosacea:
1. Take probiotics
It is very important to maintain a healthy balance of healthy bacteria and flora in the gut in order to have healthy skin. If the pathogenic bacteria and yeast outnumber the healthy strains, the body’s entire immune system becomes compromised. Constant immune system activity not only weakens the body’s defenses but also increases inflammation and hinders the blood’s ability to deliver nutrients to the tissues and organs of the body—including the skin. This causes the blood vessels to dilate in the deeper layers of the skin as an attempt to increase circulation and provide nourishment to the cells. Taking a high quality probiotic supplement or adding raw fermented or cultured vegetables to one’s regular diet helps keep the balance of intestinal bacteria and yeasts in check.
2. Introduce healthy fats into your diet
A diet too high in saturated fats from dairy or meat, as well as trans fats from processed foods can also lead to chronic, systemic inflammation in the body, which may manifest on the skin as rosacea. However, omega 3 essential fatty acids from high quality, wild-caught salmon, anchovies, sardines, farm-fresh eggs from pastured chickens—or plant foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, borage seeds, hemp seeds, or Brussels sprouts—are very anti-inflammatory and have many health benefits. Studies show that increased intake of omega 3 fatty acids reduces inflammation systemically, which will also benefit rosacea.
3. Reduce sugar intake
While once thought of as a sweet treat to enjoy periodically, sugar has now become a nationwide addiction. It is found in just about every processed food, including even some dairy products. It is responsible for a myriad of health conditions, and is also one of the main substances that feed yeast—Candida albicans—and exacerbate its overgrowth. It causes a highly acidic environment and accumulation of toxins which leads to (you guessed it) inflammation, and also is known to worsen rosacea by causing more frequent and more severe flare-ups. Reducing sugar intake is possibly the most important step to take to help manage rosacea holistically.
4. Eat more alkaline plant foods
Processed foods, as well as dairy, meat, gluten, and sugar, are very acid-forming in the body. This leads to inflammation (are you sensing a theme here?), and a whole sea of health and skin problems. Dark leafy greens, sea vegetables, fresh fruits, certain whole grains like millet and quinoa, raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV), lemons, and limes produce an alkaline reaction in the body which helps to reduce inflammation, aid in digestion and detoxification, and also make the body less habitable for pathogens. I know what you might be thinking—that ACV, lemons, and limes are acids. They are on the outside—however, once they enter the body they produce an alkaline ash. Adding ACV, or fresh lemon or lime juice to water in the morning is a great way to reduce acid that accumulates in the system overnight. Rosacea is a sign of extreme inflammation in the body, so adding more alkaline foods and reducing intake of acidic foods is a great way to calm inflamed tissue and prevent flare-ups.
5. Drink more water
When the body is dehydrated, it cannot properly perform all of its functions—including the vital functions of immunity, digestion, and elimination. It also negatively affects the circulation and the body’s ability to regulate its temperature which can cause blood vessels to dilate and also promote flare-ups if a person goes from one temperature to a drastically different one (example: going from a highly air conditioned office out into a 95 degree, humid summer day). Keeping the body hydrated is an easy and free way to help manage rosacea.
Rosacea is a symptom—it is not a disease.
Sometimes a little bit of detective work is necessary to help identify triggers which can take time. However, the five above suggestions can provide varying degrees of relief very quickly in some instances. If you have rosacea, try following some of these tips for at least 2 weeks and see if you notice an improvement. We’d love to hear all about it in the comments.
- Photo Credit: dermatologylouisville.com/medical-dermatology-surgical-services/rosacea