Calming Rosacea…

As I track how people have found this blog, one of the most common search words used is “Rosacea.” Clearly I’m not the only one dealing with this issue. So let’s talk about it a bit¬† more and I’ll share what I’ve learned.

First, what is it? The most prominent symptom of Rosacea is red, inflamed skin on the nose and cheeks, often affecting the chin, forehead, and neck. When it’s riled up, it can be burning, itching, and dotted with white-head pimples. At its calmest, the skin is redder than normal. It can also affect the eyes, making them dry and gritty (Blepharitis) or worse (Keratitis).

Because the symptoms are most notable on the face, many people are convinced this is a skin disorder. It’s not. The skin is just a reflection of what’s going on inside. Rosacea is a digestive disorder. The only way to calm the symptoms for the long-term, and have any hope of actually healing the condition, are by improving one’s digestion and changing what one eats.

“But wait, my doctor says…” Yeah, yeah. I know. Your doctor says there’s no known cause or cure, you should be on lifelong antibiotics, you can have laser treatments to temporarily improve how you look, you should be using steroid creams to reduce inflammation, blah, blah, blah. Lifelong antibiotics? Yeah, right. That’ll fix my internal flora and fauna right up…and make me a patient for life. No, thanks!

The improvement of my Rosacea has included the following actions:

  • Betaine HCL – People with Rosacea tend to have insufficient stomach acid. Taking Betaine HCL with each meal noticeably helped my digestion. I was able to phase these out as my digestion improved.
  • Digestive enzymes – Also taken with each meal to improve digestion, and also phased out as my digestion improved.
  • Avoid nightshade plants – Nightshade plants, particularly tomatoes, can aggravate Rosacea. Other foods in the nightshade group include potatoes, eggplant, and bell & chili peppers. Sweet potatoes and yams are okay to eat, as they are not in the nightshade family.
  • Avoid spicy foods – Spicy foods can aggravate Rosacea symptoms.
  • Alcoholic beverages – These can increase facial flushing, which aggravates Rosacea. Reducing the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption can help improve symptoms.
  • Pay attention to your digestion – Which foods make your stomach say “Oof” for a couple hours after eating? Make note of these “oof” foods and avoid them. For me this includes bread and other refined flour products (especially sandwiches and pasta), sugary foods and desserts, deep fried and oily foods, and raw vegetables, seeds and nuts. Raw foods can be difficult to digest. Light cooking can be a big help.
  • Pay attention to your digestion – Which foods make you feel good after eating? Make note of these helpful foods and keep them in your diet. For me this includes whole grains (whole, cooked brown rice, oat groats, rye berries, barley, etc), leafy greens, sprouts, prunes, winter squash, sauteed vegetables, in-season fruit (not too much, though), and a pastured-raise soft-boiled egg now and then. Eating fresh and in-season makes a big difference¬† to my digestion.
  • Avoid medications that throw your internal flora and fauna out of whack – especially antibiotics and antifungals. If you have an infection that needs addressing, consider Vitamin C megadosing instead. I have personally seen Vitamin C knock out mononucleosis, pneumonia, allergies, colds, flus, and even hangnails. How much to take varies from person to person, but when fighting a serious infection dosages of 20-50 grams per day are not unusual. Everyone I know who has embraced Vitamin C consumption, at the level their body needs, has become a convert…because it works.
  • Eat live, fresh foods – Make or grow them yourself when you can. Make sprouts. Learn to ferment and pickle. Eat ginger and garlic. Make mustard. Make yogurt (without added sugar!). Go in your kitchen or out in your yard and learn how to do stuff. In the meantime, buy these health-giving products from people who already know how to do this stuff.
  • Listen to what your body wants – If you find yourself drawn to radishes and cilantro, for example, there’s probably a reason for it. Look up the medicinal benefits of various foods that you’re drawn to and add that information to your knowledge base.
  • Avoid food with garbage on or in it (chemicals and/or drugs), food that’s been messed with scientifically, and food that’s been shipped thousands of miles to sit on store shelves for months before being eaten.
  • Add green vegetables to your breakfast.
  • Eat less, chew more. Leave room in your stomach for digestion. Your food needs room to move around in order to digest properly. Give your digestion an assist by chewing your food thoroughly.
  • Fast every now and then – Fast for a half-day, full day or a couple of days. It’s good to periodically give your digestion a break to allow your body to focus on something else.
  • Improve your confidence and reduce your stress – Self-confidence reduces blushing. Calmness reduces flushing, and is less taxing on your body than stress.
  • Strive to improve your digestion, rather than just “avoiding triggers.” This is a perspective issue, and perspective matters. Focus on the positive, rather than negative. Look at what you need to embrace, while you’re letting other things go.

Rosacea is still an issue for me, but much less so. When it flares up, I can usually pinpoint what I did that aggravated my digestion. Lifestyle and diet changes take effort, but that is effort well spent. You and your body are stuck with each other, so you may as well learn to get along. Start listening to what it’s been trying to tell you. It will tell you what it needs. Breathe deep and listen with an open mind.

-Jenne Hiigel