Dietary Do’s and Don’ts for Rosacea Patients
One of the key tenets of rosacea management is the avoidance of triggers. The majority of these involve being choosy about what you put on your skin, but it seems that there is value in also choosing what you put in your mouth.
A significant number of rosacea patients report intensified flare-ups after being exposed to certain types of food. These experiences have piqued the interest of researchers. They are now trying to understand the pathogenesis of flares in signs and symptoms of rosacea following ingestion of certain types of food. Following this through could lead to further breakthroughs in understanding and treatment of this condition.
Rosacea and the gut
Anecdotal evidence suggests a link between rosacea and issues in the gastrointestinal tract. Based on initial studies, gut microbiome disruptions appear to play a role in the pathogenesis of rosacea flare-ups.
Several scientific papers have reported higher prevalence of Helicobacter pylori infections (HPI) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in people with rosacea compared to people who don’t. This may mean that imbalances in the microbial environment of our digestive system play a role in rosacea.
Inflammatory bowel disease also appears to be associated with rosacea. The factors influencing the guts immune response may also be the same factors setting off flare-ups.
Dietary management for Rosacea patients
Doctors and researchers have compiled information from thousands of rosacea patients over the years to find out which food most commonly causes their skin to flush. Though not all rosacea patients react the same way, you can use this list as a general guide on what to eat and what not to eat if you’re trying to avoid an episode.
Don’t drink too much alcohol
Celebrations often call for a bottle of champagne or a glass of wine, but rosacea patients best beware of the effects of alcohol on the skin. When alcohol is processed inside our body, one by-product is acetaldehyde. This compound triggers the release of histamine, which in turn promotes a pro-inflammatory response. Combined with alcohol’s vasodilatory effect (ie opening of blood vessels), it’s no wonder drinking causes redness and increased body heat. This happens to people without rosacea, so you can just imagine its effect on those suffering from it.
Avoid foods containing capsaicin
Capsaicin is the compound from chili that gives the mouth that hot, tingly feeling. While many people enjoy a little spice in their meal, rosacea patients are better off without it. Capsaicin binds to a cell receptor called TRPV1, which leads to a cascade of neurovascular activities that promote blood vessel dilation and redness.
Don’t consume piping hot food or drinks
Sometimes it’s not the food itself, but the temperature it’s served at. Remember that increased body temperature can set off a blushing bonanza. Many rosacea patients find that drinking hot coffee and tea can trigger an episode, so they opt for iced drinks instead.
Don’t eat food that contains cinnamaldehyde
Cinnamaldehye is a compound found in several kinds of food that people may not think to group together. Mustard oil, chocolate, tomatoes, cinnamon, and citrus fruits all have it. Like capsaicin, it binds to a cell receptor, specifically TRPA1, which promotes vasodilation and redness.
Do eat sources containing prebiotics and probiotics
Given that rosacea has been associated with the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut, giving the beneficial bacteria a leg-up could help mitigate the effects long-term. Prebiotics are foods that promote the activity and regulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the stomach. Fiber-rich foods are considered prebiotics, so consider increasing uptake of barley, green peas, lentils, dried dates, pasta, pistachios, and others.
On the other hand, probiotics are foods that deliver beneficial bacteria to the GIT. Yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso are some options.
While the effect of prebiotics and probiotics on rosacea symptoms have not been demonstrated scientifically, some patients report an improvement in their condition. Aside from that, there are a lot of other health benefits to incorporating fiber and probiotics into your meals. But as always, seek specific advice from your doctor or dietician for a tailored eating plan.
The skin barrier function of the skin can be compromised in patients suffering from rosacea. To help with this, supplements like zinc and omega-3 fatty acids have been suggested to be beneficial. They may have anti-inflammatory properties that can keep the swelling and redness down. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for skin health and integrity, so if your not getting enough of this in your diet, consider supplementation.
Rosacea patients should make use of all avenues to keep their condition from flaring up. Knowing which foods to avoid and which foods to incorporate may help decrease the frequency and intensity of flare-ups in the long term.
Purpose of this information
The information presented on this website and in this article is for general information and example purposes only, does not contain health advice specific for users and must not be relied on for that purpose. Please see your GP, dermatologist or other health care professional for specific advice.
Buddenkotte, J., & Steinhoff, M. (2018). Recent advances in understanding and managing rosacea. F1000Research, 7, F1000 Faculty Rev-1885. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.16537.1
Weiss, E., & Katta, R. (2017). Diet and rosacea: the role of dietary change in the management of rosacea. Dermatology practical & conceptual, 7(4), 31–37. https://doi.org/10.5826/dpc.0704a08