By Elizabeth Hartland

A fairly common skin disorder, rosacea isn’t dangerous, but it can be, for cosmetic reasons, very distressing for the sufferer.

Rosacea is characterised by sporadic outbreaks or a perpetual state of violent flushing or acute redness of the face, usually developing between the ages of 30 and 50, with women being affected about three times as often as men. When the condition does affect men is tends to be more severe, and is usually accompanied by rhinophyma (a nose that becomes chronically red and enlarged). Fair skinned individuals and people who flush easily tend to be more prone than others to develop rosacea.

It usually begins with frequent flushing of the face, particularly the nose and cheeks, often accompanied by swelling, bumps, lumps, and broken veins. Sometimes the eyes may also become involved with a persistent burning and feeling of grittiness in the eyes or inflamed and swollen eyelids, with a clouding of vision in severe cases. The flushing is caused by the swelling of the blood vessels under the skin with factors such as extremes of temperature, sunlight, alcohol, very hot drinks and spicy foods, the use of makeup and skin care products containing alcohol, as well as emotional stress aggravating the condition. These factors cause the already congested and weakened blood vessels of the face to dilate even further, and the skin’s sensitive surface to become irritated and inflamed. Stress, vitamin deficiencies and infection can also be contributing factors.

What are the causes?

Although the causes of rosacea have not yet been determined, several factors are suspected including alcoholism, menopausal flushing, local infection, B vitamin deficiencies and gastrointestinal disorders.

Hypochlorhydria – a major consideration

Hypochlorhydria refers to a deficient stomach acid secretion. Many patients suffering from rosacea have been shown to have a low stomach acid secretion. Factors that may contribute to hypochlorhydria include:

• Psychological factors i.e. worry, depression, stress etc. This may explain why sometimes the rosacea is worse than at other times.

• An overgrowth of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.

Rosacea patients have also been shown to have a decreased secretion of the pancreatic enzyme lipase.

B-vitamins and a skin mite infection

Administration of a large dose of B-vitamins has been shown to be effective in the treatment of rosacea. It is believed that a skin mite named Demodex folliculorum may be a causative factor in rosacea especially in those deficient in the B-vitamins.

By addressing diet and lifestyle factors and implementing a suitable supplement programme, many sufferers experience a reduction if not complete clearance of their symptoms. The basis of such treatment involves the identification of the factors that tend to trigger the flushing, correction of a low stomach acid and/or pancreatic levels and the supplementation of B vitamins, together with the use of nutrients that will help to strengthen the weakened blood vessels, reduce inflammation and ensure optimal skin growth and repair.

Diet and lifestyle suggestions

Rosacea can be aggravated by certain diet, lifestyle, environmental and hormonal factors, which, if identified may be useful in reducing the number and severity of attacks.

Aim to avoid:

• All stimulants including coffee, tea, chocolate and sugar. Use alternative drinks such as Barleycup, NoCaf, herbal and fruit teas, diluted fruit juice, Caro, vegetable juices, slippery elm tea, Yannoh, bamboo coffee, oat, rice, nut or soya milk.

• Foods that contain refined carbohydrates including sugar, biscuits, cakes, puddings, pastries, sugared breakfast cereal, carbonated drinks, chocolate, and other confectionery, ice cream, jams, processed and canned foods.

• Alcoholic drinks.

• Foods that are high in saturated fats like red meat, dairy products and fried foods. When preparing foods grill, bake or stir-fry with olive oil.

• Artificial sweeteners, preservatives and additives where possible.

• Smoking

• Exposure to sun, wind and sudden temperature changes.

N.B. Flushing attacks can be triggered by specific factors in individual patients. Not everyone will react to the same foods. To help identify your individual food sensitivities we would recommend that you consider consulting a Nutritionist

Aim to include:

• Organic produce if possible. This will avoid the hormone disrupting chemicals found in inorganic produce.

• A variety of whole foods including, brown rice, oats, barley, millet, rye, quinoa, buckwheat, corn, lentils and beans.

• Fruit: Red/orange fruits (apricots, mangoes, oranges) for beta carotene and vitamin C, red/black berries for anti-inflammatory properties, grapes are good cleansers, apples bind toxins.

• Vegetables: Carrots, beetroots, peppers, pumpkin, yam, squash for beta carotene and vitamin C, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, watercress, cabbage, for their antioxidant qualities and B vitamins, onions and garlic for their detoxifying qualities, sea vegetables (Kelp, Arame, Wakame), rich in amino acids, the building blocks for skin, hair and nails and vitamins and minerals, all required for healthy skin.

• Alternatives to dairy produce (i.e. milk, cheese, yoghurt and some sauces), such as soya, nut and rice milk, soya yoghurt and goats’ or sheep’s cheese.

• Seeds and nuts as snacks every day, and have three portions of oily fish (herring, pilchards, sardines) every week. These foods contain essential fatty acids important for skin health and hormonal balancing.

• Drink plenty of bottled or filtered water every day.

• Deep breathing exercises in your daily routine.

• Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing exercises to control stress.

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Elizabeth Hartland has a Bachelor of Science Degree in nutrition, together with a Diploma from the Institute of Nutritional Therapy. She is married with two young children and has a passion for good nutrition and helping others to find better health. 282 427 652