Acne Rosacea: Dermatologist’s Natural Treatment of Rosacea

Cynthia Bailey, MD|January 11, 2011

Rosacea is a lifelong skin condition that requires constant management-there is no rosacea cure! Because of this I use oral antibiotics to treat rosacea only as a last resort.  My approach to rosacea treatment is to have my patients on a good foundation of holistic and healthy control measures to support rosacea remissions meaning:

  • diet,
  • lifestyle and
  • skin care.

I build upon that foundation by adding medicated topical prescription skin care products.  Then, only as a last resort will I use short term oral antibiotics to control the skin when it flares up in spite of our best efforts. This holistic approach to treating rosacea isn't the norm. I see many patients whose previous physicians managed their rosacea with oral antibiotics alone.  My bias is that the unintended consequences of chronic oral antibiotic use make them a last resort for rosacea treatment.  My patients achieve good control of their rosacea with my holistic approach; only my toughest rosacea patients require oral antibiotic treatment to control their skin.

My holistic approach to treating rosacea covers a lot of detailed information.  I’m going to outline my key points for diet and lifestyle in today's 4th series post.  Prescription skin care, oral therapy and procedures will be covered tomorrow in my final fifth post of this rosacea series. My recommendations for supportive skin care are outlined in the third post of the series titled Rosacea Skin Care Tips From My Dermatology Practice.

Dermatologist’s Natural Remedies For Rosacea

In addition to a complete supportive skin care regimen and prescription treatments when necessary, I recommend that my rosacea patient change their diet and activities to help control their rosacea. Supportive diet recommendations for rosacea patients

  • My Aalkaline Mediterranean Diet can help rosacea. It's the perfect diet for anyone with an inflammatory skin condition because alkaline foods may be anti inflammatory.  It’s a veggi heavy diet that's very similar to the current recommendation from doctors and dietitians for optimal health.  The alkaline vs acid concept of foods is controversial, but my experience and opinion is that it matters; the concept is that foods which create a slight alkaline pH shift when you absorb them are less inflammatory.  You can read more about it in my 3 post series which starts with The Alkaline Mediterranean Diet; a dietary magic wand for overall health and beauty
  • Freshly ground flax seeds are the most potent plant source of inflammation fighting omega 3 fatty acids.  It's easy to add a handful to your food and it's a great overall health booster. My post on flax seeds is titled Age Beautifully, Fight Cancer And Prevent Heart Disease By Adding Flax Seeds To Your Diet
  • I also recommend adding foods with live probiotics to your diet. I think the best source of probiotics comes from naturally fermented foods such as kefir (or yogurt), instead of probiotic supplements. I discuss probiotics in my two part series on kefir.  The first post in the series is Dermatologist’s Recommendations for Natural Skin Health: Kefir the best probiotic for healthy skin. Yogurt, and possibly kefir, can trigger some people's rosacea, so you need to try them carefully.  Alternatives include probiotic supplements from natural food stores, but buy the highest quality because these living cultures require care or else they die before you actually have a chance to use them. The reason I recommend probiotics is because of some inconclusive but interesting scientific observations connecting rosacea and the stomach germ helicobacter pylori.  Eating probiotic rich foods regularly may help diminish the presence of this organism in the gastrointestinal track.  I’ve had so many patients whose rosacea benefited from h. pylori treatment that I think this recommendation may well have merit.
  • My last diet recommendation is to avoid those specific foods that make your rosacea flare up. These are different for each person.  The obvious foods triggers for most rosacea patients are spicy foods and alcohol.  There are other less obvious culprits however.  Just yesterday a rosacea patient told me she figured out her flare ups were triggered by avocados. When she gave them up her face cleared.  When she did a re-challenge, her skin broke out again. Other examples include hot beverages, dairy foods, citrus fruit foods, chocolate, vanilla, soy sauce, vinegar, spinach, some beans and eggplant. Try to notice if there are any specific food types that seem to be associated with your skin’s flare ups. When you think that you’ve identified a trigger food try avoiding it and observe your skin for changes.  If your rosacea calms down, confirm your suspicion with a re-challenge.  If your skin flares up again you may have identified one of your true food triggers.

Lifestyle and Activity Recommendations To Help Support Your Rosacea Therapy

  • Stress triggers rosacea.  Most rosacea patents turn beet red when they are upset, embarrassed or nervous.  The pimples and inflammatory rash of rosacea often follow. Roseaca also flares up during the holidays, which for many of us are stressful. Doing what you can to avoid or manage your stress level is important when you have rosacea.  I’m a big fan of yoga for stress reduction and have written about its health benefits.  Other options include meditation, biofeedback, taking time to be outdoors, spending time with friends who don’t cause you stress, being less demanding of yourself and living life more slowly etc.
  • Temperature extremes, sun and strong chapping wind can trigger rosacea. This includes saunas and hot tubs as well as the weather and indoor temperatures.  It also includes exertional exercise that can cause you to get overheated.
  • Facial flushing conditions such as menopausal hot flashes and niacin supplement flushing can cause rosacea flare ups too.

The good news is that you can make decisions that help you control your rosacea.  If your rosacea is well controlled with diet and supportive skin care you may be able to sneak up on your skin and ask it to tolerate a small amount of these triggers. With rosacea flare ups it’s a often a matter of degree; doing strenuous exercise in the full sun on a windy day while suffering from hot flashes, after eating Mexican food and drinking a margarita,  and at a time when your rosacea is already active is just asking for trouble!

My 5 Article Series On Rosacea:

  1. What is Acne Rosacea?
  2. What Are The Skin Symptoms Of Acne Rosacea?
  3. Rosacea Skin Care Tips From My Dermatology Practice
  4. Acne Rosacea; Dermatologist's Natural Treatment of Rosacea
  5. Prescription Medication and Cosmetic Procedures To Treat Rosacea

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