- Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that can be triggered by certain foods and beverages.
- Rosacea is a complicated condition and its exact causes are still not well understood.
- Anti-inflammatory foods, foods that balance the gut biome and some nutritional supplements may support healthy skin and reduce flares.
- Spicy foods, hot drinks and histamine-releasing foods can trigger a rosacea flare in some individuals.
Eating a nutrient-rich diet that nourishes the body is important for everyone, especially those with chronic conditions. Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that appears to be partly influenced by diet.
Rosacea has no cure, but certain foods and beverages are known to trigger a rosacea flare. By following a rosacea diet, It’s possible to reduce or prevent flares in the future by avoiding specific foods and beverages.
Rosacea is an inflammatory, chronic skin condition that is not yet fully understood in the scientific and medical communities. There are four primary types of rosacea: erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR), acne rosacea, rhinophyma and ocular rosacea.
All four types share the hallmark symptoms of skin sensitivity, redness and a hot or warm sensation on the face. Each also have unique characteristics that set them apart.
- Those with ETR commonly experience blushing, dryness, flushing, redness, rough skin, spider veins and a stinging sensation in the face
- Acne rosacea symptoms include papules, pimples, pustules, skin redness and swelling
- Rhinophyma is characterized by nodules (bumps) and thickened tissue on the end of the nose
- Ocular rosacea symptoms include itchy, red eyes, eyelid swelling, inflammation of the eye’s surface and possible corneal damage that could lead to vision loss.
Rosacea may be caused by family history, weakened or dilated blood vessels in the face, Demodex dust mites, cathelicidins (peptides) or a combination of these factors.
Because rosacea is a complicated condition, it’s understood there could be more than one overlapping, root cause. With this in mind, treatment options address the condition from different angles; a person with rosacea might be prescribed a topical rosacea cream as well as a long-term course of low-dose oral antibiotics.
Those with rosacea commonly report their symptoms worsen after exposure to certain triggers. Triggers vary, but the ones most often referenced include sun exposure, cosmetics, emotional stress and some foods and drinks.
What Is the Rosacea Diet?
The rosacea diet is a way of eating meant to reduce the inflammation and redness associated with rosacea. Following a rosacea diet involves avoiding trigger foods and drinks in order to prevent flares and to better manage the condition. Some people believe that adopting a specific dietary regimen, such as eating paleo or vegan, could potentially cure rosacea.
Does it really work?
Eating soothing, anti-inflammatory foods and avoiding triggers can help reduce inflammation in the body, as well as lower the risk for rosacea flares. The results of a rosacea diet—and the specific diet itself—may vary from person to person, as rosacea can be a highly individualized condition.
Following a rosacea diet can help you experience fewer flares. Changing your diet can help your skin look and feel calmer. Discovering—and eliminating—your personal trigger foods can greatly improve your condition and quality of life.
A word about alkaline diets
Although many people believe eating an alkaline diet is curative for multiple conditions, including rosacea, there is no evidence to support that alkaline foods can reduce or eliminate rosacea symptoms.
Foods considered to have an alkaline pH include vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes. Neutral foods that fall between acidic and alkaline include sugars, starches and healthy fats. Acidic foods to be avoided include fish, poultry, dairy products, meats, grains, eggs and alcohol.
At an average pH of 7.4, human blood normally tends to be alkaline. Diet has little to no influence over blood pH, except in the cases of alcoholic or diabetic ketoacidosis and starvation. In those cases, the alteration of blood pH can be deadly.
Foods and Beverages That Can Reduce Flare-Ups
Some foods and beverages could help to reduce rosacea flare-ups by way of their natural anti-inflammatory and healing characteristics. Healthy foods that nourish the skin, in general, are beneficial dietary choices whether you have rosacea or not.
A wide variety of rosacea-friendly, anti-inflammatory foods can be incorporated into your unique rosacea diet. These foods are widely considered to be nourishing and healing for a number of conditions, and they may help with the inflammation associated with rosacea symptoms.
- Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, which are all rich in antioxidants
- Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, sulforaphane-rich broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fish high in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA such as anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines
- Goat cheese
- Green tea
- Leafy green vegetables such as collards and spinach
- Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
Not all foods that are considered to be anti-inflammatory are appropriate for people with rosacea, though. Some foods such as oranges, tomatoes, dark chocolate and chili peppers might trigger a rosacea flare rather than soothe your symptoms because they contain compounds that release histamines in some people or encourage increased blood flow to the face.
Foods that balance the gut biome
Certain foods help balance the gut biome, which may, in turn, soothe symptoms of rosacea in some people. The gut biome is made up of bacteria, like probiotics and prebiotics, as well as microorganisms that live in the digestive system.
- Foods high in fiber, such as almonds, apples, artichokes, beans, broccoli, chickpeas, green peas, lentils, pistachios, raspberries and whole grains
- Prebiotic foods such as asparagus, banana, flaxseeds, garlic, leeks and onions
- Polyphenol-rich foods, such as blueberries and broccoli
- Whole grains
While some fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh and yogurt are widely considered to help balance the gut biome, they should be avoided by those with rosacea as they can actually trigger flare-ups.
Some nutritional supplements are beneficial to the skin and may help address inflammation or prevent rosacea flares. These include vitamin B3 (niacinamide), burdock, evening primrose oil, probiotics, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), turmeric (curcumin) and zinc, although there is insufficient scientific evidence to support their effectiveness against rosacea flares.
Instead, the evidence appears to be mostly anecdotal. Like prescription medications for rosacea, the effectiveness of natural remedies varies from person to person. Each person needs an individualized combination of treatments for their own case.
Foods and Beverages That Can Trigger Flare-Ups
Many people who have rosacea report an array of common foods and beverages that trigger rosacea symptoms, causing flushing and warmth.
Wine and hard liquor can trigger flare-ups of rosacea symptoms. Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means it causes blood vessels to dilate, resulting in a flushed appearance.
It’s possible that beer may be beneficial for some, as it is said that the hops in beer act as an anti-inflammatory. As with other triggers, responses will vary from one person to another.
Spicy foods that contain capsaicin can cause rosacea symptoms to flare. Capsaicin is found in cayenne pepper, red pepper, hot sauce and spices.
Capsaicin causes blood vessels on the face to dilate, resulting in increased blood flow and worsened redness as a result. In addition, it hypersensitizes pain receptors, which causes a burning sensation.
Foods containing cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its smell and taste, are another common symptom trigger for people with rosacea. Cinnamaldehyde is also found in citrus fruits, dark chocolate and tomatoes. Like alcohol and capsaicin, it’s also a vasodilator.
Foods that are high in histamine are often reported as triggers for rosacea. Histamines are released as part of the immune system’s response to an allergic reaction or injury. Foods that have high levels of histamines can trigger that same immune response in some people.
For people with rosacea, histamine-releasing foods can trigger inflammation and redness in the face. High-histamine foods include some fruits, dairy products, fermented foods and dried meats.
Hot drinks and foods
Hot foods and beverages such as tea, hot cocoa and coffee, are often reported as triggers for rosacea flares. The heat from the beverages opens blood vessels in the face and can cause flushing.
Many people with rosacea say that artificial sweeteners, carbonated drinks, fried foods, food additives, preservatives, processed foods and oils, refined sugar and white flour contribute to their rosacea flare-ups.
Eating foods you’re allergic to can also trigger symptoms. Allergy testing can help confirm additional foods to eliminate from your diet.
Tracking your meals and rosacea flare-ups in a journal can help you determine which foods you need to avoid. In addition, you can try an elimination diet; remove suspected foods, one at a time, from your diet for two weeks, then reintroduce them slowly, being mindful of any flares.
Rosacea Diet Meal Planning
Meal planning can help you follow your rosacea diet and avoid potential trigger foods. Planning your meals, buying the ingredients and preparing some of your meals for the week ahead will go a long way toward helping you stay on track with your plan.
Tips to Soothe Rosacea Flare-Ups
If you still experience flare-ups after you’ve begun following your rosacea diet, there are still ways you can soothe your skin and reduce discomfort.
- Wash your face with cool water and a gentle cleanser
- Apply cool cloths to your skin
- Spray cool water on your face with a mister
- Try a cooling gel or cream mask to reduce redness
- Apply rosacea medication (if this is part of your prescribed medication)
- Moisturize with a soothing cream
If you’re unable to find relief, see your doctor. You may need to begin a prescription medication regimen or have your medication adjusted to better control your symptoms.
Diet alone is unlikely to eliminate all your rosacea symptoms, but it can eliminate the symptoms that are directly related to dietary triggers. Certain anti-inflammatory foods can be incorporated into your diet to combat inflammation in the body. Additionally, avoiding trigger foods and beverages may help reduce the frequency of rosacea flares.
If you have frequent rosacea flare-ups and discomfort, see your doctor. You may need to address your rosacea symptoms with further treatment, such as oral antibiotics, prescription rosacea cream, laser treatments, intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy, electrosurgery or dermabrasion.
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