Rosacea and Diet: How Food and Flare-Ups Are Connected

Rosacea and Diet: How Food and Flare-Ups Are Connected

Have you ever noticed flushing, redness, or irritation on your skin after eating certain foods?


This could be a sign that you have rosacea, a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes blushing of the skin and other symptoms. The American Academy of Dermatology Association reports that over 14 million Americans suffer from this skin condition, while the National Rosacea Society estimates over 16 million Americans have rosacea.


Rosacea appears as redness across the center of the face, including the nose, forehead, chin, and inner cheeks. Symptoms can also include small, red, pus-filled bumps that are often confused with acne — as well as small visible blood vessels on the nose and cheeks.


While the exact cause of rosacea is still unknown, researchers and doctors now understand there are several factors, including weather, skincare ingredients, and, yes, food that can trigger rosacea.

 

Rosacea Food Triggers

Certain food groups are known to trigger flare-ups for those who have rosacea. However, not everyone with rosacea will experience the same responses to foods. Everyone’s body is unique and reacts to different triggers. If you’re looking for where to start identifying triggers in your diet, common culprits include:

 

Alcohol

Research shows a significant correlation between alcohol intake and rosacea flare-ups. However, there’s a common misconception that excessive alcohol consumption can cause rosacea, which isn’t true. This stigma can leave rosacea sufferers with unnecessary embarrassment or shame around their skin condition.


Alcohol can only trigger rosacea symptoms, not cause the underlying condition. Whether you’re drinking champagne, vodka, beer, rum, bourbon, or gin, alcohol intake may trigger facial redness and flushing by dilating blood vessels. 


A survey by the National Rosacea Society found that almost nine in 10 rosacea sufferers say they limit their consumption of alcohol because of the skin condition. And ninety percent of those people say limiting the alcohol consumption has reduced flare-ups.

 

Hot Drinks

Extreme temperatures are a common trigger of rosacea. It comes as no surprise then that both hot weather and hot beverages can trigger rosacea redness.


To help avoid a rosacea flare-up from hot drinks, try switching to the cold version of some of your favorite beverages… like iced coffee or iced tea.


If you’re not ready to make such a drastic switch, start off by allowing your hot beverages to cool off to lukewarm to avoid unwanted facial redness.

 

Spicy Food

Of adult sufferers of rosacea, 75% experience worsened symptoms after eating spicy foods. Why? A chemical called capsaicin is likely the culprit. Capsaicin contributes to the sensation of heat in peppers, which is delicious for many — yet troublesome for some. Capsaicin can be found in chili peppers, hot sauces, chili oils, salsa, chili powder, and paprika.

 

Dairy

For some, dairy products such as cheese, milk, sour cream, and yogurt can be inflammatory. Because rosacea is an inflammatory condition, consuming these dairy products may increase rosacea flare-ups. 


If you think this may be the case for you, try cutting back on dairy or switching to alternative dairy-free products made from oat, almond, or coconut milks.

 

High-Histamine Foods

Your body produces histamines that are released by white blood cells into the bloodstream in response to potential allergens. That means when you consume histamines, they can trigger your immune system and cause vasodilation, making blood vessels wider and increasing rosacea symptoms. 

 

Examples of foods high in histamines include:

  • Alcohol
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Spinach
  • Legumes
  • Processed meats
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles and other pickled foods

Cinnamaldehyde-Containing Foods

Like histamines, cinnamaldehyde can cause vasodilation that leads to wider blood vessels and increased skin flushing. The compound is most popularly associated cinnamon, but is also found in:

  • Clove
  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolates
  • Tomatoes

Some of these foods you may find trigger your rosacea, while others won’t. You may even find that certain foods not listed above exacerbate your facial redness. 


Take time to evaluate how each food group makes you feel when you consume it. If needed, consult with your healthcare provider or a licensed dietitian, who can help you identify food triggers.

 

Foods That May Reduce Rosacea Flare-Ups

Evidence is still being gathered on how specific foods may help reduce the risk of rosacea flare-ups, but research does show some connection between a healthy gut and improved rosacea. 


One study found that a large number of adults with rosacea also experienced gastrointestinal disorders, including celiac disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease.


With successful treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, evidence suggests rosacea improvement may follow. One study found that when SIBO was successfully treated, rosacea also improved.


Foods that may improve gut health and help to reduce rosacea flare-ups include:

 

Leafy Greens and Grains

One important nutrient for gastrointestinal health is fiber. Many plant fibers act as prebiotics in the body. Prebiotics aren’t able to be digested by the body, so they move intact to the lower digestive tract and help other beneficial microorganisms thrive by acting as “food” to these microbes.


By consuming enough dietary plant fiber, you help support your gut microbiome and promote good bacteria in the GI tract.


This helps to explain why research shows that foods rich in fiber benefit those suffering from rosacea. To support a healthy gut, look for high-fiber foods like leafy greens, grains, apples, and other fibrous fruit. 

 

Probiotic Foods

Have you ever heard of the skin-gut axis before? Probably not, but it’s become a key part in understanding skin health. The skin-gut axis is the scientific term referring to the interrelationship between the gut and skin health. 


According to research, it does seem the health of the gut microbiome influences the skinSo, it likely comes as no surprise that multiple studies have mentioned gut health as being an influencing factor to help control rosacea. 


To support the gut microbiome and help boost beneficial bacteria in the gut, you may want to try probiotic-rich foods. Foods high in probiotics are primarily fermented foods. Examples include kimchi, kefir, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, and pickles.

 

Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids 

If you’ve heard that fat is bad, think again. One study found omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids may help to improve rosacea symptoms. 


It’s important to note, though, that most Americans today consume far more omega-6s in a standard American diet than omega-3s. For overall wellness, it’s important to have a balanced ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. 


Consume more omega 3 fatty acids from tuna, salmon, algae supplements, walnuts, chia seeds, or flaxseed oil. If you suspect you need more omega-6s, try sunflower seeds, eggs, avocado oil, or pumpkin seeds.

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Track Your Rosacea Food Triggers

Determining which foods affect your rosacea isn’t straightforward or easy. To best identify which foods act as triggers for your skin, try keeping a journal to track what you’ve eaten and how severe your rosacea is that day. 


With this process you can better identify any trends that appear. Once you have a general idea of which foods could be affecting your facial redness, you may want try eliminating the worst offenders to see how your rosacea responds.

 

Find Your Rosacea Diet Plan

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy diet when it comes to managing your rosacea. Each person has a unique experience with this pesky skin condition and will react differently to possible triggers.


What we do know is that oftentimes managing your diet alone isn’t enough to soothe your rosacea flare-ups. If you need more rosacea support, look for additional treatment options, including over-the-counter creams like Gladskin’s Redness Relief Cream that helps rebalance your skin microbiome and alleviate rosacea symptoms.