Rosacea is a chronic skin condition characterized by facial flushing, pus-filled bumps, and patchy redness on the cheeks. The condition primarily affects middle-aged, fair-skinned women but has been known to affect other populations as well. The condition can be physically uncomfortable, and people with the illness report lower self-esteem during flare-ups. Current treatments include antibiotics and anti-acne regimens, but there is no known cure for the skin disease. While food effects can vary from person to person, scientists have isolated some common foods that both help and trigger rosacea.
Well-known for its bright orange color, turmeric boasts a slew of health benefits. Used to combat arthritis pain and depressive symptoms, the popular spice is a potent anti-inflammatory that may also help reduce swelling associated with rosacea. Turmeric's anti-inflammatory properties are likely due to high levels of the polyphenol curcumin; studies suggest the compound could be beneficial for a variety of inflammatory conditions.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale, contain high levels of vitamin E. An antioxidant that boosts skin elasticity and targets free radical damage, vitamin E plays an important role in maintaining skin health. Scientists think that a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables may help prevent rosacea flare-ups by reducing oxidative stress in the skin.
Most experts agree that including fatty fish in the diet yields a variety of health benefits. Rich in vital omega-3 fatty acids, fish (along with nuts and seeds) boost cardiovascular, brain, and skin health. Omega-3s support the body's ability to fight inflammation, offering relief to people with inflammatory rosacea. Researchers found that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids resulted in improved rosacea complaints, particularly those with ocular rosacea symptoms.
Some experts argue that true wellness starts with a healthy gut. Pre-biotic foods feed the "good" bacteria in the gastrointestinal system; these bacteria help maintain healthy digestion and balance nutrient absorption in the body. Recent research discovered a link between abnormal gut microbiota levels and increased rosacea symptoms. In this study, people with rosacea had fewer numbers of "good" bacteria in their gut than the general population. Prebiotic foods help these bacterial colonies to grow and thrive, in theory reducing rosacea symptoms.
Kefir, a bacteria-rich pro-biotic drink, offers a gamut of health benefits. Kefir fights against H. pylori infection in the gut, which has been linked to increased rosacea symptoms via the gut-skin connection. The probiotic drink encourages the flourishing of healthy gut microbiota; research suggests this reduces inflammation and flare-ups.
While there are many foods that help with rosacea symptoms, there are also several that increase symptoms and flare-ups. Alcohol, a known irritant, increases inflammation of the skin. Research suggests this is the result of a histamine response, which triggers rosacea symptoms. If someone wants to drink, studies suggest that beer produces the least inflammation due to the anti-inflammatory compounds found in hops.
Unfortunately for chocolate lovers, the delicious dessert contains cinnamaldehyde, a known rosacea trigger. It is thought that this compound activates a rosacea signaling pathway in people with a genetic predisposition to the condition. Although all chocolate contains the compound, milk chocolate seems to trigger more pronounced symptoms than dark chocolate. Researchers think this is due to the added sugars in milk chocolate, which cause inflammatory reactions in the body. Cinnamaldehyde is also found in cinnamon, tomatoes, and citrus.
Processed meats may also trigger rosacea flare-ups in some people. These foods are often high in histamines, which cause an inflammatory reaction in the body. This reaction increases blood flow, tissue swelling, and skin discoloration, all symptoms of rosacea. Research suggests that people with rosacea cannot process histamines as efficiently as the general population, leading to symptomatic flare-ups after consuming histamine-rich foods.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, helps cells in the immune system fight infection. In the skin, these are called Langerhans cells. Niacin helps these immune cells function properly, but foods high in niacin can trigger adverse reactions in some people. Foods high in niacin, like tuna, encourage Langerhans cells to release a compound that increases redness and swelling in the skin. Researchers think this may be the primary molecular pathway that causes flushing in rosacea.
Although comforting on a hot day, almost all people with rosacea report increased symptoms after consuming hot drinks. Heat in any form is thought to be a trigger for rosacea, so the contents of the mug don't matter. Research suggests that frequency also affects symptoms; in the study, the more often people drank hot tea, the more intense their rosacea symptoms became. The primary symptom complaints with hot drinks include facial flushing and inflammation.
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