Images courtesy of National Rosacea Society

Over the past decade, rosacea has become an increasingly common skin disorder seen in skin care clinics all across the country almost daily. This has been a very difficult condition to treat aesthetically and medically, as well.  This frustrating condition is seen in adults of all ages and is characterized by redness, pimples, and in advanced stages, thickened skin.  Rosacea usually affects the nose, forehead and cheeks. It is associated with telangiectasia (dilation of the blood vessels under the skin).  Acne pustules often accompany this condition and skin around each pustule is rosy red.  Frequent flushing that is often accompanied by a burning sensation may occur, particularly after using certain types of cosmetics.  Sometimes the skin swells and feels warm.  Persistent redness, papules and pustules on the skin develop as a result of an inflammatory condition throughout the system.

This inflammatory process is caused by acidity of the tissues and blood.  It begins in the body when healthy pH levels are disrupted and acid levels increase.  Our body’s natural design is to be self healing.  In order to help correct this imbalance, the body will draw calcium from the bones and connective tissue to alkalize the blood and balance this acid condition.  As a result, bones can weaken and osteoarthritis can begin to develop, causing joint pain and tenderness.  It is also very important to understand that the inflammatory process is a key factor at work in the aging process.  Reducing the amount of acid forming foods we eat and incorporating digestive enzymes into our diets can bring about powerful changes that not only improve our skin but lead us to much better health overall.

By now, you are probably asking yourself, “what does all this have to do with Rosacea?” Plenty!  Read on… First, let’s take a look at some of the factors at work in our everyday lives that help create this inflammatory condition.  First, diet and lifestyle factors: Our Standard American Diet (S.A.D)… Consider for a moment, the trends over the past 5-10 years or so, and the diet consciousness of our society.  “Low Carb” consciousness is everywhere.  We are surrounded with messages to increase protein intake and reduce carbs in order to lose weight and improve our cardiovascular systems.  While it is true that you can lose weight this way, these approaches do not take into consideration how this high protein intake negatively effects the body’s chemistry and overall terrain.

The down side of this type of “nutritional” program is that it severely alters the body’s pH and leads to an over acid condition in the blood, increasing the inflammatory process throughout the system.  High protein intake leads to an acid blood condition setting about a disruption in the overall pH balance vital to good health.  Ironically, a severely acid blood condition can actually cause the heart to stop beating!  Definitely not good.  In addition, the kidneys become overwhelmed and stressed due to the excess acid they are required to help eliminate from the body. As a result, kidney stones can begin to develop. Needless to say, this scenario sets up a spiral of imbalances in the system that lead not only to an overall decline in our health in general, but creates an environment within the body that can bring about and accelerate rosacea symptoms.

Other factors reported to aggravate the condition include emotional stress, extremely hot or cold temperatures, hot or spicy foods, alcohol consumption, menopause and long-term use of topical steroids.  This condition seems resistant to many conventional medical treatments, however, the latest research has shown a significant connection between the role of free radical formation, pH imbalance and rosacea.  The addition of antioxidants such as Grape Seed Extract, Quercetin, SOD, Glutathione and Alpha Lipoic Acid (to name just a few) to the treatment protocol will help reduce cellular damage and reduce the inflammatory response as well.

Poor digestion also promotes an acid bloodstream.  For a vast majority of Americans, digestion simply isn’t occurring as it should (as is evidenced by the billions of dollars spent each year for OTC “digestive aids”).  Indigestion, reflux and heartburn are just a few of the signals our bodies are giving us that something simply isn’t working correctly. The bacteria Heliocobacter Pylori, associated with stomach ulcers has been strongly linked to the development of rosacea.  Digestive disorders underlie most all disease processes, and support the growth of candida (yeast) fungus and mold which also contributes to indigestion.  Probiotics play a vital role in combating these fungal overgrowth’s and contribute to improved digestion.

Although the pH of the stomach and the pH of the blood are two different issues, it is essential to understand that supporting the digestive process is where the re-balancing of the pH throughout the system begins.  Fresh, whole fruits and vegetables are naturally filled with an abundance of enzymes and promote good health.  Fresh greens, (spinach, kale, barley greens, etc.) are very alkalizing to the tissues and will help reduce acidity.  Juicing green vegetables is a great way to help alkalize and can easily be incorporated into anyone’s lifestyle.  As you can see, addressing the needs of the GI tract is absolutely crucial to the treatment of rosacea by getting to the “root” of the problem and reducing the inflammatory response.  Age-old wisdom says, “when you’re green inside, you’re clean inside!”  Wise words indeed.

In my own aesthetics practice, I have found this to be especially true.  Every client I have seen with rosacea symptoms has had a history of digestive issues of one kind or another.  Interesting…Enzymes, particularly protease, play an essential role in hydrolyzing oxidized proteins and mediating free radical formation and help alkalize the blood.  However, in times of high metabolic demands, such as strenuous exercise, illness and stress, free radicals increase through the pathophysiology known as oxidative stress.  This impedes the ability of enzymes to protect the skin against these free oxygen species.  Supplementing the diet with digestive and metabolic enzymes, probiotics, and anti-oxidants, both topically and internally, is the very foundation of any effective therapy, and proves to he highly beneficial in supporting the body’s healing processes and effective treatment of rosacea.

This image is an excellent example of steroid induced Rosacea.  Note the marked vascular redness and pustulation from prolonged use of topical corticosteroid gels.  One of the side effects of this treatment is the coarsening and thickening of underlying facial skin, as seen in this photo.  Oral antibiotics are often combined with topical steroid gels for difficult cases.  Unfortunately, this does not address the inflammatory process and can lead to systemic yeast and candida conditions, actually exacerbating the original condition.

The primary goal of the naturopathic approach to this condition is to reduce inflammation and redness, alkalize the pH of the body and soothe, calm and heal stressed skin. Enzyme therapy is the foundation, both topically and internally, for Rosacea skin and is highly effective toward the treatment outcome.  Avoid skin care products and cosmetics containing chemicals, and choose mineral make up over synthetic.  Mineral make up is great not only for blending and coverage, but has healing properties as well.