This month Naturopath Erin McCann explores the signs and symptoms of Rosacea and explains some of the naturopathic treatment protocols.
Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder affecting the face, specifically the areas around the cheeks, nose, chin and forehead. It is characterized by persistent redness or flushing, blood vessel dilation, papules and pustules. Other symptoms may include dry, burning or stinging skin, nodules, enlargement of the nose, or even inflammation of the angles of the eyes. It is a condition found predominantly in fair skinned adults between the ages of 30 – 50.
Women are three times more likely to suffer with rosacea than men; however, it is typically more severe in men when diagnosed. Suffers have also reported that the condition affects their self esteem and self confidence leading to avoiding social and professional interactions. This implies that rosacea is not just an inflammatory condition of the skin, but a condition that affects the whole person – emotionally, mentally, physically, and professionally.
Signs and Symptoms
Conventional treatment is focused on controlling the symptoms rather than curing the disorder. Oral tetracycline antibiotics and topical steroids are used to reduce skin inflammation. However, long term use of these may contribute to and exacerbate rosacea symptoms. Treating a Helicobater pylori gastrointestinal bacterial infection, often related to stomach ulcers and at times linked to rosacea, could be beneficial. Avoiding triggers is essential to keeping the symptoms to a minimum. Common triggers detailed by the National Rosacea Association are:
* Weather and temperature related – sun exposure, extreme cold, hot baths
* Heavy exercise
* Emotional stress
* Spicy food and thermally hot drinks/food
* Food sensitivity – citrus, yeast products, dairy
* Vasodialating medications or topical steroids
* Skin care products or cosmetics
Treatment Naturopathic and nutritional therapies may be useful in treating the possible causes of rosacea and in reducing symptoms. Food intolerances or allergies may be a factor in rosacea sufferers. Sensitivity to certain foods could result in an inflammatory response in the intestinal tract and the release of histamines systemically. Therefore, testing for food intolerances or allergies and eliminating problematic foods may reduce symptoms. Low levels of gastro hydrochloric acid (HCl) may result in undigested proteins putting stress on intestinal function and possibly in macromolecules being absorbed into the blood stream leading to inflammatory responses on the skin. Eating bitter foods and using nutrient supplementation may improve the body’s production of HCl and therefore reduce inflammation. Using nutrients, such as L-glutamine, to repair the intestinal lining while repopulating with beneficial bacteria, may assist in reducing intestinal and systemic inflammation. Improving elimination of toxins through the colon and skin by consuming more fibre and water, by using therapies such as colon hydrotherapy or massage, and by skin brushing may reduce rosacea symptoms. Supplementing with a Vitamin B complex as well as with Vitamin D3 may improve metabolism and modulate immune responses. Addressing rosacea topically is also helpful by using paraben free, natural, anti-microbial products. Finally, identifying and dealing with emotional stressors through relaxation techniques, counselling or group therapies may support the individual working through this complex condition.
By applying a complementary approach to treatment, the rosacea sufferer may find lasting relief from an enigmatic, conspicuous condition that is more than skin deep.