While there are many factors that manifest in rosacea, a facial flushing condition, research shows there's one unexpected connection—and it involves your gut. Understanding how to keep blushes and pesky pimples at bay begins with addressing this connection. To help you do so—and combat the facial condition from the stomach up—we tapped a gastroenterologist and a dermatologist to share their thoughts. Ahead, exactly how your gut health plays into the rosacea equation.
Rosacea is linked to a higher prevalence of gastrointestinal disease.
"The microbiome has connections with many different kinds of skin conditions—and rosacea is one of them," says Dr. Marvin Singh, integrative gastroenterologist and founder of Precisione Clinic. "We know that certain foods may act as triggers for exacerbations. We also know that data shows a higher prevalence of rosacea in those with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and that treatment of SIBO could possibly result in an improvement in rosacea. This further supports that optimizing gut health (and microbiome health) can contribute to improvements in rosacea."
Treat the gut to treat your skin.
No matter the problem, says Dr. Singh, healing the gut should always be your first priority—especially since your microbiome impacts the health of your entire body. "One of the biggest triggers we would be looking at for a rosacea patient is poor diet. We want to optimize the diet, and focus on fiber-rich prebiotic foods and probiotic foods, and we want to avoid sugars, refined flours, sodas, vegetable oils, packaged and processed foods and meats, hydrogenated fats, and other pro-inflammatory foods." Just as important? Avoiding toxins, such as alcohol, tobacco, heavy metals, and pesticides; ultimately these factors can impact the balance of the microbiome, too, he notes.
Take a multi-pronged approach to treatment.
Healing your gut won't necessarily erase your rosacea symptoms, since other lifestyle factors also inform the condition, says dermatologist Dr. Annie Chiu, founder of The Derm Institute. "For example, immediate rosacea flares can be seen as a reaction to spicy foods, hot beverages, and alcohol," she says. "Taking care of the external skin will also result in a more immediate improvement of your rosacea, as microbiomes on the skin contribute to a healthy skin barrier. Using gentle products that do not disrupt, but instead build up that barrier—look for ingredients like ceramides, which will calm the redness associated with rosacea—is just as imperative. "Over-the-counter products that contain sulfur can also help if you can't get to a dermatologist for prescription-strength care," notes Dr. Chiu.
Avoid your triggers.
Ultimately, rosacea is a culmination of many bodily disruptions. Dr. Chiu says that there are a "confluence of factors," ranging from the environment, your emotions, and hormones to genetics and general lifestyle. This means that it may not always be possible to avoid flares entirely—but managing your triggers, once you identify them, can make the ailment more controllable overall.