Foods that Trigger Rosacea – What the Evidence Tells Us

Rosacea, acne, dermatitis, skin, treatment, food, diet, triggers, alcohol, caffeine, histamine, Dairy, fatty foods, niacin Cinnamaldehyde, Coal Tar, Urea, Zinc, Hemp Seed Oil, Pumpkin Seed Oil, natural remedy, compounding, medication, compounding pharmacy

In survey conducted by the American National Rosacea Society, 78 percent of respondents said they had changed their diet to reduce the frequency and severity of rosacea flare-ups. 75 percent of this cohort said they had seen improvement in their condition since they started avoiding certain foods.  Recent literature on the subject points appears to back up anecdotal evidence for some food groups, but not for others. We’ve taken a look at the most commonly cited rosacea-provoking food culprits under the lens of was the latest science tells us.

Alcohol

In a survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society [1] , 52% of the 1,066 rosacea sufferers surveyed said that alcohol triggered an outbreak of rosacea. Red wine was noted as the most serious offender. When the body breaks down alcohol, the nitrogenous compound, histamine, is released. Histamine’s main role is to respond to foreign pathogens by triggering the inflammatory response. As a neurotransmitter, histamine causes contraction of smooth muscle and dilation of capillaries and it’s believed the production of histamine triggers rosacea in susceptible people.

Niacin

Found in salmon, tuna, liver, chicken breast and peanuts, Niacin triggers the release of prostaglandins (physiologically active lipid compounds with a hormone-like effect) around capillaries, causing them to inflame, become itchy and produce the distinctive rosacea rash.

Spicy Food

While many rosacea-sufferers believe spicy food triggers their condition, the clinical evidence appears to contradict this. In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Dermatology [2], researchers found no correlation between the intake of spicy food and the occurrence of rosacea. It’s believed certain receptors found on sensory nerves and keratinocytes (epidermal cell) might be activated by capsaicin found in spicy foods, causing the dilation of blood vessels and subsequent flushing.

Cinnamaldehyde

Foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, chocolate and cinnamon contain high levels of the compound cinnamaldehyde. Current thinking is that cinnamaldehyde activates sensory nerve receptors and keratinocytes, in the same way capsaicin does (see above) to trigger a rosacea rash flare-up.

Caffeine

While many people point the finger of blame in coffee’s direction, a 14-year Nurses’ Health Study [3] examined the caffeine intake of 4,945 rosacea-afflicted participants and found little evidence to back this claim up. The study found that caffeine did not increase the risk of rosacea outbreak, and could in fact, lower the risk. Caffeine is known to decrease vasodilation and have immunosuppressant effects. Its thought that the heat from coffee, rather than the caffeine, may be responsible for the perception that it exacerbates rosacea.

Histamine

As outlined above in ‘Alcohol’, histamine is the promoter of allergic inflammation leading to tissue swelling, increased blood flow and vascular hyper-permeability. It’s hypothesised[4] that people suffering  from rosacea may not be able to break down histamine as well as others and the over-accumulation of histamine leads to an outbreak of rosacea symptoms. Foods high in histamine include aged cheese, sauerkraut, wine and processed meat/smallgoods.

Dairy

The jury is still out on dairy. There are some studies[5] that suggest dairy my actually be beneficial for rosacea-sufferers, while other studies[6] have found quite the opposite. This disparity in study results may be due to ethnicity and location of study participants, varying levels of hormones in milk and other factors such as lactose intolerance.

Fatty Foods

Fatty foods including deep fried foods and fatty meats are known to contribute to inflammation in the body so it stands to reason that they may be implicated in a rosacea outbreak. A 2-year study in China involving 1,347 rosacea-sufferers and 1,290 control subjects found a direct correlation between diets that contained a large amount of fatty food and the incidence of rosacea.

Note from National Custom Compounding:  While there’s no easy cure for rosacea, there are treatments that can alleviate the redness, itching and burning. These treatments include ingredients such as Coal Tar, Urea, Zinc, Hemp Seed Oil, Pumpkin Seed Oil and vitamins, E, C and A. National Custom Compounding can make up treatments specifically formatted for your skin.

For more information contact National Custom Compounding on 1300 731 755 or [email protected]


[1] Drake L, editor. National Rosacea Society. New survey pinpoints leading factors that trigger symptoms. http://www.rosacea.org/rosacea-review/2002/summer/new-survey-pinpoints-leading-factors-that-trigger-symptoms Rosacea Review. Summer 2002. Accessed 17 May 2020.

[2] Yuan X, Huang X, Wang B, Huang YX, Zhang YY, Tang Y, Yang JY, Chen Q, Jian D, Xie HF, Shi W, Li J. Relationship between rosacea and dietary factors: A multicenter retrospective case-control survey. J Dermatol. 2019 Mar;46(3):219-225. doi: 10.1111/1346-8138.14771. Epub 2019 Jan 18. PMID: 30656725.

[3] Li S, Chen ML, Drucker AM, Cho E, Geng H, Qureshi AA, Li WQ. Association of Caffeine Intake and Caffeinated Coffee Consumption With Risk of Incident Rosacea in Women. JAMA Dermatol. 2018 Dec 1;154(12):1394-1400. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.3301. PMID: 30347034; PMCID: PMC6583325.

[4] Searle T, Ali FR, Carolides S, Al-Niaimi F. Rosacea and Diet: What is New in 2021?. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2021;14(12):49-54.

[5] Yuan X, Huang X, Wang B et al. Relationship between rosacea and dietary factors: A multicenter retrospective case–control survey. J Dermatol. 2019;46(3):219–225.

[6] Pappas A. The relationship of diet and acne: A review. Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Sep;1(5):262-7. doi: 10.4161/derm.1.5.10192. PMID: 20808513; PMCID: PMC2836431.

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