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Sometimes rosacea is no worse than a blush – but it can worsen till it resembles acne. Naturopath Teresa Mitchell-Paterson helps you get it under control.

Despite its name, acne rosacea – or adult acne – has little in common with acne, although the two can coexist. Rosacea manifests as small red bumps and a rosy colour, caused by dilation of the telangiectasia (small blood vessels), mostly in the central third of the face. The nose may become enlarged, the skin puffy, and the pores quite open.

Rosacea primarily affects adults aged 30 to 50, especially those with fair skin. It occurs more often in women, but is more severe in men. Despite its ubiquity – rosacea affects up to 10 percent of Australians – the cause is unknown. Nor is there any known cure: long-term remission is the best outcome. Treatment is essential to prevent rosacea worsening. Drugs have little success, so many sufferers consult natural therapists, but patience is needed as results take several months.

1.Cool your gut

Natural medicine attributes rosacea to poor digestion, although there is no scientific evidence for this. Clinical experience shows taking betaine hydrochloride or apple cider vinegar works, due to their action of either increasing gastric acid levels, or treating hypochlorhydria. Digestive enzymes may also be prescribed. A link between rosacea and Helicobacter pylori is, however, solidly backed by science. Present in some 88 percent of rosacea patients, H. pylori causes hypochlorhydria, so the connection natural therapists have made between poor digestion and rosacea is feasible. Rosacea is also associated with chronic active gastritis. My advice? See a GP and undergo a breath test for H. pylori; if it’s positive, see if you suffer gastritis. Studies show antibiotics kill H. pylori in rosacea patients, which markedly reduces the condition. Natural therapists use oregano oil and andrographis, or other powerful antimicrobials and antibacterials.

2. Avoid skin reddeners

Try cold-pressed olive oil as a moisturiser – the pH is slightly acidic, which reduces inflammation. Alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine, chocolate, nuts and seeds can all aggravate rosacea. So can sunlight, so it’s best to avoid it. Using sunblock is not a solution because PABA, another aggravator, may block pores, leading to inflammation. Facial scrubs are definitely out as they add fire to an already inflamed skin.

3. Supplement solutions

Balancing blood glucose reduces inflammation, with one study finding 600mcg of chromium daily to be effective for this. Choose low-GI foods loaded with fibre and phytonutrients, plus beetroot, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato and leafy greens for their beta carotene. Another research paper recommends 2mg biotin daily for reducing inflammation. Other key supplements are: vitamins A, D and E; omega-3 from three grams of fish oil, the dose required to supply the 900mg of EPA needed to reduce inflammation; and zinc sulphate, in a dose of 100mg of elemental zinc. Such a high dose needs to be supervised - if a metallic taste develops, it must be stopped.
Topically, a cream containing one percent of Chrysanthemum indicum was found to markedly improve rosacea, while another study showed a two percent extract of liquorice root (glycyrrhizin) inhibited the pro-inflammatory cytokines. A placebo-controlled study used a combination of Silybum mirianum and MSN topically - I also use MSN in long-term and chronic rosacea because it helps rebuild skin. Finally, cleansers should have a pH of 5.5 to keep skin slightly acid, which reduces inflammation and bacterial growth.

Teresa Mitchell-Paterson, BHSc (Comp Med), MHSc (Hum Nut), Adv Dip Nat, is a member of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society, www.atms.com.au