Rosacea: Understanding Inflammation and the pH Connection

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Over the past decade, rosacea has become an increasingly common skin disorder seen in skincare clinics all across the country—almost daily. This has been a very difficult condition to treat aesthetically and medically, as well. Rosacea usually effects 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! 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: or our Standard American Diet (S.A.D). Consider for a moment the trends over the past five to ten years, 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 the possibility that high protein intake can negatively affect 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 severe acid-blood condition can actually cause the heart to stop beating! In addition, the kidneys become overwhelmed and stressed and, as a result, kidney stones can begin to develop. Needless to say, this scenario sets up a spiral of imbalances in the system that leads not only to a general decline in our health, but 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 shows 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 bacterium 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 overgrowths 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 rebalancing 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.) alkalize the tissues and help reduce acidity. Juicing green vegetables is a great way to help alkalize, as well, 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!" These are 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. Enzymes, particularly protease, play an essential role in hydrolyzing oxidized proteins and mediating free- radical formation to 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 be highly beneficial in supporting the body's healing processes and effective treatment of rosacea.
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 skins and is highly effective toward a positive 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.
Enzyme therapy can and should be used in conjunction with other therapies in order to address the needs of the whole person. I use Transformation Enzyme Corporation's "TPP Professional Protocol" formulas for effective enzyme therapy for my clients and get very good results, especially when reducing the inflammatory response. 

Establishing a Regular Routine

Emily recommends using the following products from Sunshine Botanicals in the morning and evening for effective results:

Cleanse: Try PhytoCalm Redness Relief Bar or, if breakouts are an issue, PhytoClear Purifying Cleansing Bar.
Hydrate: Moisturize skin with PhytoCalm Hydrating Recovery Mist.
Soothe, Nourish, and Protect: Try a combination of Essential Hydrating Fluid + EFA Lipid Booster.

* For an even more effective clean, try Dermal Detox PreCleanse before your normal rinse.


Emily Fritchey is a clinical aesthetician and natural health practitioner who is also the founder and president of Sunshine Botanicals, a line of natural skincare products that has received two consecutive “Beauty with a Conscience” awards from Natural Solutions magazine for outstanding product formulation. For more information, visit