Rosacea is a common skin condition in adults over the age of 30. It can look like blushing, a sunburn, or “ruddiness.” This chronic condition typically affects the center of the face — the nose, cheeks, and chin. It can also affect the eyes, ears, neck, and chest.

The main symptoms of rosacea are:

  • redness
  • flushing
  • dryness
  • flaking
  • enlarged blood vessels
  • pimples
  • bumps

Eye symptoms, when they occur, include redness, tearing, grittiness, light sensitivity, and blurred vision. Rosacea can also cause burning, itching, and swelling. In severe cases, it can lead to thickened skin and an enlarged, “bulbous” nose and chin.

The cause of rosacea isn’t known. It’s thought to be a response to ongoing inflammation in the body. Immune system changes and gut bacteria imbalance may also be factors.

There are various treatments available for managing rosacea, but what you eat may also be able to help you reduce flare-ups.

There is no cure for rosacea, but recommended treatments include:

  • sun protection
  • anti-inflammatory therapies such as the antibiotic doxycycline and topical metronidazole
  • diet and lifestyle changes
  • other various prescription medications such as azelaic acid and ivermectin

Light and laser treatments may also help.

Research shows that certain foods may trigger (bring on) rosacea flare-ups. In a survey by the National Rosacea Society, 78 percent of adults with rosacea reported making changes to their diet. Of this group, 95 percent said they experienced fewer symptoms as a result.

There may also be a link between gut health and rosacea. A large clinical study in Denmark found that a high number of adults with rosacea also had gastrointestinal disorders such as celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

The evidence is not currently conclusive, but nutritional supplements that contain healthy fats and other nutrients may help improve your rosacea or soothe dry and gritty eyes in adults with rosacea. These may include:

  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • zinc sulfate

Foods to balance gut biome

In some cases, rosacea is thought to be triggered by an imbalance in the microorganisms that live in our gut and on our skin. Foods that help promote good bacteria in the body may help to reduce rosacea symptoms.

These include fiber-rich foods, prebiotics, and probiotics. Prebiotic foods may help keep the gut environment healthy for good bacteria. Probiotic foods may help to add more good microorganisms to your intestines.

Examples of probiotic foods include:

  • yogurt
  • sauerkraut
  • kefir
  • miso

Since people with rosacea have such a wide range of triggers, it’s possible that certain foods on this list may actually trigger your rosacea.

Prebiotic foods include fiber-rich food such as:

  • bananas
  • onions
  • leeks
  • asparagus
  • garlic
  • whole grains (oats, barley, amaranth, sprouted wheat)

Certain foods can trigger or worsen rosacea in some adults.

Avoid or limit these spicy or hot foods to help improve rosacea symptoms:

Alcohol

According to clinical research, up to half of adults with rosacea reported that drinking alcohol worsened their symptoms. Even a small amount of alcohol can trigger symptoms such as flushing and redness. This includes wine, hard liquor, and other alcoholic beverages such as:

  • champagne
  • bourbon
  • gin
  • vodka
  • beer

Other beverages

Hot drinks such as tea, coffee, hot cider, and hot cocoa may also trigger rosacea flare-ups.

Spicy foods

A survey of over 400 people by the National Rosacea Society found that spices and spicy food worsened symptoms in up to 75 percent of adults with rosacea. The common culprit is likely the chemical capsaicin, which gives these foods their “heat.”

Capsaicin affects the pain receptors in your skin that feel warmth. This may adversely affect rosacea. To limit capsaicin in your diet, you may choose to try to avoid certain spices and peppers.

  • chili pepper
  • jalapenos
  • hot sauce
  • tabasco pepper

Cinnamaldehyde foods

Cinnamaldehyde gives cinnamon its familiar pungent flavor. This compound causes a warming sensation that can trigger rosacea symptoms. It’s found in a range of foods:

  • cinnamon
  • tomatoes
  • citrus fruits
  • chocolate

Some medications may trigger rosacea symptoms. This may occur because some drugs affect blood flow to the skin. They include:

  • niacin (vitamin B-3)
  • sympathomimetics (blood pressure drugs)
  • topical steroids

Your dietary choices may help calm rosacea symptoms because certain foods can affect inflammation and dilate blood vessels.

You’ll mostly likely not need to avoid all trigger foods. Some foods may cause flare-ups in some people with rosacea, but not in others. Just as with food allergies and other conditions, it’s important to determine which foods affect your symptoms.

Figuring out which foods to eat and which to avoid may take time and careful observation. Keep a daily food and symptom journal. Log everything you eat and drink, as well as any changes to your rosacea. Remove foods one at a time to see your body’s response to it.

Speak to your doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist about the best diet for you. Ask about good food alternatives to help ensure that you’re eating a balanced daily diet.

It may take time and effort to make dietary changes a normal part of your daily lifestyle. Seek a community or online rosacea support group. Ask about easy recipes, meal ideas, and other tips for living with rosacea.