Rosacea and gluten – a coeliac connection?

It’s not difficult to find stories online — usually in chat forums — of long-standing rosacea symptoms disappearing following a trial of a gluten-free diet.

As the culinary culprit of our times, gluten is regularly made a scapegoat, and the association between coeliac disease and its skin manifestation — dermatitis herpetiformis — makes gluten a prime suspect for other skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema.

But anecdotes aside, is there any decent research that might suggest a link with rosacea?

Searching for published scientific papers on ‘celiac’ and ‘rosacea’ offers us slim pickings, and perhaps because of this, there is a lot of speculation on whether wheat, rye and gluten really are triggering or aggravating those red patches, flushing, pimpling, and visible capillaries that are characteristic of rosacea. I’ve even seen a rosacea site advise readers to ditch MSG on the basis that it is gluten (no, it is glutamate).

Rosacea charities and bodies are as quiet on the subject as the scientists: The National Rosacea Society, for instance, will only share a member anecdote, and say no more on the matter of gluten.

So a paper published in a dermatology journal recently, and covered by Healio, caught my eye. It reported an association between rosacea and several autoimmune diseases — including coeliac. In fact, women with rosacea were around twice as likely to have coeliac as the general population – an association not seen in men – which raises the possibility of autoimmune involvement in some cases.

A subsequent population-based study has also found a link between rosacea and other gastrointestinal diseases, including coeliac.

This serves as a useful reminder that following online anecdotal advice and trying a gluten-free diet could make any potential diagnosis of coeliac disease far more difficult. So, to repeat something I regularly write on this blog, don’t change your diet, and do go to your doctor to explore the possibility of underlying coeliac, in the first instance. The blood tests he or she may send you for will only work as they’re designed to if you keep gluten in your diet, and if it’s a positive result, you’ll need the specialist support a formal diagnosis can offer.

Skincare Products for Rosacea

Here are some you may like to try. Although there is no good evidence that gluten in cosmetics can affect coeliacs through the skin, the following are nevertheless gluten free and have had good anecdotal feedback regarding their benefits to skin affected by rosacea and redness.

JASON Lightening Vitamin K Creme Plus
Said to brighten and tackle uneven skin tone, with active ingredient horsetail, marigold and echinacea.

Weleda Aknedoron Purifying Lotion
A blend of pungent herbs (sage, lavender) said to help with boosting restorative blood flow. Won a FreeFrom Skincare Award in 2014 in the Problem Skin category.

Pai Chamomile and Rosehip Calming Day Creme
chamomile_rosehip_3_1024_largeVery popular and strongly performing product (pictured right), with terrific natural qualities, whose producers claim help calm the appearance of ‘reactive redness’.

Eucerin Redness Relief range
Not ‘natural’, in any cosmetic sense, and preserved with parabens, but good feedback from users, anecdotally. Include night cream, cleanser, lotion, concealer and tinted moisturiser.

Argan Organics Rosacea Face Wash (UK only)
Gentle cleansing agents, with anti-inflammatory botanicals, and wholly natural preservation system.

Further reading

Acne and Rosacea: The Complete Guide – by Alison Bowser
The Rosacea Support Group – Australian group
National Rosacea Society – US group

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