Gluten, Inflammation & Rosacea

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been eating bread, crackers, pizza dough and cereal since you were a kid. Maybe, like me, you never reacted to it either. 

Bread was one of the only things I could eat without an immediate flare-up. Unlike peppers, salsa, wine or tomatoes which would cause instantaneous, hot redness gushing into my cheeks, bread never seemed to have that effect. Just to be sure, I discussed it with my doctor and had a celiac test and allergy tests performed. I was actually kind of disappointed to hear that the results were all negative. Part of me was hoping if I was positive, I’d finally have an answer to my rosacea.  Surprisingly, I did not have any allergy, sensitivity or intolerance to gluten whatsoever. Not only that, I did not have a food allergy, sensitivity or intolerance to ANY food. 

The reason I continued to be suspicious about the foods I was eating was that every time I had the flu and was very ill for days, meaning there was nothing left in my stomach or intestines, my skin would clear up. I mean drastically clear up. I would still have generalized pinkness and a sandpaper feel to my skin, but the bumps and flares were gone. Then I would go back to my normal diet, and things would immediately return to a state of chronic rosacea. 

In December 2019 a friend convinced me to try a 30 day clean eating program which forced me to completely eliminate dairy and gluten for the full month. I was extremely skeptical due to all of my negative test results,  but I stuck to the plan and the progress to my skin was very surprising. I saw a significant improvement in my symptoms, enough to want to continue. 

This prompted me to begin researching dairy and gluten, and WHY they are so problematic, even for someone who is NOT sensitive to them. What exactly was going on?

Gluten has a story to tell. It turns out gluten is a mixture of two proteins and is found in barley, rye and wheat. The more glutenous the grain, the more gooey and stretchy (and yummy) the bread. Prior to 1940, grains were grown and harvested in the natural state. In the 1940s, geneticist Norman Borlaug discovered he could cross-breed different varieties of wheat to produce a shorter, stalkier type of wheat which could hold more kernels. America wanted to produce more wheat to ship all over the world, so they did. The new cross-bred variety was lower to the ground and needed more pesticides, and more pesticides meant more depleted soil. The new variety of wheat was called “dwarf wheat” and today is referred to as “frankenwheat.” Today almost all wheat has been genetically modified, even nonGMO wheat. The only wheat which has been untouched by geneticists  is an ancient grain variety, which usually comes from another part of the world and can be grown in America under strict organic guidelines. The wheat is then harvested and ground using original techniques like stone grinding, not machine grinding. 

But let’s look at the big picture. The biggest problem is, humans have been evolving for 7 million years. Our diets have consisted mainly of plants, barks, flowers, fruits, vegetables, herbs, insects, meats, fish, and the occasional grain. For 7 million years. 

Now consider what’s happened in the last 100 years. Not only have we drastically changed what we’re eating, we’re changing the actual food itself. The American diet today consists mainly of boxed cereal, toast, milk, bread, pasta, grilled cheese, pizza, chicken nuggets, more bread, crackers, chips, and soda. And fast food. Kids are being raised on Eggo waffles, mac & cheese, pizza, and Lunchables. The wheat is not only genetically manipulated, it’s literally grown in glyphosate (RoundUp). Throw in the occasional packaged fruit cup or fruit gummy as a fruit serving, and the day is complete. This is NOT what humans were meant to eat. 

Consider the chart below to see the dramatic rise in glyphosate usage beginning in 1990.

The big problem here is inflammation. When your gut becomes damaged over time from medications, mucus inducing foods, (dairy), gluten, pesticides, cortisone, etc., it can no longer break down food and therefore no longer absorb nutrients well. This leads to three things: chronic gut irritability, malnutrition, and a poor immune response. Eighty percent of your immune system is housed in your gut, so when your gut is compromised, your immune system will suffer. Research tells us that rosacea is often related to two things: systemic inflammation and a compromised immune system. It is no coincidence that people who focus on gut healing frequently see a drastic improvement in their rosacea symptoms. Is there a connection? Absolutely.

This past year has been a major wake up call to my whole family. After I saw the changes that happened to my skin and to my overall health, I could no longer serve the pesticide grown/nitrate-filled/chemically-processed/bleached/colored/sweetened “foods” to my children and husband. We bought tons of organic produce, organic meats, and Einkorn flour to make our own bread. There was definitely a transition period where we struggled to find good recipes, but we found TONS of foods we loved, especially for my daughters. They now eat about 8 fruits per day, including kiwi, mango, pineapple, dragonfruit, pomegranate, watermelon, coconut, avocado, wild blueberries, and many others they’d never even tried before. We make our own gluten free banana bread, sweet potato fries, and have switched from dairy milk to coconut milk and almond milk. 

The results are incredible. My husband lost a total of 60 lbs and he’s never gone to the gym. This is through clean eating alone. (Clean eating is not a diet. It’s making specific, consistent choices to the foods you are buying and eating.) My daughter’s constipation finally went away for the first time since she was born, as well as her eczema and chronically chapped hands. My other daughter has had a fructose intolerance for 5 years, and it’s finally healed to the point where she can eat a party cupcake without being doubled over in pain. This journey  for our family has truly been life changing. 

I would encourage you to experiment with gluten-free foods for at least a month and see what happens. For some of you there will be no change, but for many of you, the elimination of gluten will allow the gut healing process to begin. When your gut is not bombarded with gluten at every meal, it can begin to regenerate the cell wall and produce the enzymes necessary for food breakdown and nutrient absorption. When your liver is not overburdened by detoxifying glyphosate, nitrates, coloring, flavoring, caffeine and synthetic sweeteners at every meal, it can begin to break down the toxins that are already waiting to be processed. 

Not all rosacea has a link to gut health.  Most cases do, but not all. I have met a handful of patients who have no gut issues whatsoever, (meaning no constipation, no IBS, no diarrhea, no upset stomach, no food sensitivities, no SIBO, no leaky gut, no h.pylori, no parasites, etc.) and for them, their rosacea had an underlying causes which was not one of the most common ones. If you partake in a gluten free diet for a month and do not see any change in your rosacea, I would encourage you to consider other underlying causes.

Rosacea healing takes time. I can’t emphasize this enough. Two weeks of a new diet plan is not enough time to heal rosacea. 

While gluten is often a contributing factor in a rosacea diagnosis, it is usually just one piece of the puzzle. There are multiple other factors involved, ranging from dormant viruses to chemical exposures to negative thought processes. Problems with the inner workings of your body are what caused the rosacea to appear in the first place; healing must start on the inside, and the results will show in your skin, given time.


To learn more about the underlying causes of rosacea, and how to heal, consider enrolling in one of my programs or courses.

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