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.

Teens with Rosacea

I am encountering this more and more as a physician, and it is very disturbing. When I was first diagnosed with rosacea 20 years ago, I was 25 and was told I was very young. Back then the typical age of onset was late 30s. Now I’m meeting more and more girls in their early 20s with rosacea, and yet even younger teens who’ve just been diagnosed with rosacea.

What on earth is causing this disease to present itself earlier and earlier? What is causing the rampant eczema that almost every baby I know has?

In my opinion it has to be the amount of toxins, chemicals and heavy metals our children are being exposed to since the time they’re born. Baby formula? The first ingredient is usually high fructose corn syrup followed by canola oil. Baby lotions…. have you ever read the ingredients? How about shampoo? Baby wash? Sulfates, fragrance, color, parabens, petrochemicals. How about our water? It’s full of dissolved solvents like medications and heavy metals. Baby food? Try reading the label on a jar of baby food. Is there actually any food in there? What about vaccines? It’s well known they have mercury in them, the most toxic metal on the planet.

Almost ALL skin conditions come from problems in the liver. Often problems in the liver come from overexposure to chemicals and a compromised gut. A compromised gut often occurs after a round of antibiotics. (The child will often feel ill after eating and may become chronically constipated.) This cycle will go around and around, becoming worse as the child gets older. A compromised liver will not produce the necessary bile to break down foods for proper absorption. This leads to vitamin deficiencies. By the time the child is ten she will already have irritable bowel issues, skin sensitivities, possibly allergies and asthma, as well as food sensitivities. Medical doctors will prescribe Miralax, steroid inhalers, allergy medicine, and topical steroid creams, all of which will continue to destroy the inner lining of the gut and causes more toxic load on the liver. These are band-aid solutions. These will not address the root cause of the problem.

Finally the teen will present with rosacea and everyone will be surprised. Unfortunately, the dermatologist will prescribe topical antibiotics and more steroid creams. The problem will get worse and could now involve acne. The teen will be told this condition is incurable, and her self esteem will plummet.

This is beyond cruel, when there IS a solution.

To heal, you must strip back the layers, one by one, and address any underlying gut or liver issues. This involves major changes to the diet (no gluten, no dairy) as well as gut HEALING foods. Next, the liver must be addressed.

The good news is that children are remarkable healing machines. (Compare the time it takes your child’s cut to heal compared to your own cut.) When small changes are made in the home and to the child’s diet, amazing things happen very quickly.

My own daughters were a bit skeptical when I started making changes to our family’s foods last winter. I was reading, researching and learning about the problems with our genetically modified, pesticide sprayed food and also the problems with dairy and gluten. The trick is to get your kids involved at young ages. Let them cook with you, make smoothies with you, and come up with recipes they’d like to try. This past summer my daughters planted and tended their own herb garden, and ate from it daily. They LOVE coconut milk and almond milk. Their favorite dinner is coconut curry chicken. We make almost everything from scratch… no more boxed or processed foods.

The results: my husband lost 30 pounds effortlessly, my rosacea, hypothyroid, asthma, allergies, and IBS all healed 100%, my daughter’s fructose intolerance healed, and we no longer have childhood issues of nightmares, anxiety, constipation, upset stomach. My daughter’s chapped, dry, eczema sensitive skin is 100% gone.

Changes takes time, but remember that small changes over long periods have a compounding effect.

For more information on your specific case, please make a virtual appointment with me through my Consultation link.

Podcast interview with Todd LePine M.D.



Dr. LePine graduated from Dartmouth Medical School and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, specializing in Integrative Functional Medicine. He is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner. Prior to joining The UltraWellness Center, he worked as a physician at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA, for 10 years. Dr. LePine’s focus at The UltraWellness Center is to help his patients achieve optimal health and vitality by restoring the natural balance to both the mind and the body. His areas of interest include optimal aging, bio-detoxification, functional gastrointestinal health, systemic inflammation, autoimmune disorders and the neurobiology of mood and cognitive disorders. Dr. LePine teaches around the world, and has given lectures to doctors and patients at American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), Age Management Medicine Group (AMMG), the University of Miami Integrative Medicine Conference, The Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA, and is on the faculty for American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M). Dr. LePine is the head of the Scientific Advisory Board for Designs for Health and a consultant for Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory. He enjoys skiing, kayaking, hiking, camping and golfing in the beautiful Berkshires, and is a fitness enthusiast.