Possible nutrition solutions for a skin disorder

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Anecdotal evidence for quelling a skin problem suffered by millions of Americans

What do President Clinton, the late Richard Burton, and 10 percent of Swedes have in common? Like an estimated 13 million Americans, they all are or have been victims of rosacea, a chronic skin disorder characterized by red, "bumpy" spots on the nose, forehead, and chin.

Fair-skinned adults whose parents had rosacea are most likely to develop the disorder. In its mild form, it strikes as erytherna, or facial redness. Left untreated, erythema can progress to pimple-like papules; pus-filled "whiteheads" called pustules; and telangiectasia, or dilation of blood vessels that makes them visible just under the surface of the skin. In the most severe cases, rhinophyma develops, meaning that oil glands enlarge and cause a bulbous, swollen red nose and puffy cheeks (think W. C. Fields).

The exact cause of rosacea is unknown, and at present there is no cure, but blushing is suspected to aggravate it. It is for that reason that rosacea sufferers are advised to avoid anything that can cause reddening or flushing of the face, such as sitting in a hot bath.

The National Rosacea Society also gives a number of food-related tips based on a survey of more than 400 sufferers. Dermatologists do not suggest following these tips as steadfast rules, since the survey reflects anecdotal evidence rather than scientifically demonstrated proof. But they are not opposed to experimenting and playing "detective" on an individual basis. That is, if a particular food tends to cause flare-ups, it should be avoided. The advice based on the survey:

Avoid "hot" spices and foods such as white, black, and red pepper, paprika, cayenne, and salsa.
Use caution with marinated meat, vanilla, soy sauce, vinegar, red plums, lima and navy beans, and peas.
Monitor your consumption of foods that contain histamine, a substance that can cause adverse reactions in people with allergies. Though no scientific connection has been established between histamine and rosacea, some rosacea sufferers have experienced exacerbations after eating histaminecontaining foods, namely sharp cheeses, cider, vinegar, some Asian foods, processed beef and pork, and canned fish products.
Reduce the temperature of hot beverages like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, and drink less of them.
Cut back on or eliminate alcohol.
The survey results also suggest avoiding extreme hot and cold temperatures, which can stimulate facial flushing. In cold weather, covering the face with a scarf might help. Soap or face products that are scented, sting, burn, or irritate the face also sppear to contribute to rosacea flare-ups, as do bouts of stress.

Early diagnosis and treatment by a dermatologist is key in controlling rosacea (which may be why it's not really noticeable in President Clinton). Unfortunately, the condition is often dismissed as a simple tendency to blush easily or as acne vulgaris--the acne that teenagers tend to get.

For more information on how to deal with rosacea, contact the National Rosacea Society at 1-888NO-BLUSH (1-888-662-5874), or type in "www.rosacea.org" on the Internet to reach its Web site.

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