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Hypochlorhydria & Nutritional Prescription for Rosacea

Posted Sep 22 2008 11:05am
I had a note from a reader about rosacea and low stomach acid (known as hypochlorhydria) and did some research. I never worried about having low stomach acid (hydrochloric acid or HCl) before.

Now I am planning to do saliva tests for a few days to see whether my pH rises after eating (a good sign if it's going from say 7 to 9) or if my pH drops (a bad sign, especially if the reading is down to 6, 5 or 4.5 being really bad).

Back to my research. I found an older but still good article on hypochlorhydria by Judy Kitchen, published by the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients in 2001. She starts with the premise that:

"Because hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) is so common and yet leads to terrible degenerative diseases such as cancer, congestive heart failure, osteoporosis and even Alzheimer's, patients as well as doctors need to become aware of its causes and symptoms and how to respond to them."

Kitchen makes the case for how many deficiencies -- including lots of minerals, B vitamins, and critical antioxidants vitamins A, E, and C -- are caused by low stomach acid and lead to problems that include hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, deteriorating nails, blepharitis, cataracts, macular degeneration, rosacea, high blood pressure, and so on.

In another article, Ms. Kitchen talks about slow healing of injuries, muscle pain , asthma, and lung infections (not so much things I relate to, but it's important to note that hypochlorhydria can come on slowly and without much notice). In this article, she mentions a diet high in seeds and nuts (that would be mine) can inhibit enzymes important to digestion.

Meanwhile, as I was researching low stomach acid, a friend recommended that I look into a Pitta dosha diet. In ayurvedic medicine, there are three main doshas, and the pitta type is a mixture of fire and water. One description likened a pitta dosha to gasoline, a liquid that is not the fire itself but which can be the source of the flames. Flammable. How charming. There are some nice positives to pitta constitutions (for those of you who share the "fire and water" dosha), but the characatures seems so much more fun!

Anyway, as it turns out, a Pitta diet looks quite similar to rosacea diet recommendations (avoid spices, tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, bananas, citrus, yogurt, vinegar, etc.). Yet, there were some things that don't work for me (i.e., milk and wheat).

Not surprisingly, the Pitta dosha is aggravated and increased during summer and during hot, dry spells (practically the whole spring-summer-fall here in Utah)!

A little more research and I found a great little article on a nutritionl approach to treating rosacea by an immently credible naturopath, Dr. Joseph E. Pizzorno, Jr.

Here's what Dr. Pizzorno recommends for rosacea:

  • Add HCl 600mg - with each meal to ensure proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Once skin clears drop to 300mg - after 3-4 months supplemental HCl is probably not required.
  • Commit to regular Omega-3s (four servings per week of cold water fish or 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil).
  • Add pancreatic enzymes 350mg/10x - immediately before each meal (to digest omega-3s and other fats). If no benefit, increase by 100mg every 4 days until skin clears and then can drop enzymes unless flare-ups happen.
  • Less meat - limit meat and poultry to one serving a week and curb the dairy (all animal products have "an acid that your body converts to inflammation-promoting substances" ).
  • Watch troublesome items - completely avoid red wine and aged cheese until skin clears and reduce alcohol, hot beverages, and spicy foods.

Okay, so it's clear why I had some flushing flare up earlier this month. I was having dinner out with friends a lot this summer (okay, I'll confess, I was only too happy to share a bottle of red with my friends...I didn't pass up enough dishes with cheese...and I absolutely love spicy foods, so I not only didn't avoid them, I chose those spicy dishes, over and over again).

I was eating fish, but not always enough omega-3 rich fish (hey, what happened to the sardine filets on so many modern Caesar salads?!). Alas, I was not being diligent on supplementing with my omega-3 Fish Oil (something about enjoying summer that makes me lazy about taking all my supplements).

Once I boosted my omega-3's (and vitamin C), stopped drinking any caffeine or red wine or eating cheese or grains, and boosted my Pancreatic Enzymes, my flushing stopped -- in only a few days.

Now, I have a better regimen I can follow if I cheat a bit with some spicy Indian or Thai food or a fabulous red wine with friends with a nice dinner. :-)

I hope someone else with flushing skin (or a pitta constitution with sensitive skin) has some good results with Dr. Pizzorno's advice above. Let me know if you do (or what you do that's also helpful)!

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