Problems with digestion can be linked to a number of conditions and are frequently caused by microorganisms. Psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety can have gastrointestinal symptoms. GI problems with depression and anxiety are often linked to over-stimulation of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis.
Digestive problems have been linked to rosacea as early as 1967. In recent years, studies have suggested that a bacterium called Heliobacter pylori could be a marker of digestive problems in patients with rosacea. While some studies report a positive relationship between H. pylori and rosacea, other studies have found no significant difference between the number of H. pylori in the digestive tracts of control subjects and rosacea patients.
H. pylori is a gram negative bacterium that has been thought to cause an increase in the synthesis of reactive oxygen species in the gut such as nitric oxide (NO). NO and pro-inflammatory cytokines play a role in the inflammatory processes underlying the rosacea pathology. However, no increased rate of NO synthesis could be linked to H. pylori.
Studies have also looked at a possible link between H. pylori and other skin conditions, such as psoriasis, and vascular disorders. However, for most of these conditions, eradication of H. pylori failed to show any beneficial effect. For most of these studies, a variety of antibiotics was used to eradicate H. pylori.
My digestive problems started around the same time I was diagnosed with rosacea. I did not think anything about it and thought that my digestive problems were the result of too much stress, anxiety or an allergic reaction to a particular food ingredient. I did find some foods that I reacted to (peanuts, peas, bananas), but I never knew if my digestive problems were really based on any allergies. However, my digestive problems continued and became progressively worse over time. The cramping and other GI problems became so bad, that I saw several doctors for it, including a liver specialist.
The doctors could not find a particular cause of my digestive problems, however when I went to see a doctor with heavy cramping and a high fever, he thought it could be diverticulitis. My diverticulitis was treated with a heavy dose of antibiotics and the cramps and fever disappeared. However, the symptoms of diverticulitis returned periodically and I started to look at alternative treatments.
During my search for alternative treatments of my digestive problems, I came across several scientific papers about a possible association between H. pylori and rosacea and the eradication H. pylori with extracts of mastic gum. Mastic gum is the resinous gum of the Pistacia lentiscus tree and a few studies suggested it was effective against H. pylori. So I took mastic gum for a few months and my diverticulitis completely disappeared (at least the symptoms).
While mastic gum does seem to work well for GI problems, I am not sure whether mastic gum has any effect on the redness, inflammation and swelling of the face associated with rosacea. The scientific community is still not sure whether mastic gum can eradicate H. pylori, but based on personal experiences it does seem to help with digestive issues.
Do you think your rosacea is associated with gastrointestinal problems? Let us know..
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Marks, R., Beard, R.J., Clark, M.L., Kwok, M. and Robertson, W.B. (1967) Gastrointestinal observations in rosacea. Lancet 1: 739-43.
Sharma, V.K., Lynn, A., Kaminski, M., Vasudeva, R. and Howden, C.W. (1998) A study of the prevalence of Helicobacter pylori infection and other markers of upper gastrointestinal tract disease in patients with rosacea. Am J Gastroenterol 93: 220-2.
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