Probiotics may Reduce Risk of Eczema

Seeing the first signs of eczema—or atopic dermatitis (AD)—on your baby’s skin can be unsettling. But it’s actually the most common chronic skin condition in children, affecting 10-20% of kids.

The causes are multifactorial and involve the skin’s ability to retain moisture and its ability to heal itself. Studies have found that patients with eczema have an abnormal balance of bacteria on the skin, especially “bad” bacteria such as staphylococcus, which is thought to contribute to inflammation.

With that in mind, researchers have been studying the use of probiotics to help reduce the occurrence of eczema in babies and toddlers. Probiotics are beneficial organisms, such as bacteria or yeast, that help maintain a positive “gut balance”, or healthy population of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Unlike harmful bacteria, these beneficial intestinal bacteria are a key component of a healthy immune system and digestive tract.

One study showed that the probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG reduced the incidence of atopic dermatitis in at-risk infants through the age of 7 years, while another showed that probiotics given twice daily to children with moderate to severe AD led to significant improvements over the use of a placebo.

A more recent study gave 6,659 expectant mothers and then their infants probiotics and other supplements to see if it would lessen the risk for eczema and reduce symptoms. Researchers found that supplementation with probiotics did reduce the risk of eczema, but concluded that more studies were needed before the results could be universally recommended.

Probiotics can be taken in powder form (sprinkle it in your child’s drink or food), and certain foods (yogurt and dairy drinks, for example) can also be high in probiotics. In the US, probiotics are not considered a drug and therefore are not regulated by the FDA. If you are considering probiotics for you or your child, consult with your child’s doctor before starting any treatment.

Sources:

  • National Eczema Association
  • Effect of Nutrient Supplementation on Atopic Dermatitis in Children: A Systematic Review of Probiotics, Prebiotics, Formula, and Fatty Acids, JAMA Dermatol. 2013;149(3):350-355.

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