Can Probiotics Reduce Eczema?

Studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that skin conditions are somehow connected to gut health. Eczema is no exception, according to dermatologists. Since there is a connection between gut health and eczema, it indicates that probiotics can be one of potential eczema therapy. So, such a treatment is possible in theory, at least.

Probiotics refers to bacteria that are friendly and beneficial. The consumption of these microorganisms are believed to provide the host with a wealth of health benefits, including improving intestinal microflora balance, boosting the immune system, preventing the growth of harmful bacteria, easing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), promoting digestion, preventing allergies and colds, helping move food through the gut, and more. Besides of yogurt, other good food sources of probiotics include fermented vegetables, miso soup, Gouda, sauerkraut, fermented cheeses, and so on. And it is available in dietary supplement form too. It is worth mentioning that Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacteria are the two probiotic strains that are most related to eczema treatment.

Atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema, is characterized by severe itchiness, blisters that ooze, scaly, swollen, and red skin, dry skin that forms a rash, and so on. While this skin condition affects people of all ages, it is more common in babies and young children. It can cause quite a bit of misery to the sufferers since it tends to flare up from time to time. In other words, only those who are plagued with eczema know exactly how frustrating and debilitating it can be. And an allergy-like hypersensitivity reaction is considered the culprit for eczema. The typical treatments may include oral antihistamine, topical corticosteroids, and cool compresses. And calendula cream, tea tree oil, coconut oil, sea spray, fermented cod liver oil (FCLO), magnesium baths and other natural remedies can also help to prevent and/or improve atopic eczema to some extent.

Experts believe that why probiotic supplements can help soothe symptoms of eczema is because its properties of reducing inflammation and protecting against immune dysfunction. These are two main environmental risk factors for childhood eczema development, in addition to heredity. And some studies have provided supporting evidence for this idea.

For example, in a report named Probiotics and Atopic Dermatitis in Children published in Pharmaceuticals in 2012, the author F Meneghin and his team confirmed the encouraging effect of probiotic supplementation on immunoglobulin (Ig) E-sensitized (atopic) eczema. However, they also acknowledged that the results are still inconclusive since numerous factors can affect the clinical benefits of probiotic therapy. Similar studies also include a study (Probiotics in the management of atopic eczema) published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Allergy (2000 issue), a report (Probiotics for the treatment or prevention of atopic dermatitis: a review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials) published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology (2008 issue), a study (Probiotics and prebiotics in atopic dermatitis: review of the theoretical background and clinical evidence) published in the Journal of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (2010 issue), a research review (Impact of maternal supplementation with probiotics during pregnancy on atopic eczema in childhood–a meta-analysis) published in the British Journal of Nutrition (2012 issue), and more.

Unfortunately, not all studies have produced promising results. That’s to say, some researchers found that probiotics is nothing more than a placebo and, worse still, it may carry a much higher risk of infection and bowel damage. The typical ones include a research review (Probiotics for treating eczema) published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2008 issue), a review (Effect of Lactobacillus sakei supplementation in children with atopic eczema-dermatitis syndrome) published in Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol (2010 issue), and the like. So, more research is needed to prove the effectiveness of the probiotics on treating eczema.

In general, probiotic-rich foods are better than probiotic supplements when it comes to using it as a way to prevent the very first flare. But as for severe eczema, the latter is preferable. However, something else to note is that it is not good to people with a seriously weakened immune system (AIDS patients), pregnant women, and someone who is seriously ill. So, it is always a good idea to consult a physician if someone is going to start such a supplement regimen.

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