An estimated 31.6 million Americans experience the symptoms of eczema, including 17.8 million with symptoms of atopic dermatitis. Eczema is characterized by intense itching of the skin. A rash usually appears later and is red and has bumps of varying sizes. To say that it is uncomfortable is a gross understatement. However, there may be hope. Recent research suggests that probiotics may be beneficial for those suffering from eczema.
Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria and the use of them is purported to protect against immune dysfunction and reduce inflammation (two key factors in the development of eczema).
A 2008 report published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology found that probiotics show some promise for the prevention and treatment of atopic dermatitis (or AD, a common form of eczema). Looking at findings from 13 previously published clinical trials on probiotics and AD, the report’s authors found that probiotics (especially Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG) appear to be effective for AD prevention.
A large study in 2010 on a strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus found that babies exposed to probiotics prenatally and after birth for 6 months were less likely to develop eczema than those not given probiotics. This study was followed up in 2012 by a paper published in the journal, Clinical and Experimental Allergy. The same strain of Lactobacillus was given to pregnant mothers from 35 weeks gestation to 6 months post birth (if breastfeeding), and their infants were also supplemented from birth until age 2yrs. The study results showed that of the 425 participants, the incidence of eczema at age 4 years (2 years after the cessation of probiotic supplementation) was greatly reduced in the probiotic group as compared to placebo.
Obviously, more research is needed in order to assess the effect probiotics have on preventing eczema and which strains of the good bacteria work best, however, these studies indicate the importance of gut health in relation to the immune system, and therefore probiotics may be a helpful solution to preventing eczema.