Eczema is a persistent skin condition that’s very difficult to treat. However, new research indicates that probiotics may be able to relieve eczema. Probiotics are friendly or healthy living microorganisms (mainly bacteria) that occur naturally in your body. But, most people on a Western diet tend to be deficient in these healthy bacteria that provide numerous health benefits.
What Is Eczema?
A topic dermatitis (AD) or eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is commonly linked to allergies. People who suffer from eczema may also develop asthma or hay fever. Eczema often affects infants and children and continues into adulthood. It can also start later in life.
Eczema can affect any area of the body, but commonly appears on the face, inside of the elbows, and on the hands, arms and backs of the knees. Eczema tends to flare up periodically and then subside. Atopic dermatitis is not contagious.
What Causes Eczema?
Currently there is no known cause of atopic dermatitis. It may be due to a malfunction in your body’s immune system. Some research indicates that AD and other atopic diseases are genetically determined, which means you may inherit it from one or both of your parents.
You have a one in four chance of developing some form of atopic disease if your parent has one. If both of your parents have an atopic disease you have a greater than one in two chance of being atopic yourself.
Symptoms of Eczema
People with atopic dermatitis tend to cope with lifelong conditions such as dry, inflamed, easily irritated skin, occupational skin disease (hand dermatitis), skin infections (staph and herpes), and eye problems (eyelid dermatitis or cataracts).
They may often be able to reduce these symptoms by avoiding the use of soaps or other irritants, using certain nourishing moisturizers, or applying ointments or creams to relieve itching. When symptoms become too much to bear, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with a skin specialist or dermatologist.
How Probiotics Treat Eczema
Probiotics provide a natural remedy for eczema and research has focused on their role in treating this skin condition for over 20 years. Dutch researchers report that treating pregnant mothers and their infants with select strains of probiotics may help to prevent eczema in children with allergies in their family history, particularly during their first three months of life.
In their study, researchers treated more than 150 pregnant women with a family history of allergic diseases. They gave the pregnant women either a mixture of three probiotic bacteria or a placebo (inactive pill) during the last six weeks of their pregnancy. The women’s children were also given the same treatment for 12 months.
The researchers followed up with 102 children born to the mothers who were treated in the study. During the first three months of life parents of six in 50 of the subjects who received probiotics reported eczema in their children, compared to 15 or 52 of the placebo group.
Other studies, including one conducted in Australia, show that probiotics significantly improved SCORAD indexes (used to assess atopic dermatitis) in children.
Reuters: Probiotics may reduce skin condition in some kids
Effects of probiotics on atopic dermatitis: a randomised controlled trial. Arch Dis Child. 2005 Sep;90(9):892-7. Epub 2005 Apr 29. Weston S, Halbert A, Richmond P, Prescott SL http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15863468
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