A new study suggests that probiotics may reduce eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, in children.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria (sometimes referred to as "friendly germs") that help to maintain the health of the intestinal tract and aid in digestion. They also help keep potentially harmful organisms in the gut (harmful bacteria and yeasts) under control. Most probiotics come from food sources, especially cultured milk products. Probiotics can be consumed as capsules, tablets, beverages, powders, yogurts and other foods.
In previous studies, probiotics have shown promise for preventing atopic eczema syndrome in children. Infants benefit when their mothers take probiotics during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Direct supplementation of infants may reduce the incidence of atopic eczema by as much as half. It may also reduce cow's milk allergy and other allergic reactions during weaning. Probiotics may stabilize the intestinal barrier function and decrease gastrointestinal symptoms in children with atopic dermatitis. Children do differ, however, in their responsiveness to specific probiotics. The effectiveness of probiotics for the treatment of eczema is still under investigation.
In a new study, researchers randomly assigned 118 children 1-13 years-old to receive Lactobacillus plantarum or placebo twice daily for 12 weeks. Various outcome measures, including an atopic dermatitis score, were evaluated.
After 12 weeks, the researchers found that the average change in the atopic dermatitis score was significantly greater in the probiotics group than the placebo group, at 9.1 and 1.8 for the probiotics and control groups, respectively. Furthermore, eosinophil count, which is taken to measure allergic reactions, was significantly lower at the end of the study in the probiotics group. However, a significant difference in the use of topical corticosteroids between groups was lacking.
The authors concluded that supplementation with the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum may benefit children with eczema. Additional research is warranted.
In addition to probiotics, phototherapy may be used in combination with other treatments for adults who have eczema. Both UVB and UVA light have been used for this condition. Light therapy is believed to benefit children as well, but there is debate surrounding the potential increased risk of skin cancer with long-term use. Furthermore, there are several studies of evening primrose oil taken by mouth for eczema. Large well-designed studies are needed before a strong conclusion can be made. Evening primrose oil is approved for skin disorders in several countries outside of the United States.
For more information about integrative therapies for eczema, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.
For more information about probiotics, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.