Can Probiotics Help Treat Eczema?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

What the research says

Although there’s some evidence to suggest that probiotics may have some benefit for people with eczema, the research is mixed at best.

A 2010 update from laboratory and clinical data assessed the results of a number of meta-analyses and systemic reviews before concluding that no recommendations can be made at this time.

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Researchers noted that many of the meta-analyses and systemic reviews they assessed combined the results of studies on different types of probiotic bacteria. This skews the results and can prevent researchers from knowing which bacteria to attribute with which result.

Additionally, much of the research assessed failed to differentiate between allergic diseases. For example, participants with atopic asthma and atopic eczema may have different reactions to probiotic bacteria. If it isn’t clear which participants experienced a given result, researchers are unable to draw specific conclusions about efficacy.

That said, there isn’t any evidence to suggest that probiotics may have any adverse effects on people with eczema. It just isn’t clear whether probiotic bacteria or another factor can be credited with reducing outbreaks.

Clearer research is needed to assess whether certain probiotic bacteria may help reduce the frequency or severity of eczema symptoms.

Other benefits of taking probiotics

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Although it’s unclear whether probiotic bacteria has an impact on eczema, there are several proven benefits to probiotic consumption.

Probiotic bacteria can:

  • boost your immune system
  • improve digestive function
  • help prevent urinary tract infections
  • reduce the incidence of eczema in children if taken prenatally

Research is currently underway to determine whether probiotic bacteria can help:

  • combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • fight ulcer-causing bacteria
  • treat inflammatory bowel conditions

How to use probiotics for treating eczema

If you decide to add probiotics to your regimen, talk with your doctor. There are many different types of bacteria. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most common supplements and have unique benefits. Your doctor can help you decide which type or combination is best for you and where to find it.

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Lactobacillus bacteria are typically found in yogurt and other fermented foods. These bacteria are said to help ease diarrhea and may be beneficial for people who are lactose intolerant.

Bifidobacterium bacteria are also found in yogurt and some other dairy products. They’re thought to help with irritable bowel conditions.

Other probiotic-rich foods that you can add to your diet are:

  • kefir
  • cultured vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi
  • kombucha
  • miso
  • tempeh
  • raw cheese
  • apple cider vinegar
  • dark chocolate

Risks and warnings

Probiotic-rich foods and supplements are generally safe to consume. Your first choice should be naturally, through foods.

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However, if you have any of the following conditions, you should consult your doctor before using supplements:

  • compromised immune system
  • bowel conditions
  • other chronic illness

Women who are pregnant should exercise caution when using probiotic supplements. Infants and young children shouldn’t take probiotic supplements.

There usually aren’t any side effects associated with consuming probiotic-rich foods or drinks.

When taking a probiotic supplement for the first time, or switching to a new probiotic supplement, you may experience an upset stomach or other gastrointestinal issues while your body adjusts.

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This includes:

    gas
  • heartburn
  • diarrhea

You may find it beneficial to start with a lower dosage and slowly work your way up to taking the full dose. This can help mitigate some of the side effects.

Probiotics for eczema in babies

Many children develop eczema early on. Approximately 15 percent of children will experience temporary eczema. In most cases, temporary or chronic eczema will develop by age 2.

Genes are typically at the root of this condition. If one parent has eczema, asthma, or hay fever, a child has a 1 in 4 chance of developing the condition. This risk increases to a 1 in 2 chance if both parents have eczema, asthma, or hay fever.

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Although more research is needed, there is slight evidence to suggest that taking a probiotic supplement can help prevent your children from developing the condition.

Researchers in one 2014 study found that some infants born to women who took probiotics experienced less atopic sensitization common to food allergens. This may reduce their risk of developing eczema in early childhood.

More long-term research is needed to truly understand the potential impact probiotic bacteria may have on a fetus.

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