Good health begins in the gut
Having a robust population of good bacteria in the intestines can go a long way to preventing disease. These friendly bugs, which include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium breve, and many others, might help
- ease irritable bowel syndrome,
- prevent the common cold,
- boost immune function,
- prevent and treat diarrhea, and
- relieve constipation.
Some studies have suggested that supplementing with pre- or probiotics might also help relieve eczema.
The story starts here: When a baby is born, it is inoculated with healthy bacterial strains as it passes through the birth canal. Breast-feeding helps provide more of these healthy strains. But sometimes babies don't get this start, and other factors, such as (surprisingly) lack of exposure to germs because of better hygiene, might prevent a baby from building good, protective gut health. Since much of the body's immune system is in the gut, having the right balance of bacteria there can influence overall immune system health.
Good bugs = healthy skin
A chronic skin condition characterized by severe itching and dryness, eczema patches can get thicker, bleed, and become infected with repeated scratching. Eczema is an immune-mediated disease, meaning that some components of the immune system are overactive, leading to uncomfortable skin changes. Eczema often goes hand-in-hand with other allergic conditions like hay fever and asthma.
In this study, two times a day for eight weeks 60 children, ages 2 to 14 years, with moderate to severe eczema took 475 mg of a prebiotic (fructooligosaccharides) either alone or with 25 mg the probiotic Lactobacillus salivarius. Their eczema symptoms were recorded using a scoring system that takes into account the amount of skin affected, the intensity of the symptoms, itchiness, and loss of sleep due to symptoms.
Children who took the pre- and probiotic combination had significantly lower eczema severity scores (meaning that their eczema was better) after eight weeks than the prebiotic-only group. Eczema severity scores dropped by more than 50% in the combination group, and use of eczema medications dropped significantly between weeks four and eight in this group.
"While the effects of our [pre- and probiotic] combination appeared to remain at two weeks after the end of the treatment protocol, additional follow-ups will be necessary to evaluate more fully its efficacy," commented the study's authors in the British Journal of Dermatology.
Stop eczema before it starts
Eczema tends to run in families, so some children are more likely to develop it. Follow these steps to give your child the best chance of avoiding "the itch that rashes."
- Breast-feed, if possible. Breast milk contains essential factors needed for a healthy immune system. Breast-fed children are less likely to develop eczema than bottle-fed babes.
- Skip the hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps. Some doctors believe that letting children be exposed to some germs helps build their immune system and may stave off eczema.
- Skip the antibiotics. Antibiotic use is associated with eczema development in children. Consult with your child's doctor to come up with a plan for keeping them healthy, and use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary.
- Give probiotics a try. Whether it's from a supplement or cultured products like yogurt or kefir, probiotics can help keep the gut healthy and may prevent eczema.
(Br J Dermatol