What are probiotics and can they help to prevent or control eczema in children?
Eczema is a skin complaint that ranges in severity and commonly occurs in children.
If your child is constantly scratching their red and itchy skin, then it can start to impact their sleep and even their quality of life.
Most parents find that taking a holistic approach to treating eczema in children is more effective at keeping the condition under control than simply applying creams during flare-ups.
Parents of children with eczema are always looking for new treatments and lifestyle changes that could help to alleviate their child’s symptoms.
If this sounds like you, then you may have had probiotics suggested as a form of treatment for your child’s eczema and have some questions about how safe and effective they are for children.
This article explains what probiotics are, why they are sometimes suggested as a treatment for eczema, and whether probiotics alleviates eczema symptoms in children.
What are probiotics?
In the body we have both good bacteria and bad bacteria. Probiotics are the former.
It is generally agreed that consuming probiotics has health benefits because they can help boost your immune system and keep your digestive system healthy by balancing your gut bacteria.
Medical research is currently being undertaken to determine their effectiveness treating certain health conditions, including eczema.
Ongoing research is also being carried out to find alternative ways of administering probiotics as a treatment for eczema.
Probiotics and eczema: medical research
If you’ve heard claims that probiotics can help with eczema in children, you may be wondering how true this is.
Currently, the answer is unclear. Several medical studies have been undertaken over the years to try to ascertain whether probiotics can help to prevent children from developing eczema or to alleviate their symptoms, but results have been mixed.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is caused by a faulty immune response. Probiotics balance the bacteria in the digestive system, which can help to boost the immune system.
The theory is that eczema may be avoided or treated by taking probiotics to balance the mix of gut bacteria or reduce inflammation in the gut to boost the immune system and combat the faulty immune response that causes eczema.
Most studies have found that consuming probiotics orally as a treatment for eczema has either no effect or improved the condition slightly, but nothing of clinical significance.
A study conducted in 2010 found that “currently available probiotics probably make little or no difference in reducing eczema symptoms”.
However, it also concluded that “probiotics may slightly reduce the severity of eczema scored by patients and their healthcare professionals in combination, although it is uncertain if such a change is meaningful for patients.”
A further study conducted in 2016 found that there was no reliable evidence to support the effectiveness of probiotics as a treatment for eczema but that “the regular instillation of probiotics in daily use at an early age could help in preventing the initiation of eczema.”
More recently, an experimental study performed in 2020 by The National Institutes of Health tried treating children with eczema using probiotic skin therapy.
The study applied live Roseomonas mucosa bacterium originating from healthy volunteers and then grown in a laboratory to affected areas of skin over a four month period and reported improvements in children as young as three that lasted for up to eight months after the probiotic therapy ended.
The study noted that “most children in the study experienced substantial improvements in their skin and overall wellbeing” and in fact “17 of the 20 children experienced a greater than 50 per cent improvement in eczema severity following probiotic treatment.”
This study offers hope that a more effective probiotic treatment may be available soon.
However, currently only oral probiotics are widely available, and the effectiveness of these is questionable.
Probiotic are generally considered safe and beneficial to health, and are widely available as supplements over-the-counter from chemists or in drink form from supermarkets, so it may still be an option you wish to try.
How to take probiotics
Probiotics can be added into your child’s diet as either an oral supplement, probiotic drink, or by adding probiotic-rich foods into the diet.
Probiotic drinks from widely recognized brands like Yakult and Actimel are widely available in most supermarkets.
Probiotics also occur naturally in some foods, so you may prefer to try incorporating theses probiotic-rich foods into your child’s diet before turning to supplements.
- Apple cider vinegar
- Dark chocolate
- Soft cheeses
- Sourdough bread
Probiotics and children
If you are considering adding probiotic to your child’s diet to treat eczema, then it is very important to seek advice from your doctor first.
While probiotic are a popular natural remedy for children and are generally considered safe, it is possible that your child could suffer side effects, particularly if they have any other health conditions. Your doctor can assess whether probiotics may be a suitable treatment to try.
Probiotics can also contain different types of bacteria, so a doctor can advise you on the most effective type to try, appropriate dosage for a child, and how to take it safely.