The discomfort and frustration of eczema is untold. For the millions of people worldwide who suffer from this condition, there is no known absolute cure. However, there may be a promising solution: probiotics. Can these “friendly” bacteria really help alleviate eczema symptoms? Let us explore the science, practical experiences, and everything else related to probiotics and eczema.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms, usually bacteria or yeast, that are found naturally in the human gut. These microorganisms are often referred to as “good” or “friendly” bacteria because they help keep the digestive system healthy and balanced. Probiotics are also found in some foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, as well as in dietary supplements.
How can probiotics help with eczema?
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by red, itchy, and dry skin that can become inflamed and infected. While there is no known cure for eczema, many people turn to probiotics as a potential treatment.
The exact mechanism by which probiotics help with eczema is not fully understood. However, there is evidence to suggest that probiotics may help reduce inflammation, improve the skin barrier function, and modulate the immune system. All these mechanisms can help deal with eczema.
Here are some of the ways in which probiotics can help with eczema conditions:
How Probiotics Help with Eczema By Reducing Inflammation
Inflammation is a key factor in the development of eczema. Eczema is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic (my daughter and I have been there) and environmental factors, with inflammation playing a critical role in the development and exacerbation of eczema symptoms. When the skin becomes inflamed, it can become red, itchy, and irritated, leading to the hallmark symptoms of eczema.
Research has shown that certain strains of probiotics can help reduce inflammation in the body, which may help alleviate eczema symptoms. One study published in the Journal of Clinical Dermatology found that Lactobacillus rhamnosus supplementation reduced the severity of eczema-like conditions in infants (Link to the scientific study). Another study found that Bifidobacterium lactis supplementation reduced the severity of eczema in a wide range of populations.
These studies suggest that probiotics may have a beneficial effect on reducing inflammation and alleviating eczema symptoms. However, it is important to note that the strains of probiotics used in these studies may not work for everyone with eczema. It is also important to remember that probiotics marketed as a cure for eczema. Probiotics only work for reducing inflammation and eczema if your problems originate from microbiota imbalance.
Some experts have suggested that the benefits of probiotics for eczema may be due to their effects on the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Probiotics can help promote a healthy gut microbiome, which may in turn help alleviate inflammation and other symptoms of eczema.
How Probiotics Help with Eczema By Improving Skin Barrier Function
The skin is the largest organ in the human body and it acts as a protective barrier against various environmental factors. In eczema, the skin barrier function is compromised, which leads to increased water loss, dryness, and inflammation. This can worsen eczema symptoms and make the skin more susceptible to external irritants and pathogens.
Ceramides are a class of lipids that are essential for the formation and maintenance of the skin barrier. They help to regulate skin hydration, prevent water loss, and protect against environmental stressors. In people with eczema, there is a deficiency in ceramides, which can lead to a compromised skin barrier function.
Several studies have shown that probiotics can help improve skin barrier function by increasing the production of ceramides. For example, one study found that a probiotic strain called Lactobacillus plantarum HY7714 increased the expression of ceramide-producing genes in human skin cells. Similarly, another found that oral administration of a probiotic mixture containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus improved skin barrier function in mice with atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema.
These findings suggest that probiotics may be a promising approach for improving skin barrier function in people with eczema. However, more research is needed to determine the optimal strains, dosages, and duration of probiotic supplementation for eczema management. It is also important to note that probiotics should not be used as a replacement for conventional eczema treatments, but rather as a complementary approach to enhance their effectiveness.
How Probiotics Help with Eczema By Modulating the Immune System
Modulating the immune system is another way in which probiotics may benefit individuals with eczema. The immune system plays a crucial role in protecting the body against harmful pathogens, but in individuals with eczema, the immune system can become overactive and trigger an inflammatory response, leading to the development of eczema-like symptoms.
Regulatory T cells are a type of immune cell that helps prevent an overreaction of the immune system by controlling the activity of other immune cells. Studies have shown that certain strains of probiotics, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus fermentum, can increase the production of regulatory T cells, leading to a reduction in inflammation and a decrease in eczema symptoms.
A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that infants who received a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus during the first six months of life had a reduced risk of developing eczema. The researchers attributed this to the ability of the probiotics to modulate the immune system and decrease inflammation.
In another study, adults with eczema who received a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis for 12 weeks had an increase in regulatory T cells and a decrease in inflammatory markers in their blood, indicating a positive effect on the immune system.
While the evidence on the immune-modulating effects of probiotics in eczema is promising, more research is needed to determine the most effective strains and dosages for specific individuals. It is also important to note that probiotics may not be suitable for individuals with compromised immune systems or certain medical conditions, so it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment.
Practical Experiences of Using Probiotics for Eczema
Many people with eczema have reported positive experiences using probiotics. However, it is important to note that what works for one person may not work for another.
Some people have reported improvements in their eczema symptoms after taking probiotics for a few weeks or months. Others have found that probiotics have no effect on their eczema.
In the course of my probiotic journey, I have had psoriasis, which is not the same as eczema, but the two conditions are similar. My daughter and I also had a big patch of dry skin on our back some time ago. Interestingly, at the same exact spot. I did not get a professional diagnosis, but I suspected this to be eczema. It was dry, and it could get itchy from time to time. However, I can tell you for sure that both of those skin conditions ended up disappearing in the course of my probiotic lifestyle. Especially, for the big itchy twin patch my daughter and I had. In its case, it came during one of those periods when we had fallen off the probiotic bandwagon.
I had stopped buying probiotic supplements (I keep lamenting how expensive these things are), and I was not quite living by my The Seven Commandments of the Probiotic Lifestyle. Long story short, this eczema lasted almost 9 agonizing months for both the little one and I. On the other hand, after we were both back on the Probiotic lifestyle, it took another agonizing three months (we were probiotic-ing the whole time) before the dry skin patches disappeared completely. I cannot see my back, but I woke one day and tried to inspect my daughters back and I could not even see a trace of where the thing had been. The eczema map on my back was still slightly visible after three months on the probiotic lifestyle, but no other symptoms were present whatsoever.
On the other hand, probiotics never completely got rid of my psoriasis until I introduced collagen peptides into the mix. I believe, these were the game changer. That is why until today, I keep telling people to consider collagen supplements if they are trying to deal with a skin condition using the probiotic approach.
So, I have no doubt in me that probiotics can help get rid of some forms of eczema. This just encourages me to delve deeper into the science behind probiotics and eczema.
Probiotics may be a potential treatment option for eczema. However, my personal experiences tell an even more promising story. While the science is still evolving, there is reliable evidence to suggest that probiotics can help reduce inflammation, improve skin barrier function, and modulate the immune system. However, more research is needed to determine the most effective strains and dosages of probiotics for treating eczema. It is also important to note that probiotics should not be considered a replacement for traditional eczema treatments, such as moisturizers and topical steroids.
It should also be understood that if probiotics favor you, you can easily end up getting rid of moisturizers and topical steroids completely. It is a dream that came true for me, and it can come true for you and your young one too!
Overall, probiotics appear to be a safe and well-tolerated option for most people battling atopic dermatitis, eczema, and other such conditions.