Skin Sense: Probiotics may be answer to eczema

Eczema is the most common form of dermatitis, a term which literally means “inflamed skin.” The condition can affect people young and old and encompasses a number of red, itchy skin conditions. Eczema may look like a dry, scaly rash or weepy, oozing blisters. Recent studies suggest that probiotic supplements containing “beneficial” bacteria might be useful in the management of eczema due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

One of these studies, a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, looked at two probiotic Lactobacillus strains (Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri) which were given in combination for six weeks to 1- to 13-year-old children with eczema. These probiotics are commonly found in “acidophilus” supplements sold in natural food stores. Changes in the children’s condition were measured using a few different means, including the scoring atopic dermatitis (SCORAD) score, and blood markers of inflammation.

The researchers found that after active treatment with probiotics, 56% of the patients experienced improvement of the eczema, whereas only 15% believed their symptoms had improved after the placebo. The extent of the eczema decreased during treatment from an average of 18.2% to 13.7%. The researchers add that the response to the probiotics was most pronounced in allergic patients. In these patients especially, the SCORAD score decreased. The researchers conclude that the probiotic treatment used “was beneficial in the management of [eczema].

J Allergy Clin Immunol 2003;111:389-95