Are Probiotics Beneficial for Eczema?
Probiotics, known as "good" bacteria, have garnered significant attention in recent years for their potential health benefits. They play a crucial role in maintaining a diverse and balanced microbiome, which is linked to overall well-being. Probiotics can be consumed as supplements or found naturally in certain foods, and many people believe that by increasing the population of these beneficial bacteria, they can improve various aspects of health, including conditions like eczema. However, the evidence supporting the use of probiotics for preventing or treating eczema remains inconclusive.
Understanding Probiotics and the Skin Microbiome
The human body houses trillions of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, collectively known as the microbiome. This intricate ecosystem plays a vital role in supporting immune function, digestion, and even influencing mental health. When the microbiome is balanced and diverse, it contributes to overall health and well-being.
Probiotics are a subset of these microbes, which can be introduced into the body through supplements or certain foods. They are believed to help maintain or restore microbial balance, thus promoting health in various ways.
Oral Probiotics and Eczema: Limited Evidence
While some studies have investigated the effects of oral probiotics on eczema, the evidence supporting their efficacy is not robust. Dr. Richard Gallo, a professor of dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, points out that there is still much to be understood about oral microbial therapy for eczema. Individual responses to oral probiotics vary significantly, and more research is needed to establish their effectiveness conclusively.
A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2018 analyzed 39 randomized controlled trials involving 2,599 participants. The findings suggested that oral probiotics probably make little or no difference in eczema symptoms as rated by the participants or parents. Additionally, there was no evidence to suggest that probiotics had a significant impact on the quality of life (QoL) for eczema patients.
Topical Probiotics and Eczema: Promising Results
On the other hand, there is more promising evidence for the use of topical probiotics in managing eczema symptoms. Dr. Gallo and his team conducted double-blind, placebo-controlled trials using bacteria from healthy human skin as a topical treatment for eczema. In these studies, two-thirds of the participants reported improvements in their skin symptoms, including reduced itchiness and inflammation. It is worth noting that the evidence for topical probiotics is specific to moderate to severe atopic dermatitis. More research is necessary to determine their effectiveness for milder cases of eczema.
Probiotics have gained popularity for their potential health benefits, including their role in maintaining a diverse and balanced microbiome. While there is some evidence supporting the use of topical probiotics for managing moderate to severe eczema, the efficacy of oral probiotics remains uncertain. Individual responses to probiotics can vary greatly, and their impact on eczema symptoms is not yet well-established.