Easing Eczema with Probiotics

probiotics for eczema
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A type of beneficial bacteria, probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria often used in alternative medicine for eczema, a common disorder that results in red, swollen, itchy skin. There are more than 400 different strains of probiotics, but Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacteria are two of the probiotic strains most commonly used for eczema treatment.

Naturally present in the human body, probiotics are also found in certain foods (such as yogurt, kefir, and certain fermented foods) and available in dietary supplement form.

Use of probiotic supplements is purported to protect against immune dysfunction and reduce inflammation (two key factors in the development of eczema).

Research on Probiotics and Eczema

So far, research on the use of probiotics in treatment of eczema has yielded mixed results. While some research shows that probiotic supplements may help to lessen the severity of this condition, others indicate that they may be no more effective than a placebo.

For instance, a 2008 report published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology found that probiotics show some promise for the prevention and treatment of atopic dermatitis (or AD, a common form of eczema). Looking at findings from 13 previously published clinical trials on probiotics and AD, the report's authors found that probiotics (especially Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG) appear to be effective for AD prevention. But while about half of the reviewed trials showed that probiotics helped reduce the severity of AD, the majority of trials found that probiotics failed to reduce AD-associated inflammation.

What's more, another research review published the same year in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that probiotics were no more effective than placebo when it came to reducing the severity of eczema symptoms. Including 12 clinical trials with a total of 781 participants, the review also found that use of probiotics "carries a small risk of adverse events" (such as infections and bowel dysfunction).

Using Products for Eczema in Children

Eczema is most common in babies and children, possibly due to the fact that their immune systems are still developing and therefore are more vulnerable to this condition.

While research on the use of probiotics as a treatment for childhood eczema is somewhat limited, the available studies have produced conflicting results. In a 2010 review published in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, for example, scientists analyzed 19 clinical trials on the effectiveness of probiotics against AD in children and concluded that there is not enough evidence to support their use.

However, there's some evidence that children whose mothers used probiotic supplements while pregnant may have a reduced risk for eczema. In a 2012 research review published in the British Journal of Nutrition, investigators looked at seven previously published clinical trials and found that use of certain probiotics during pregnancy helped prevent eczema in children ages to two to seven. The review's authors noted that while lactobacilli bacteria appeared to protect against eczema, supplements containing a mixture of various probiotic strains did not affect eczema development.


Although probiotics in food are generally considered safe, some consumers may experience mild digestive problems (such as gas and bloating).

It's important to note that probiotic supplements may interact with certain medications, such as immunosuppressants. Therefore, if you're considering using probiotic supplements in combination with other medications, it's important to seek medical advice prior to taking the supplements.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of probiotic supplements, talk with your primary care provider first. 

Where to Find Them

Probiotics are sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

In addition, probiotics are found in cultured dairy products, such as yogurt or kefir. However, due to differences in processing methods, the number of live organisms may vary greatly from product to product. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chi, and miso also contain probiotics.

Using Probiotics for Eczema

More research needs to be conducted before probiotics can be recommended as a treatment for eczema. However, it's possible that increasing your intake of probiotic-rich foods may be of some benefit to your overall health.

If you're considering the use of probiotic supplements for treatment of eczema (or any other chronic condition), make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


Betsi GI, Papadavid E, Falagas ME. "Probiotics for the treatment or prevention of atopic dermatitis: a review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials." Am J Clin Dermatol. 2008;9(2):93-103.

Boyle RJ, Bath-Hextall FJ, Leonardi-Bee J, Murrell DF, Tang ML. "Probiotics for treating eczema." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8;(4):CD006135.

Doege K, Grajecki D, Zyriax BC, Detinkina E, Zu Eulenburg C, Buhling KJ. "Impact of maternal supplementation with probiotics during pregnancy on atopic eczema in childhood--a meta-analysis." Br J Nutr. 2012 Jan;107(1):1-6.

van der Aa LB, Heymans HS, van Aalderen WM, Sprikkelman AB. "Probiotics and prebiotics in atopic dermatitis: review of the theoretical background and clinical evidence." Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2010 Mar;21(2 Pt 2):e355-67.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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