Prevention or improvement of atopic dermatitis in young children

Research shows probiotics may be beneficial in helping cure this type of eczema common in infants and young children.

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a type of eczema, a condition characterized by inflamed, irritated, itchy skin. This condition is very common in infants and young children, with up to 20 percent of young children showing symptoms. Because rates of AD are rising, there has been interest among researchers about how nutrition might prevent or help symptoms.

Probiotics, in particular, may be of help. Probiotics, which we often connect with yogurt or fermented foods, are bacteria that are thought to have health benefits. In a review article from 2013, researchers looked at all academic articles that studied the relationship between probiotics given to infants, small children, and/or pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and AD in infants in young children. When single probiotics were given, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus acidophilus,or L rhamnosus GG, four out of seven studies concluded that these probiotics reduced risk of developing AD by 36-49 percent, while the other studies showed no affect of the single probiotics.

The researchers also reviewed three studies that examined how blends of probiotics affected risk of AD. In all three of these studies, the risk of AD was reduced for those receiving probiotics either directly or through their mothers. In one study, this effect was especially drastic for those without a family history of AD (91 percent decrease in risk).

These researchers also examined the effects of prebiotics, which are thought to be food for probiotics. Common sources included raw garlic, leeks and onions. In two out of three studies, prebiotics decreased risk of AD by 44 percent to greater than 50 percent.

Michigan State University Extension supports that if trustworthy sources of prebiotics and probiotics are used, they could offer a safe method of decreasing AD in young children. The authors of the review article describe that more studies are needed, especially long-lasting studies and studies that help us understand how probiotics and prebiotics might work for AD.

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