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Remember the Probiotics!

We frequently see children with eczema in our practice. Eczema is a noncontagious inflammation of the skin, often caused by an allergy and characterized by itching, scaling, and blistering. Most of the therapeutic focus for eczema is on dietary improvements, supplementation with omega 3 (fish oil & flax oil) and/or omega 6 fatty acids (evening primrose, borage or black currant seed oil) and the daily use of a high potency hypoallergenic multivitamin. We also investigate the possibility of food sensitivities or intolerances as a primary cause of the eczema.

Recently, one of our doctors was surprised at the lack of improvement in a 4-year-old girl with eczema. Her name is Katie. Her mother had made drastic improvements in their eating habits and Katie was taking her supplements (she had even learned to swallow capsules!). Despite this her arms and ears were still aggravated with dry, red patches although her knees had cleared almost completely.

Then the doctor remembered that a very important nutrient had been overlooked - probiotics (good bacteria for the intestines). Probiotics are dietary supplements containing potentially beneficial bacteria that help to strengthen the immune system. In 1908 the Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff won the Nobel Prize for his work in immunology. His theory that certain bacteria may improve health is still of major importance today.

Many studies have been conducted on the effect of probiotics in eczema. Some of the most compelling ones demonstrate the positive effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacter lactis in the treatment of eczema. We routinely prescribe a product with these two organisms to maintain the growth of the normal intestinal bacteria.

Healthy amounts of good bacteria in the intestine helps to minimize food sensitivities or allergic reactions that may result in skin diseases like eczema. Katie had been treated with antibiotics several times for ear infections, which may have reduced her good bacteria balance in her intestine so the doctor prescribed a probiotic for her to take.

After 2 weeks of taking Acidophilus/Bifidobacter, 2 capsules daily, her skin had almost completely cleared and within a month, she had no signs of eczema. We are certain the dietary improvements were of great benefit but without the correction and normalization of her intestinal bacteria, her symptoms would have persisted.