Atopic dermatitis (aka eczema) is annoying AF. If your skin is Gotham City, then eczema would be The Joker. But are probiotics the hero your skin deserves? Spoiler: The jury’s still out. Here’s what the science says on probiotics to treat eczema.

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Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition caused by a disturbed skin barrier and immune dysfunction. Common symptoms include:

  • rough, scaling skin
  • oozing or crusting
  • swelling
  • inflammation
  • discoloration
  • itching

So how do probiotics factor into all of this? Well, the idea is that probiotics can help ease eczema symptoms because they’re known to support a healthy immune system. Some studies have also found that probiotics can reduce inflammation and might help heal wounds. But we need more research to prove this is legit.

What the science says

Researchers are still trying to determine the link between probiotics and eczema.

A 2018 review of 39 randomized control trials found that currently available probiotic strains prob make little or no difference in improving eczema symptoms. But wait! A 2014 review of 25 studies found that probiotic supplements reduced eczema severity in both kids and adults. As a result, researchers said probiotics *could* be an eczema treatment option.

BTW, probiotics might reduce the risk of eczema if taken as a baby or in utero. According to a 2020 review, probiotic supplementation during pregnancy and infancy may help restore gut microbiota imbalances which have been linked to eczema.

A 2021 review of 21 studies also showed some promising results. Researchers concluded that taking probiotics while pregnant could reduce the risk of a baby being born with eczema.

A 2021 study noted that the most commonly studied probiotics for atopic dermatitis are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.

  • Lactobacilli. This strain may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the bod. In theory, this could help soothe the inflammation associated with eczema. But there’s no solid science to back this up.
  • Bifidobacteria. According to a 2016 study, this strain might help regulate the immune system response. Since eczema is associated with an overreactive immune system, there could be something there. But again, we need more proof.

PSA: While we still don’t know if probiotics can curb eczema, there’s no evidence to suggest probiotics can make eczema any worse. That said, you should still talk with a dermatologist or registered dietician before picking a probiotic.

In addition to probiotic supplements, you can also add probiotic-rich foods to your daily diet. Some tasty options include:

FYI: Lactobacilli is typically found in yogurt and fermented foods. Bifidobacterium is often found in yogurt in other dairy products.

Probiotics have a lot of healthy street cred and with good reason! Here’s how probiotics can support your overall health.

  • Promote the health of your gut microbiome. Time to Marie Kondo your gut, y’all. Lots of research shows that probiotics may lead to better gut health, which may benefit everything from your brain to your heart to your skin.
  • Improve digestive health. There’s a buttload of research to support the idea that probiotics help combat chronic diarrhea and constipation 💩.
  • Help reduce urinary tract infections (UTI). Cranberries aren’t the only UTI remedy around. A 2018 study found that Lactobacillus can also help treat this annoying AF infections.
  • Treat inflammatory bowel conditions. So far, there’s no cure for IBD. But probiotics might help soothe symptoms.
  • Improve your mood. The pros aren’t sure if probiotics can truly put a smile on your face. But there’s some anecdotal evidence to suggest probiotics can help improve your mood.
  • Make your heart happy. Eat your heart out, bad bacteria! There’s a strong link between a probiotic-rich diet and lower levels of “bad” cholesterol, blood pressure, and body fat.

Probiotics are generally super safe to take. That being said, there are some potential side effects to look out for. Most side effects — like gas, heartburn, or the trots — aren’t serious. But you should def talk with a healthcare provider before taking probiotics if you:

  • have a compromised immune system
  • have a bowel or digestive condition
  • have a chronic illness

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH), those who have severe illnesses or compromised immune systems are more likely to experience side effects like:

  • infections
  • production of harmful substances
  • antibiotic-resistant gene growth

There’s not enough research to show that probiotics can treat eczema. But some studies show promising results. And since probiotics are generally considered safe, they might be worth a shot.

You can add a probiotic supplement or probiotic-rich foods to your daily diet. Just be sure you talk with a healthcare professional first if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have a chronic illness, bowel or digestive condition, or a compromised immune system.