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Probiotics for Eczema: 3 Types and What To Know

Medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Written by Amy Isler, RN
Updated on September 18, 2023

The interest in home remedies, such as probiotics, and their potential health benefits for children and adults with eczema has increased over the years. Currently, probiotics are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of eczema.

It’s important to keep in mind that dietary changes, including adding probiotics to your daily routine, can’t cure eczema. Research has shown connections between the bacteria that live on your skin, atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema), and a possible role for probiotics. Currently, probiotics aren’t recommended as a treatment for eczema, but they may benefit your overall health.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial live microorganisms that naturally live in your body to help keep you healthy. Many people associate the word “bacteria” with sickness, but probiotics are a good type of bacteria. They help get rid of the “bad” bacteria that have made their way into your body, keep your gut balanced and working properly, and remove toxins. Probiotics can be found in the lungs, mouth and gut, vagina and urinary tract, and — importantly — the skin.

Probiotics can also be found in fermented foods, dietary probiotic supplements, and some beauty products. The majority of probiotics are marketed and sold as dietary supplements, which do not need approval from the FDA. Common fermented foods containing different strains of live and active bacterial cultures include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Miso

The most common probiotic strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Bacteria from each genus have been shown to help your body maintain a healthy community of organisms and produce substances that aid your body’s immune response.

Can Probiotics Help Eczema Symptoms?

Scientists have found connections between the balance of bacteria on the skin and atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema). Some studies have found that people with atopic dermatitis have an abnormal balance of bacteria, with too much bad bacteria in their skin microbiome — the collection of microorganisms, including bacteria, present on the skin. These findings led to the question of whether probiotics can help restore a better balance of bacteria on the skin of people with eczema.

Unfortunately, research on taking probiotics for eczema has had mixed results— some studies found that certain probiotic supplements may help reduce eczema symptoms, while others reported that probiotic supplements don’t affect eczema. Studying probiotics is difficult because there are many strains of probiotics, and they aren’t regulated by the FDA. However, more research would help shed light on any possible skin and eczema benefits.

Member Experiences With Probiotics for Eczema

Some members of MyEczemaTeam have talked about their experiences taking probiotics and how it has affected their skin. One member shared that probiotics seemed to help their eczema symptoms: “Since taking the probiotics, I no longer itch during the day, and I don’t scratch when I’m sleeping.”

Another member shared, “I have been taking probiotics for a month now. I have noticed that I am not itching, and I no longer have eczema on the back of my legs. My back is almost clear.”

While some people may experience skin benefits from taking probiotic supplements, not everyone who takes them will see changes in their skin and eczema symptoms.

Types of Probiotics for Eczema Management

Research on specific types of probiotic bacteria for eczema is limited. Some studies have shown potential for the use of probiotics in preventing the development of eczema in babies who are predisposed to this condition, but there isn’t evidence to say that probiotics will help people who already have eczema. Here, we explore some dermatology research findings for several types of probiotics.

1. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria

Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria are more common probiotics that are thought to help with skin conditions like inflammation and atopic dermatitis. In laboratory and mice studies, these probiotics have been shown to help reduce inflammation. Theoretically, lactobacillus and bifidobacteria should be useful in inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis. However, the limited research on these probiotics’ effects in humans with eczema has produced mixed results.

For example, a Cochrane systematic review measured the effectiveness of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria on quality of life and eczema symptoms. The researchers found that across 39 randomized clinical trials, these two probiotics made no significant difference in eczema symptoms.

2. Roseomonas Mucosa

In 2020, the National Institutes of Health studied how children and adults with eczema responded to an experimental treatment containing Roseomonas mucosa, a type of bacteria that’s naturally present on the skin. Participants regularly applied the treatment to areas of skin with eczema for several weeks. The researchers found that the treatment was associated with reduced severity of eczema symptoms.

Scientists later added participants and examined how well a topical solution of sugar water and Roseomonas mucosa worked on skin with eczema in 20 children. Most showed improvements in their skin and eczema severity — specifically, symptoms improved more than 50 percent in 17 of the 20 children.

While these research findings are interesting and show the potential for Roseomonas mucosa in people with eczema, this type of treatment needs to be studied on a much larger group of people to see how well it works and how safe it is on a variety of people with eczema.

3. Propionibacterium

Eczema affects approximately 15 percent to 20 percent of children worldwide, and some research suggests that proactive use of probiotics may help prevent eczema from developing in some cases. For instance, one meta-analysis that reviewed 28 studies found that infants and children whose mothers took probiotics while pregnant, and who received probiotics orally for two to 13 months, had a lower risk of developing eczema later in life. Probiotics were either a single strain of bacteria or a combination of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Propionibacterium.

However, the researchers also found that using probiotics only during pregnancy or infancy didn’t make a difference in lowering the child’s chances of getting eczema. Results also varied based on which probiotic strain was consumed. While research like this suggests that probiotics may have a role during pregnancy and infancy on a child’s risk of eczema, more research needs to be done to support the claims.

Are There Potential Risks and Side Effects of Probiotics?

Because the microorganisms that make up probiotics are naturally found in your body, the use of probiotics is typically considered safe. However, there are a few exceptions. People who have a weakened immune system or serious illness or had recent surgery should check with a health care professional before taking probiotics.

These people, in particular, need to consider the risks of supplementing with probiotics, including allergic reactions. Other risks include:

  • Getting an infection
  • Developing antibiotic resistance
  • Getting toxic byproducts from the breakdown of probiotics

Always check with your dermatologist or health care provider to see if it’s safe for you to take probiotics, based on the medications you take and your overall health status.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema. On MyEczemaTeam, more than 49,000 people with eczema gather to share advice and talk about their experiences living with this skin condition.

Have you tried probiotics for your eczema? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on your Activities page.

    Updated on September 18, 2023
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    Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.
    Amy Isler, RN is a registered nurse with over six years of experience as a credentialed school nurse. Learn more about her here.

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