Probiotics During Pregnancy May Curb Eczema

October 29, 2012

Finnish researchers tested probiotic supplementation on over 200 mother-infant pairs at risk for allergies.

Mothers who consume probiotics during pregnancy and breastfeeding may lower the risk of their infants developing skin allergies, according to a recent Finnish study.

Probiotic supplements have grown in popularity as growing research suggests that altering the digestive system towards a more favorable bacterial profile could have numerous benefits for immune health, including reduced risk of childhood development of eczema.

Researchers from Turku University Central Hospital in Turku, Finland recruited 241 to consume one of two probiotic supplements (Lactobacillus rhamnosus LPR and Bifidobacterium longum BL999 or L. paracasei ST11 and BL999) or placebo daily from four months. Supplementation began two months prior to delivery and ended two months into breastfeeding. Because all recruited mothers had a history of allergies, all of the infants were expected to be at high risk of allergies. Skin pricks conducted at 6, 12, and 24 months of infant age would reveal any development of allergies during the first two years of the child’s life.

A total of 205 mothers completed the study, and mothers in both probiotic groups showed better short-term results. While 71% of infants in the placebo group experienced at least one eczema rash, only 29% of babies in the probiotic groups experienced eczema. Chronic eczema affected 29% of infants in the placebo group and only 10% and 6% of infants in the probiotic groups. Adverse health effects did not differ significantly across the treatment groups.

While the study adds to mounting evidence of a potential for probiotic support against allergies, the extent of available science still remains controversial. It is still too early to understand how widespread probiotic use could benefit the human population in this way because global markets offer a wide range of probiotics that may perform differently on a strain-by-strain basis.