Available in dietary supplements, fermented foods and cultured milk products like yogurt, probiotics add a dose of healthy bacteria to the digestive system. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the use of probiotics dates to ancient times, but the interest in the probiotic effect on the body continues to grow. From 1994 to 2003, U.S. spending on probiotic supplements such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus nearly tripled.
Between 5 and 20 percent of people experience the itchy, inflamed skin rash of eczema at some time in their lives, and anecdotal evidence suggests that probiotics could heal the systemic inflammation associated with this skin disorder. Scientific research on whether probiotics heals eczema rash is mixed, however. An October 2008 review of 12 studies published by The Cochrane Collaboration determined that taking probiotics with live cultures such as Lactobacillus acidophilus did not improve a person's eczema rash or severity. However, a separate study of 415 Norwegian pregnant women found that babies born to women who'd consumed probiotics during pregnancy had half the risk of developing eczema, compared to women who didn't drink probiotics. Of the children born to women in the probiotic group who did develop eczema, their symptoms were half as severe as kids of moms who didn't consume these supplements, according to "Consumer Reports."
Taking probiotics could inhibit the growth of skin bacteria that cause acne, according to an April 2010 study published in the "International Journal of Cosmetic Science." Unlike topical and system anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat acne, probiotics have a long history of safe use in people and generally cause few side effects, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Taking probiotics could prevent or eliminate infection with Candida albicans, a type of yeast often found in the body. Most of the time, good nutrition keeps "Candida" growth under control. However, taking antibiotics for infection or consuming too many carbohydrates, sugar or milk products encourages Candida to grow out of control, causing the itching, inflammation and redness of yeast infections. According to Natural News, taking antibiotics reduces the growth of all bacteria in the body, including the helpful bacteria in the gut. Adding probiotics to the diet reintroduces helpful digestive bacteria and heals the skin issues associated with Candida yeast infections.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Introduction to Probiotics
- The Cochrane Collaboration: Probiotics for Treating Eczema
- Consumer Reports: New Evidence for Probiotics and Preventing Eczema in Babies
- International Journal of Cosmetic Science; Effect of konjac glucomannan hydrolysates and probiotics on the growth of the skin bacterium Propionibacterium acnes in vitro; Al-Ghazzewi FH et al.; April 2010
- NaturalNews: Using Probiotics to Prevent or Eliminate Candida