Eczema is an allergic inflammation of the skin, with a red, itchy rash often accompanied by small blisters. It can affect any area but often appears in front of the elbows and behind the knees. Eczema most commonly occurs during childhood. It may be triggered by allergy or may result from a malfunction in the body’s immune system. Bacteria found in yogurt can help treat eczema by boosting the immune system and tempering the allergic response.
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Yogurt is a fermented dairy product, produced by the action of bacterial cultures on the sugars in milk, turning them into lactic acid. This process gives yogurt its thick, creamy-like texture. The lactic acid bacteria used to make yogurt includes Lactobacillus acidophilus, Streptococcus thermophilus and Bifidobacteria. These “good” probiotic bacteria are particularly beneficial for supporting the immune system. Yogurt is also rich in calcium and encourages the synthesis of the B vitamins biotin, folic acid and B-12.
Yogurt and the Immune System
Probiotic yogurt may improve eczema symptoms by directly influencing the immune system. An article published in the 2007 ''Journal of Nutrition'' suggests that certain probiotic bacteria can protect against allergies by increasing the production of the mucosa immune defender, secretory immunoglobulin A. Secretory IgA contributes to allergen exclusion by reducing exposure of the immune system to antigens. The article noted that infants with allergy had low levels of bifidobacterium, a bacteria also found in yogurt. When supplemented in infant formula, it was shown to improve eczema.
Probiotics can be consumed as a supplement, but yogurt may be the easiest way to get the benefits without the hassle of taking capsules or tablets. According to a 2006 study published in "Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism," a daily yogurt intake was a sufficient amount to effectively enhance the immune system. The University of North Carolina School of Medicine notes that probiotics may provide benefits to children, but ask your doctor before giving your child probiotics.
Yogurt is available in many varieties and flavors. For maximum benefits, consume live, or "bio" yogurt. Look for the statement "live active cultures" on labels when choosing a probiotic yogurt. In addition, yogurt mixes well with fruit, seeds and cereals. It can also be used to thicken soups and sauces, but because heat destroys its bacteria, yogurt should not be used during cooking but stirred in at the end.