Have you tried every kind of eczema treatment on the market, yet you still have that itchy, scaly rash? You aren’t alone. Some of the modern medicine that we have today may only serve to mask the symptoms of the underlying diseases. What if we told you that probiotics and eczema are more closely linked than you think it is?
Believe it or not, the answer to your scaly and itchy rash may lie in your gut instead of your skin. Eczema has been shown in many recent studies to be tied directly to the flora in our intestines. If gut flora is healthy, the immune system and skin are healthy. If gut flora is damaged by a poor diet high in sugars and irritants and low in fiber, gut flora suffers and immunological chaos ensues.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
80% of your immune system is based in your gut. This means that if your gut flora isn’t healthy, neither is your immune system. This is a major cause of all autoimmune problems, and in many cases, the root cause of skin problems such as eczema.
The proteins and macromolecules in your food are meant to be broken down entirely within the intestines and absorbed through the bloodstream. When your gut is healthy, the junctions between the cells form a tight seal that protects the peritoneum from undigested food particles and toxins.
However, if you consume food that you are sensitive to, a low-level immune reaction will develop in your intestines that break down this tight seal. This results in gaps forming between the cells that allow undigested proteins, particles and toxins outside of the intestines – a condition known as leaky gut syndrome.
Once these particles are trapped outside of your intestines, they can no longer be properly digested and they simply rot in your peritoneum. This creates even more immune reaction as your system sends white blood cells to fight these foreign invaders and a vicious cycle ensues. The end result is an out-of-control immune system that attacks other parts of your body, including your skin.
The essential first step to treating this condition is a well-documented elimination diet. Keeping an intensive food diary as you eliminate and reintroduce certain foods will help you to discover the underlying culprit, or in many cases, culprits that are sabotaging your immune system. The most common food allergens that cause over 90% of severe allergic reactions include peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans and almonds), fish, shellfish, eggs, soy, wheat and milk.
But beyond these severe allergens are these common foods that cause low-level reactions that can damage your system over time if you are sensitive:
- Additives and preservatives
Once the irritants have been discovered and eliminated from the diet, it’s time to start healing the intestines and return your gut flora to its natural, healthy state.
How Probiotics Improve Gut Flora
Would it surprise you to find out that you have 10 times as many bacteria in your body as you do cells? It’s true. Our bodies exist in a state of symbiosis with thousands of strains of beneficial bacteria that carry out a multitude of tasks. If these bacteria were missing, you would, quite simply, fail to function. Research is booming in this area, and the surprising discovery is that our bacteria also play a crucial role in preventing unhealthy conditions such as autoimmune disorders and eczema. So if our bacteria isn’t healthy, the logical conclusion is that sickness can and will ensue.
Many studies have evaluated the effectiveness of probiotics for eczema in adults. For instance, a 2008 study from the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology showed significant health improvement with the use of probiotics and eczema symptoms which were greatly reduced with examination of several randomized trials.
Unfortunately, most of the studies using probiotics for eczema are done without the initial introduction of a proper elimination diet. This is somewhat like throwing water and gasoline on a fire at the same time and expecting the fire to go out. It is important to eliminate the cause of the inflammation as well as return healthy gut flora. Once the source of inflammation is eliminated, probiotics help to regulate the immune system. In fact, your healthy gut flora is essential for a return to a healthy immune system.
KEY ROLES OF GUT BACTERIA
- Break down food
- Absorb vitamins
- Synthesizing other essential vitamins
- Preventing bacterial infections
- Eliminating toxins
When your gut flora is out of balance, probiotics will help return the right balance to your system. Here is a breakdown of some of the most common probiotics on the market and how they work.
L. acidophilus: Helps with digestion of dairy foods. In fact, some dairy products are infused with extra L. acidophilus to reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance. L. acidophilus also helps your intestines absorb other vital nutrients.
B. bifidum: Helps to break down fat, protein and complex carbohydrates so your body can use them for energy.
B. longum: Scavenges toxins from your diet and helps to eliminate them in the stool.
L. rhamnosus: Benefits your neural pathways and can help to reduce or eliminate candida overgrowth.
L. fermentum: Can help to reduce cholesterol levels.
How Long Does it Take Probiotics to Work?
The amount of time it takes to begin to see improvement varies from person to person. It also depends upon whether you have eliminated the possible irritants in your diet. Once you have reduced the cause of your inflammation and helped your immune system return to its normal state, symptoms of eczema should start to subside.
This is because your immune system is no longer being overworked to stop the invaders from a leaky gut. A healthy immune system only attacks invaders and malfunctioning cells, such as cancer, and leaves healthy tissue alone. Once this balance is achieved, the host enjoys not only better health and better brain function and mood too!
How to Choose the Right Probiotic
There are literally hundreds of strains of lab grade probiotics on the market. We have only touched on a bare handful in this article. But the two most common probiotics that are used to treat eczema are L. rhamnosus and B. bifidum. One study showed an impressive 50% reduction of the development of eczema with the introduction of L. rhamnosus verses a placebo. And a 2009 study of probiotics for eczema in children produced huge reductions in the development of allergies and eczema in at-risk infants.
To choose the best probiotic for your eczema treatment, check these factors on the label:
Free of irritants: First and foremost, it does no good to eliminate food intolerances from your diet, if you reintroduce them with your probiotics. Check the label to ensure that your supplement does not contain any of your food triggers such as soy or gluten. It’s more common than you think!
Colony Forming Units: A good probiotic will have between 5 and 50 billion colony forming units or CFU’s.
Type of strains: Your probiotic should only contain strains of bacteria that are found normally in the human gut. Some supplement manufacturers include probiotics from other sources because they have a longer shelf life, but if they don’t normally belong in your body, you shouldn’t introduce them.
Natural Sources of Probiotics
You can obtain vital probiotics through natural food sources as well. Many fermented foods provide billions of beneficial gut flora and should be introduced into your diet if they can be tolerated. Here are some of the best probiotic foods available:
- Live culture yogurt
- Homemade pickles (no preservatives)
Good Bacteria is Essential for Your Health
As you can see, a healthy gut is essential for a healthy you. Your gut flora is basically the workhorse of your immune system and a factory for nutrient production. Most importantly, if your gut is full of good bacteria, there won’t be any room left over for those nasty invaders that make you sick.
Probiotics and Eczema: It May Not Be for Everyone
It is important to understand, however, that probiotics for eczema may not be the perfect solution for everyone.
First, taking the wrong probiotic, such as one that isn’t normally in the human body, can actually cause more harm than good and lead to a dangerous overgrowth in your intestines.
Second, if your immune system is very damaged, it may not be able to keep probiotic growth in check. Adding more may cause these bacteria to move to parts of the body where they don’t belong, such as the liver, and cause a dangerous infection. To be safe, it’s best to make an informed decision about whether to use probiotics with your physician.
If you have any doubts about whether your immune system can handle the addition of new microbes, your doctor can do a few simple lab tests for you. In those very rare cases, it may be inadvisable to eat natural sources of probiotics such as kimchi and miso as well.
Research regarding probiotics and eczema is still ongoing and will be for many years. Doctors are still pinning down the exact relationship that each type of bacteria has with the human body, and there are literally hundreds of strains to study. So far, the research points to massive benefits from ensuring that 10 to 1 ratio of bacteria to human cells stays strong.