Beneficial bacterium found in the intestinal tract of healthy people (probiotics) play an important role in immune development and may play a role in the development of allergic disorders. Manipulation of these bacteria may therefore offer an approach to prevent or treat allergic diseases.
Prof. ML Tank from the Royal Children’s Hospital, in Melbourne, Australia reviewed the evidence.
Prevention of atopic eczema
Selected probiotics (alone or combined with prebiotics) may have a role in preventing atopic eczema.
Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate growth or activity of bacteria in the digestive system.
Prenatal (before birth) treatment appears important for beneficial effects.
Effects depend on the specific bacteria and people studied.
One study reported beneficial effects of prebiotics to prevent eczema in high-risk infants.
Treatment of allergic disease
Atopic dermatitis: Probiotics are not effective treatment
Asthma and allergic rhinitis: Probiotic treatment effects are conflicting.
Prevention of atopic eczema Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics are potential treatments, but there is insufficient evidence to recommend their use.
The bottom line?
More studies to clarify the dose, bacterial species/strains, the contribution of synbiotics (combining probiotics and prebiotics for greater effects), timing of treatment, and the patient who are most likely to benefit are needed.
John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.