Protecting Baby From Eczema Starts In Pregnancy

Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Lactobacillus rhamnosus. One of the fascinating little critters that live in your gut to help keep you healthy. Image credit: Citizendium.

Probiotics are fascinating little things. Babies get their first mouthful from their mother’s vagina as they make their way out into the big wide world and continue to colonise their digestive system with the health promoting bacteria through breastmilk and skin contact with other people. It makes sense that birthing a baby through a healthy probiotic rich vagina and snuggling that baby on healthy probiotic rich skin and feeding that baby healthy, probiotic rich breastmilk will give that baby a healthy gut flora and keep the unhealthy bacteria under control. It’s a little less obvious (though used by natural therapists in this way for a while now…) that the probiotics a baby gets from it’s mother can also reduce the risk of that baby developing allergic type health problems  such as eczema, as shown in this study published last week  in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

About the study

Researchers said it’s possible that probiotics – which help to balance bacteria in the gut and prevent disease-causing strains from spreading – may influence babies’ health through immune cells that cross the placenta and then are later passed on through mums breast milk.

lead author Samuli Rautava of Turku University Central Hospital, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology says “Prevention regimen with specific probiotics administered to the pregnant and breast-feeding mother, that is, prenatally and postnatally, is safe and effective in reducing the risk of eczema in infants with allergic mothers”  ie. Probiotics are safe to take while pregnant and breastfeeding and they do work to prevent eczema.

The study involved 241 pregnant women, all who had a history of allergies which would put their babies at high risk of  eczema and other allergies. They were given one of two different probiotic strains. either Lactobacillus rhamnosus or Bifidobacterium longum given as a powder mixed with water once a day, or a probiotic free placebo powder.

The study ran through the final two months of pregnancy and the first two months of breastfeeding. Researchers then tracked their babies’ health for two years to see how many developed rashes.

By the end of the study, 71 percent of babies in the placebo group had had eczema at least once compared to 29 percent of babies whose mother took either of the probiotic combinations.

26 percent of  kids in the placebo group were diagnosed with chronic eczema, compared to 10 percent and six percent, respectively, of those in the two probiotic groups.

However, by age two the study didn’t show any obvious advantage to the probiotic use in pregnancy and breastfeeding.

“(The study) really shows a reduction in eczema from probiotics, which is such a simple and easy intervention for mothers,’ said Ruchi Gupta, an allergy an eczema researcher at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

But she said it was still too soon to see if that reduction in eczema will be tied to a drop in asthma and more serious allergies later on, and Rautava himself said it was still not yet possible to make recommendations for routine use of probiotics.

Rautava and his colleagues didn’t find any evidence of probiotic-related side-effects in either mums or their babies, which is comforting news.

I’d like to point out that probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods and are easy to get from your diet if you make the effort. That’s a post for another day though…

Eczema? Dermatitis? Dry itchy skin? Check out Hope’s Relief- A review and giveaway

My eldest son has suffered from eczema off and on for his entire childhood. He recently had a flare up despite his usual krill oil, vitamin and mineral supplement routine. I hadn’t changed our washing powder, he hadn’t changed soap personal care products, hasn’t changed his diet, it was just an unexplained flare up. Boo.  I figured it was the perfect time to try something new and the opportunity to review the Hope’s Relief products came at exactly the right time.

Being a herbalist, I am well familiar with what a real herbal cream should look and feel like. The first thing I noticed about the Hope’s Relief cream was that it felt and smelt just like a cream I’d make up in my clinic. It has that herby brown look to it which tells me it really does contain therapeutic amounts of quality herbal extracts. It smelt really herby too. No stinky artificial smells, just therapeutic herby goodness.

The problem I’ve had with some of the herbal creams I have made up for my biggest boy is that the base I use is quite thick and it sticks to his clothes and takes a long time to penetrate the skin. The Hope’s Relief cream is a perfect consistency and gets into the skin quickly without leaving a greasy residue.

Within 24 hours of starting the cream, Mr Biggest Boy had stopped telling me his eczema was itchy or hurting. Within a week I noticed that I was only having to apply the cream to two patches on his back. The smaller patches on his tummy, arms and legs had disappeared. The 2 patches on his back were markedly better. They were now mostly just dry, not red and angry looking. Certainly not cracked and bleeding like they had been before we started.

The other product that came with the cream was the Hope’s Relief cleansing bar. Mr Biggest Boy doesn’t use soap at all because even the most natural unscented soaps tend to cause a flare up in symptoms. I got him to start using the cleansing bar and it hasn’t caused any problems. The cleaning bar is better than his usual no soap routine because because water alone can be quite drying to the skin. The bar contains aloe vera, calendula and manuka honey which makes it healing, moisturising and antimicrobial. It’s the perfect product to use in combination with the cream.

Hope’s Relief has given me a cream and a cleansing bar to give away to a Natural Transition family. To gain entries to the giveaway, you need to comment on this post. I’d love to know what you’ve tried to treat eczema, what’s work or not worked for you. You can earn extra entries by liking the Hope’s Relief facebook page and by sharing this comp on facebook or twitter. When you comment on this post be sure to let me know what you’ve done to get your entries. I’ll draw the winner on December 5 at 5pm.

Update- The winner is Kerry 🙂 Here’s hoping your little one finds it as good as my son has.