Is there anything softer or more delicate to the touch than a baby’s skin? Or indeed more vulnerable? As a new parent you soon become familiar with the endless merry-go-round of changing, feeding, putting down, then picking up, your baby. Having to add in another step – tending to red, itchy and sometimes infected skin is distressing for both parent and baby.
Eczema, also known as Atopic Dermatitis (AD) has been on the rise in industrialised countries over the last few decades, such that now 20% of babies will have Eczema by the time they reach six months.
But it doesn’t end with problem skin. If your child has Eczema, they’re also more likely to wind up with hay fever, asthma, food and/or dust mite allergy – especially if there’s a family history. And in more serious cases as the child grows, depression, anxiety and ADHD (the latter possibly a consequence of not getting proper sleep).
What if there were an alternative to accumulating a pile of emollient creams and topical anti-inflammatories for your growing child? One that involves a certain friendly bacterium called Bifidobacterium?
In a study published in Allergology, scientists studied the effects of administering two strains of Bifidobacterium (breve M-16V and longum BB536) to pregnant mothers in the month preceding delivery and then to their babies for 6 months. The result? At 18 months the babies showed a lower prevalence of Eczema than the control group. And this was regardless of whether there was a family history of allergy.
They also took ‘poo’ samples from the babies at four months and found those without AD/Eczema had higher proportions of ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ bacteria compared to those with the skin issues. What’s going on here? Well, it appears that the Bifidobacteria do some gardening, weeding out bacteria that seem to be linked to Eczema.
While this may make you want to reach for a bottle of probiotics, this study doesn’t come with specific recommendations, so you’re advised to discuss with your health practitioner. What we do know is that a Mediterranean diet favours the growth of Bifidobacteria, so go ahead and eat your pulses, veg, fruit and fish and go easy on the red meat.
Key words: allergy, Bifidobacterium, eczema, prevention, probiotics, Mediterranean diet