I hate to bore you with another probiotics are good for you blog post, but I’m going to anyway. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Destruction of the normal bacteria flora in an infant or toddler’s body is one of the worst things that can be done to his or her long term health.
Although research has shown that probiotics seemingly help with almost everything (obesity, anxiety, diarrhea, constipation, ulcers, ear infections, etc..), I think the most important feature is how well they balance out a delicate, developing immune system. The first two years are critical. Lose this windown and your little one may be fighting immune imbalances for the rest of his or her life.
This particular study highlights the benefits yet again. Researchers looked at how well a specific probiotic (Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001; Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis HN019, at 6 and 9 billion CFU / day respectively) could benefit eczema and allergic sensitization at age 6 when given within the first 2 years of life. Here’s the details:
- Maternal supplementation from 35 weeks until 6 months post-partum if breastfeeding, and then infant supplementation from birth (or at cessation of nursing) until 2 years.
- The HN019 didn’t have an impact, while HN001 made a pretty large difference as seen below.
- 44% lower rates of eczema.
- 31% lower rates of skin-prick-testing reactions.
Keep in mind that this is a single intervention with probiotics and takes no other lifestyle changes or supplements into account (pets in household, vitamin D, trans fat intake, omega 3 fatty acid intake, etc..). This is a powerful statement.
And one that still is not getting across to pediatricians.
One final comment. This particular study looked at how effective a single probiotic was at lowering the rates of eczema. But this does not mean that we should drop everything and try to find the one or two “miracle” probiotics. Rather, research is headed towards patterns of probiotic species present that represent disease or health. In other words, there may be 4 or 5 principle bacteria that are more likely to be found in someone who is obese. Lean people, on the other hand, may have a different blend of 4-5 bacteria. While this story and the research has a long way to go, suffice it to say that, from what we know right now, a good quality broad spectrum probiotic supplement (around 20 billion / day) coupled with a good quality diet will be your best approach.