Study under review: Synbiotics for Prevention and Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials
Atopic dermatitis is a form of eczema that stems from a predisposition toward developing allergic hypersensitivity reactions (this is the “atopic” part, which literally means “strange” or “out of place”). Other atopic diseases often associated with atopic dermatitis are asthma and hay fever. Atopic dermatitis is characterized by chronic, relapsing patches of dry, cracked, and itchy skin brought about through both an allergic immune response against skin cells and an abnormality in skin structure and function (although the etiology isn’t fully understood, yet).
Atopic dermatitis is very common, affecting 10-20% of children in the developed world and a lower but growing prevalence in developing nations. Although it may occur at any age, around 50% of affected individuals develop symptoms during their first year of life, while nearly all affected individuals will experience symptoms before the age of five. Symptoms may continue into adulthood, although the majority of children experience spontaneous remission of the disease before adolescence. Some additional facts about atopic dermatitis are listed in Figure 1.
Reference: Weidinger et al. Lancet. 2016 Mar.
The cause of atopic dermatitis is not known, but evidence suggests that the disease results from a combination of genetic (hereditary) and environmental factors. One environmental factor that has received increasing attention for its role in this disease is the microbiome. While an increasing amount of research has shown that atopic dermatitis is associated with dysbiosis of the skin microbiome, the role that the gut microbiome plays has been less investigated.
Considering that the gut and its microbial inhabitants play a central role in programming the infant immune system, it should come as no surprise that any and all diseases of the immune system are beginning to be examined in the context of the microbiome. Several studies have associated atopic dermatitis with a dysfunctional gut microbiome, and meta-analyses on probiotic and prebiotic supplementation have shown favorable results for these interventions in managing and preventing atopic dermatitis.
Prebiotics feed probiotics, which raises an interesting possibility that supplementing both may be more beneficial than supplementing either alone. Several studies have already investigated the efficacy of synbiotic supplementation (combination of pre- and probiotics) for the prevention and treatment of atopic dermatitis in children. The current study was a meta-analysis that was designed to to review these studies and determine where the weight of the evidence falls.
Atopic dermatitis is an allergic disease affecting a dysfunctional skin barrier that most commonly affects infants and children. Emerging research has linked this disease to the gut microbiome in various ways, and research thus far has supported a protective role of probiotic and prebiotic supplementation. The current study sought to review the literature, investigating whether synbiotic supplementation was also effective for the prevention and treatment of atopic dermatitis in children.
Other Articles in Issue #21 (July 2016)
Interview: Norm Robillard, PhD
Gut health is extremely variable and complex, so learning from experts is important. Norm is a microbiologist whose expertise lies in the effect of diet on gut conditions.
Let the sun shine in! (to your retinal ganglion cells)
We've covered the detriments of night-time blue light before, but how important is getting blue light during the work day? This controlled trial looked at its effect on working memory.
How can researchers figure out the role of your genetics in determining the kinds of bacteria you have in your gut? Get over a thousand sets of twins and do some fancy testing. We describe the results here.
Dampening exam anxiety with probiotics
When you're stressed out for an exam, you probably don't instinctively reach for probiotics. Your microbiome may impact anxiety though, and this trial tested a probiotic for anxiety-lessening around exam time.
Potential relief for IBS through vitamin D
Vitamin D isn’t just for bone health. Its role in dampening inflammation and regulating immune responses suggest that it may help in treating IBS, which is directly tested in this randomized trial.
Interview: Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Elle is the senior dietitian at the nutrition and fitness tracking juggernaut MyFitnessPal. We discuss some tips for new moms thinking about diet considerations.
Fish oil showdown: anti-inflammatory effects of EPA vs. DHA
Chronic inflammation is a driver of many health conditions, and plays a key role in heart disease. Fish oil is a popular supplement partly due to its potential anti-inflammatory actions. But which omega-3 has a greater impact, EPA or DHA?
Heavy menstrual bleeding in athletes
An increasing proportion of athletes are female, yet the persistent issue of menstruation is rarely researched in the context of athletics. This study gets the ball rolling.
Could fasting help treat MS symptoms?
Multiple sclerosis involves immune attacks on the nervous system. Current treatments address symptoms, but may have substantial side effects. Fasting diets may both help symptoms and regeneration of existing damage.