With the growing number of babies and infants suffering from allergies, researchers are increasingly looking for ways to prevent the development of allergies in the first place. Recent studies suggest that babies whose mothers took probiotics, or beneficial organisms that reside in the gut, during pregnancy were less likely to have food allergies, as well as skin conditions such as eczema, at up to two years of age.
Researchers believe the probiotics may influence a baby’s health by promoting the development of maternal immune cells that cross the placenta and later are passed in breast milk. Probiotics are known to support a healthy immune system by promoting gut health in both the mother and the baby. The gut has a high concentration of immune system cells.
One study at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh compared a group of 25 mothers and infants supplied with probiotics with a control group who were given a placebo during pregnancy and through the child’s first year. Results showed that the group given the probiotic supplements showed a 12 percent lower risk for developing common food allergies.
Another study from Finland had 241 pregnant women take one of two different probiotic combinations, given as a powder mixed with water once daily, or a bacteria-free placebo powder. All of the mothers-to-be had a history of allergies, so their babies were at increased risk of eczema and other allergic reactions. 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 mothers took either probiotic combination.
The use of probiotics and their effects on overall health are still being studied, so be sure to consult with your OB/GYN before starting this treatment.
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, December 2018
- Babies whose mothers take probiotics during pregnancy are less likely to have food allergies and skin conditions.
- Probiotics may influence a baby’s health through immune cells.
- The use of probiotics and their effects on our overall health is still being studied, so consult with your OB/GYN.