My mom has eczema, and I heard that eating probiotics can alleviate her symptoms. Is there any truth to that? — Amy D., Duluth, Minnesota
Yes, probiotics may help control eczema, especially when used in conjunction with other treatments, such as corticosteroid creams and ointments. Phototherapy also can be effective. Your mom should check with her dermatologist to determine her best approach.
The most common type of eczema, atopic dermatitis, affects one in seven children and one in 50 adults. It’s triggered by immune-system malfunction (there’s a compromised skin/immune barrier). Another common form of eczema, contact dermatitis, is an allergic reaction. Antihistamine meds such as Benadryl can relieve symptoms in the short term.
There’s a natural connection among bolstering your immune system, balancing your bacteria with probiotics and relieving symptoms of eczema. One study in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology found that “probiotics, especially L. rhamnosus GG, seem to be effective for the prevention of atopic dermatitis. They also were found to reduce the severity of AD in approximately half of the trials the researchers reviewed.” Culturelle and some other brands contain strains, including L. rhamnosus GG, in the lactobacillus GG lineage.
In addition to taking supplements, you can choose more probiotic-containing foods, such as fat-free yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso (miso soup), kefir, sourdough bread, naturally fermented sour pickles, tempeh and, of course, dark chocolate.
To help probiotics do their job, you want to supply those good bacteria with the foods they need to flourish: Those are called prebiotics. Prebiotic treats for your probiotic residents include legumes (beans and peas), asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, whole-grain oatmeal and even a little red wine.
We bet that if your mom boosts her diet with pre- and probiotics, she’ll see improvements in her overall health and her eczema. And she’ll derive other benefits, too: Some studies show that probiotics improve glucose and blood pressure control.
I bought a compression vest for working out. The guy who sold it to me said it’ll help me lose weight and make me stronger. Did I just fall for a dumb sales pitch, or do these things really help? — Matt M., Shaker Heights, Ohio
Good question. A recent German study asked the same thing when scientists explored how 78 postgraduate college students working out on stationary bicycles would react to being given clothing that claimed to make the exercise “less arduous.”
Students who were low-active to sedentary and thought of themselves as exercise-challenged did a workout wearing a compression garment that they were told would make the workout easier. Shazam! They reported that the workout was a lot easier than expected, and more effective. (The researchers’ promise that the vest would make the workout easier was not backed up with any science.)
So, were you duped, Matt? Well, yes and no. If your compression vest makes you feel like it’s easier to do your workout, and you’re more likely to stick with an exercise routine when you’re wearing it, that’s a winner! Just make sure it doesn’t cause muscle cramping, dehydration or discomfort. There are a lot of so-called workout-boosting garments and techniques that can do more harm than good. For example:
• Plastic workout suits cause you to sweat profusely; you may lose too much liquid too quickly. That can cause everything from cramping to rapid heartbeat, even fainting. In addition, you may think you’re losing weight, but as soon as you rehydrate it comes right back.
• Weighted vests can increase your calorie burn, but they can cause injuries to your neck, knees and back, and make already existing aches and pains worse.
• Walking or running with weights slotted into clothing or fastened to your arms, wrists or hands can cause rotator cuff tears.
The best workout clothes for any activity wick sweat away from your skin so that you feel comfortable and dry, while offering insulation in cool weather.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of the WellnessInstitute at the Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.