178: Using Probiotics For Eczema in Little Ones w/ Jennifer Brand, MS, MPH, CNS

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We've talked a lot on the show about how gut health plays a role in the health of the skin. But is this the case in children as well? My guest today will explain all about the skin-gut connection, specifically in little ones.

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My guest today, Jennifer Brand, MPH, MS, CNS is an integrative and clinical nutritionist and the founder of Jennifer Caryn Brand Nutrition. She specializes in childhood skin rashes (eczema in particular), food allergies and sensitivities, and gut problems.

Jennifer’s own struggle with gut problems and disordered eating, her father’s battle with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, her brother’s diagnosis of psoriasis, and her mother’s diagnosis of vitiligo left her frustrated and stirred her search for a different approach as conventional means fell flat.

She's is a faculty member of LearnSkin, and her work has been featured in peer-reviewed scientific journals, Voyagela, as well as on podcasts, online summits, and in-person presentations.

Join us as we discuss the use of probiotics in children as a tool to help combat eczema.

Have probiotics helped your child's skin condition? Let me know in the comments!

In this episode:

  • In Jennifer's experience, in what percentage of babies and children is the microbiome one of the main problems?
  • The problem with eliminating too many foods from a child's diet
  • What is the gut-skin connection?
  • How can probiotics support better skin health?
  • MegaSporeBiotic dosage tips for children
  • Benefits of prebiotics


“By addressing what's happening in the gut, we can get some resolution to what's happening on the skin.” [2:01]

“When we start taking food after food out of the diet and especially when we start taking otherwise healthy foods, like certain fruits and vegetables, the diet becomes smaller and smaller and more restricted, and we start to risk nutrient deficiency, nutrient insufficiency, and nutrient deficiency in little ones.” [2:46]


Interested in trying MegaSporeBiotic? Click HERE to grab a bottle!

Find Jennifer Brand online

Get Jennifer Brand's FREE Guide To Probiotics For Skin Rashes

Healthy Skin Show episode 008: Identifying The Chemical Triggers Behind Your Skin Flare Ups w/ Jennifer Brand

Healthy Skin Show ep. 110: Missing Links Between Your Little One's Skin Rashes & Mom's Health w/ Jennifer Brand, MS, CNS

Follow Jennifer on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

178: Using Probiotics For Eczema in Little Ones w/ Jennifer Brand, MS, MPH, CNS FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jen: Thanks so much, Jen, for coming back on the show. We really appreciate it. You're one of my favorite guests to have on the show, especially when we're talking about little ones. And it's just such an honor to have you back.

Jennifer Brand: Thank you so much, Jen. I'm thrilled to be here.

Jen: Yeah. So today I really wanted to talk to you about the interaction between… I mean, this is kind of microbiome-based, and as many of you know, we talk a lot about microbiome issues on this show and the impact that it can have, also the relationship that it has with healthy or unhealthy skin. So in children, it's a little different than adults, and we'll talk a little bit more about that in a moment. But what I really wanted to dive into was how probiotics can be helpful for little ones, so babies and young children, when their parents are essentially struggling with this whole eczema picture that has erupted on their child and the child is really miserable.

Jen: So first of all, Jen, I think this is a good question to ask you. Out of all the cases you see, what do you feel is the percentage of babies and children where the microbiome is one of the number one problems?

Jennifer Brand: So because of the skin gut connection, which if we have time, we can get into that too, but there is a pretty significant connection between what's happening in the gut and what's happening on the skin. So in 100% of my clients, and my clients are typically little ones with eczema. So in all of these clients, I conduct comprehensive digestive stool testing. And in 100% of them, we see gut dysbiosis, which are imbalances in the gut microbiome. So I do find that by addressing what's happening in the gut, we can get some resolution to what's happening on the skin.

Jennifer Brand: And I want to point out too that I know a lot of parents out there are really focused on diet and taking foods out of the diet and making changes there, and I want to caution with that. I think it's a good place to start, and some of the areas where I advise parents in terms of diet is let's take out the common triggers first, which are gluten and dairy, eggs for a lot of little ones. And then if somebody has had allergy testing done, some of those foods, it might be helpful to take them out of the diet as well. But beyond that, when we start taking food after food out of the diet and especially when we start taking otherwise healthy foods, like certain fruits and vegetables. The diet becomes smaller and smaller and more restricted, and we start to risk nutrient deficiency, nutrient insufficiency, and nutrient deficiency in little ones. And this is extremely detrimental. It's detrimental for anybody.

Jennifer Brand: Our bodies run off of nutrients from foods we eat, that's our fuel. If they are missing, imbalances development, and symptoms and health problems follow, including skin rashes. And little ones are also growing and developing. So really the last thing we want to do is take foods out of the diet. We want to keep the diet as comprehensive as possible. And this goes for mom as well, especially if mom is nursing because baby gets those nutrients.

Jennifer Brand: So by the time that most folks come to me, by the time people find me, they've tried lots of diet, made lots of diet changes. A lot of folks have been on restrictive diets for extended periods of time, even the little ones. Food is not the root cause of the problem, especially if you've taken out those main triggers and there's still issues, you've got to look at the gut microbiome. I do find that that is the number one root cause of skin rashes like eczema in the babies and children that I see in my practice.

Jen: Yeah. I think that's an important point to make too because there's a level of suffering. You have to ask yourself how long do you want to allow the suffering? Because that's essentially what it is. I mean, being a person who struggled with eczema for three years, it's suffering. It was suffering as an adult. I cannot imagine being a little one or a young child not able to fully verbalize and not being able to have all of the mental faculties that we develop as we age and become adults to be able to handle that. So you have to ask yourself how long do you want to really go through that because also too manipulation of the microbiome and supporting it or rebalancing it also takes time. It's not a fast process, and so that's something you have to take into account.

Jen: So let's touch on something that you did mention.

Jen: Let's touch on something that you mentioned, this gut skin connection. What is that from your perspective working with little ones? What did the parents need to know?

Jennifer Brand: So the gut microbiome, when we're talking about the gut microbiome, this is really all of the microbes, so bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses that live within the digestive tract. And when we're talking about looking at what's happening in there with the comprehensive digestive stool test, we're really looking at what's happening in the large intestine. The gut microbiome of humans, it's evolved with us for thousands of years, and it plays huge roles in different activities that happen in our body, including digestion and nutrition, detoxification. Huge role with immunity and the immune system, and it really influences whether or not we're healthy or develop illness. Yeah, and there's tons of scientific evidence in addition to our clinical experience here, right? But a lot of scientific evidence that shows us that gut microbiome plays a role in how other organ systems function or don't function appropriately and this includes the skin, and there is a particularly complex connection between the skin and the gut. And this is why I do recommend that we got to check what's happening in the gut if there are skin rashes in your little one.

Jennifer Brand: There are some interesting studies too about what's happening in the gut and the development of eczema. One in particular that a study that found gut bacteria during the first three years of life plays a role in the development of a strong and healthy immune system, and so immune systems that are not strong and healthy actually can result in the development of allergic conditions, like eczema. Even food allergies and asthma, and also in those that do have eczema, it's been found that levels of good gut bugs tend to be lower and levels of not so good gut bugs tend to be higher compared to levels of those certain bugs in people without eczema. So there are lots of connections between what's happening on the gut and skin.

Jen: And while I would encourage everyone who's really new to this, if this is the first episode that you're ever hearing, Jen and I did another episode, which we'll link to in the show notes, on how moms' microbiome, and this is not to put any blame on mom. It just is what it is. But moms' microbiome can have an impact on babies' microbiome. And so a lot of times people say, “But I don't understand. How did my child end up with this dysbiosis?” And it can come from a few different ways, right, Jen?

Jennifer Brand: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. So breastfeeding. So number one, I want to put this out there, this is not suggesting that anybody stop breastfeeding. We want to nurse as long as we possibly can as long as it's healthy for mom and baby. And breastfeeding is protective, and there's a lot of research on this that shows that it is protective against the development of certain types of infections and overgrowths and things of that nature. However, there are certain things that can get through to baby. So of course, food triggers. So if mom is eating gluten, that can get transferred to baby, that can be a trigger. So food triggers of course. But then there is also research that shows that H Pylori can possibly be passed as well as candida or yeast, fungal type issues can be passed from mom to baby. So those are things that I do see commonly between mom and baby.

Jennifer Brand: So when I'm working with a little one, depending on the age of the little one, sometimes we might explore what's happening with mom as well. Sometimes there are similarities, and actually sometimes there aren't. So it's very interesting and each case is very different, which is one of the reasons why it's always so important to work with a practitioner to dig into the specifics of your case because really everybody is different. There are some common threads, but I do not have any two clients that are on the exact same protocol.

Jen: Yeah, and you have had clients where you've told me about… We talked about I think in the last podcast that you've had clients with C Diff, like little kids with C Diff. You've had clients with all sorts of parasites, and they keep getting reinfected with the parasites over and over again because obviously as we orient ourselves in the world, babies touch everything. They put everything in their mouths, and it can become difficult from that perspective. So that's another avenue where the gut microbiome can become disturbed.

Jennifer Brand: Yeah, and I have seen in some of the little ones that I've worked with where we do see very high levels of C Diff and C Diff toxins on the stool testing. In those cases, the little one… Because the C Diff toxins and C Diff infections are often associated with antibiotic use. So that little on in particular may have been on antibiotics themselves or I've also seen it where mom was given doses of antibiotics in the hospital during labor or something of that nature and then baby ends up with those types of bugs in the gut. So that's something that I see happen as well.

Jen: So let's talk a little bit about probiotics. I think it's a really important thing to understand that probiotics can be very helpful, especially in little ones. They're usually not I would say, and you can correct me if I'm wrong because I don't work with little ones. I work with adults. But I don't think it's a full fix, but it is helpful and supportive depending on what's going on. And there's some really cool research coming out to show the benefits of appropriate supplementation of probiotics. So yeah, Jen, what are your thoughts on some of that?

Jennifer Brand: Well, okay. So probiotics can be helpful and I think that's a very good point that you bring up is that I think we need to be clear that probiotics alone are not going to resolve what's happening in the gut. Neither, for example, is something like L glutamine. So when we are addressing gut microbiome imbalances, probiotics are a piece of the puzzle. They're an important piece of the puzzle, but probiotics alone I have not seen solve the problem.

Jennifer Brand: Let's back up a tiny bit just in case we need to, but probiotics, what they are… So they're actually live microorganisms, like either bacteria or yeast, and they provide health benefits when we take them in, when we consume them. Generally by either improving what's happening in the gut or restoring balance in there, and they're really considered generally safe. However, something else that I think is really important to point out is that not all probiotics are created equal, and especially when we are talking about skin rashes. There are certain strains of probiotics, for example, that actually create histamine. If we're talking about allergic conditions, being itchy and rashes and such, one of the last things we really want to do is add histamine because histamine is what triggers some of those allergic symptoms that we have.

Jennifer Brand: So some of our probiotics can actually increase levels of histamine. Some probiotics too. So a lot of probiotics, they're bacterial strains. And I rarely use, in the population that I work with, a bacterial strain probiotic. Also, that's because I find that when we have these types of things happening on the skin, when we take a look at the gut… Again, everybody's different. But often, I see in the stool testing overgrowths of bacteria. So if we have overgrowths of certain things in there, I don't necessarily want to add more.

Jennifer Brand: So what I tend to look at are what's happening in the gut, and the types of probiotics that I typically do recommend are either spore-based, which aren't necessarily adding more bacteria. They help seed the gut so that the good stuff can grow, and then depending on the findings on a stool test, a yeast-based probiotic, which sounds weird, but it's not. People are like, “Oh my gosh. Am I going to candida or something?” No. So S Boulardii is one that I use frequently. For example, it's a non-pathogenic yeast, and it's actually can be helpful against things. Like it helps lower levels of H Pylori, Clostridia, and it can actually help improve gut immune function. So again, depending on what's happening, what I see in the test, if those are things that need to be addressed, I might recommend the S Boulardii as a probiotic.

Jen: Can I just also ask you because I am asking because I legit don't know because I don't work with little ones. In that instance, if somebody's listening to this like, “Oh, maybe I should give that try,” it does depend on stool consistency, correct? Because in adults, I don't give that to somebody if they're constipated.

Jennifer Brand: Exactly. So one of the main indications and one of the primary things that S Boulardii has been scientifically researched and found beneficial for is antibiotic-associated diarrhea. So yes. So it can help bind you up a little bit. So when I see those types of findings on the test, I should add too, and Jen, I know this is the case with you as well. But when we work with clients, we're not just doing testing and giving people protocols and supplements to take. We're doing an in depth history and review of everything we can possibly find out about the person so that we can make the best recommendations possible. So yes, absolutely, those are things that we assess. It's like, “Well, what are the bowel movements like? How often are we going? Is there any constipation?” So those are things to take into account as well.

Jen: Yeah. So as far as a spore-based probiotic would be concerned, what is something that you use in practice?

Jennifer Brand: So my go-to happens to be MegaSporeBiotic. It's something I've been taking myself for years actually too. I find that it works very well. It doesn't cause the types of things that I would be concerned about if we were using a multi-bacterial strain probiotic. So I really do like the spores. Again, they are just really helping to seed the gut and rebalance what's happening in there versus adding in that extra bacteria. And there is some research on it too actually that spore-based probiotics really have been shown to promote diversity of gut microbes, which having diversity in there is important. The spore-based probiotics can help us maintain the good ones in there. Again, something we really want to see. And then also reduce symptoms that are associated with gut hyperpermeability, which is leaky gut, and I know we're not going to get into this one today. But leaky gut and this gut hyperpermeability is an underlying issue when we have skin rashes. Spore-based probiotics work pretty broadly to help rebalance what's happening in the microbiome.

Jen: And for someone who wants to give them a try, for an adult, the recommended dosage is two capsules a day, which you slowly work up to. But I think another important thing to remember here is that children are different than adults. They are much, much, much, much smaller people depending on their size, their age, their weight. So in babies and children, what do you generally recommend as far as if somebody wanted to try MegaSpore, how would they even begin to start adding that in? Do you have any general suggestions about is it based off of weight or what have you?

Jennifer Brand: Yeah. So the gut microbiome is mature at about two years of age. So that means not in all cases, but this is specific to what I'm talking about here with MegaSpore. So at two years of age and up, you can work up to the full two capsule a day dose of the MegaSporebiotic. So less than two you can do a full capsule. And so the way that we want to introduce this because it is potent, which means that some people can have die-off symptoms when you add it too fast. So what I typically recommend is week one, and this is the same for adults and children. We want to start slow. So week one, you open the capsule, you do about a quarter of a capsule every day. Week two, you go to half a capsule every day. Week three, one capsule every day. Stop there if your kid is less than two years old. Week four, one and a half capsules. Week five, two capsules. And then you can maintain that.

Jennifer Brand: This information too, by the way, I have a guide on my website. I think we're going to provide the link to that for people. Yeah, it's my Guide to Probiotics for Skin Rashes, and then it has that in there.

Jen: Perfect.

Jennifer Brand: So it has that [inaudible 00:18:47] what I just said. Yeah, so people can look that up.

Jen: And do you also have suggestions in the booklet for people about… Because obviously, a baby's not swallowing a capsule. So about how to integrate it in because I'm not… Everybody, you're going to have to ask Jen, not me because I don't work with kids. I don't know why I have to keep repeating this, but I do. And I want to make sure that people are aware that it is very important whomever you work with, if you have young children and babies, you have to work with someone that works with that population. They are much different than adults.

Jennifer Brand: They are. Thank you for pointing that out, Jen. So true. But yeah. And one of the reasons why too I really like Mega Spore is it doesn't need the be refrigerated. It's just easy to have around, but the way you use it, you open the capsule and for little ones you can… The powder's flavorless, colorless. It's just a white powder. You can put it in a smoothie. You can sprinkle it on food. We don't want food that's too hot or too cold. So kind of like room temperature food. So you can sprinkle it on food. If your baby's nursing, you can add a pinch of it to breast milk or formula, and mom, if you're nursing, you can even put a pinch around your nipple so the baby can get it while nursing. So there are ways to get it into really little ones.

Jennifer Brand: And the other thing too that I really like about it, there's no… And I have clients that ask me about this. “Oh, do we throw the rest away?” No. You don't have to throw it away. Save the rest for your next dose. No wasting.

Jen: Aside from that, do you have any other specific types of probiotics that maybe might not be appropriate for every one but there is research that shows that it can be helpful in little ones who have eczema or at least around the topic of eczema?

Jennifer Brand: Yeah. So there really has. So when it comes to probiotics for skin rashes, most of the research has been done around eczema. So there are certain probiotics which are actually bacterial strains that have been studied for this. So for example, some Bifidobacterium strains, breve and longum in particular, studies have shown that giving those to mom during pregnancy and then giving them to mom and baby during the first 18 months of life may actually lower the incidence of eczema.

Jennifer Brand: And then another one is, it's a Lactobacillus strain, so a Rhamnosus. So some research has shown that if mom takes this during pregnancy, that can lower baby's chances of developing eczema for the first 11 years of life.

Jen: Wow.

Jennifer Brand: Yeah. And it also might protect children from developing other allergic conditions, like asthma, hay fever, and allergies. So those types of probiotics have been particularly studied for eczema.

Jennifer Brand: The interesting thing is though I have used those in some clients, and I just haven't seen as good results as I get with the spore-based probiotics, which I find really interesting.

Jen: Yeah. It is really interesting, and I've also seen other studies. I was at a conference, and the gentleman presenting was from a probiotic formulation company. And he does a lot of research around probiotics, and he was presenting very similar data that there… Especially for women who are thinking about getting pregnant or who are pregnant, that probiotic supplementation can be incredibly helpful. So it's important to realize that the whole preconception plan of like how you want to give your baby the best shot possible really does begin before you start trying, and it's important to think about not just nutrients but also probiotics in the microbiome. It's really, really important.

Jen: And I want to just touch on briefly before we wrap up, because we have a couple minutes left, about the benefits of prebiotics because we've talked about prebiotics for adults on the show. A couple of interesting points actually about this gentleman who I was talking about who was discussing probiotics who was saying that breast milk can actually pass. It has some prebiotic qualities to it, but prebiotics are important because they help foster growth in the gut microbiome. But what happens when mom becomes afraid, and there's times where we just go, “Well, maybe these veggies are bad or these veggies are bad.” And we start limiting prebiotics. So what are your thoughts on prebiotics?

Jennifer Brand: So prebiotics are an important component of a gut protocol. So again, it's these things individually do not a gut protocol make. So we have to make sure to take everything into account. So with prebiotics, I don't always supplement with prebiotics, and they're prebiotic food. So I'll talk about that too. So depending on what I see in the stool test, if somebody has low levels of good gut bugs, I will likely recommend a prebiotic. If I don't see any low levels of anything in there, I will not recommend a prebiotic.

Jennifer Brand: So prebiotics are different from probiotics. Probiotics are actually introducing those live organisms. Whereas prebiotics feed our good gut bugs. So they're fiber. So foods like Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, chickpeas, lentils, beans, grapefruit, almonds, flaxseed. So this is one of the reasons why it's important to have a well rounded diet, as well rounded as possible, and why I start to worry about folks that aren't eating prebiotic, like fibrous foods because these feed our good gut bugs.

Jennifer Brand: So what's important to understand about why we need to feed our gut bugs is that what they do is produce anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids. So short-chain fatty acids butyrate is an example of one that actually communicates with the skin microbiome. So these short-chain fatty acids also help regulate what's happening with the immune system. They lower the production of toxins from gut bugs. When we have skin rashes, we have gut hyperpermeability. It's not just food particles that get out and start, which is by the way where food sensitivities come from. So it's not just food particles that end up becoming triggers, but we're also getting toxins from gut bugs that get out into the bloodstream, trigger the immune system, and the immune system starts having these inflammatory responses.

Jennifer Brand: So these short-chain fatty acids, again, made by good bugs when we eat prebiotic fiber help reduce levels of toxins from the gut bugs. The short-chain fatty acids help suppress inflammatory immune responses, and they actually help increase levels of certain immunoglobulins in the gut, which helps strengthen the immune system. And so again, all of this is really important to consider the connections between the skin and the gut.

Jennifer Brand: So if somebody does not need supplementation, and again I base that based on what I see in the stool test. So if that's the case, then I will recommend let's just make sure that we're eating these foods in the diet. And we always want to do a food first approach too. So let's get the good stuff in through the diet. Let's help the little one expand their diet. Let's introduce them to these healthy foods, which can be tricky. Little ones are picky eaters. So that can be an issue also. But let's introduce them to these good healthy foods so that their guts have the fuel that they need so that these bugs can proliferate.

Jen: Yeah, and I'm sure too this must be a concern with, and we don't have to go in-depth on this because obviously we're getting close to the end here. If mom is thinking about potentially putting her really little one on a carnivore type diet where there is no fermentable starches in the diet at all, I don't know that we have, and I don't know what your final thoughts if you want to weigh in on that are. I don't feel like we have enough data because I do work with adults who've done carnivore to try to get results, and just for everybody listening, carnivore works for some people. It doesn't work for everyone. So I know that everyone sees all these photos on the internet now, “Oh my gosh, carnivore cleared up my skin. It did this for me.” Well, that's a small segment of the population. It doesn't work for everyone. Just like every diet has that. It works for some, doesn't work for others. And I don't think right now we currently have enough research to truly understand the pros and the cons of that approach. That's sort of where I'm setting on the fence at.

Jen: However, the carnivore stool test that I've seen have been pretty big train wrecks. I will be honest. But again, that's my clinical perspective. I'm not anti-carnivore. I don't promote any specific diet. But what are your thoughts, Jen, just on that as a final closing thought if moms considering carnivore for a little one?

Jennifer Brand: It's not something that I recommend for those reasons that you mentioned. We don't have enough research on it. It hasn't been around long enough. I do believe and I have seen that it works for some people for some conditions. For example, cancer. I've seen it work well for people that are struggling with cancer. However, when we're talking about what's happening on the skin and what's happening in the gut, a few things that lead to gut hyperpermeability. One of them in particular is high-fat diets. So if somebody's eating a heavy, fatty diet and it's hard to digest, that increases inflammation in the gut, increases gut hyperpermeability or leaky gut, which is an underlying problem with rashes. So you get rashes and rash flares.

Jennifer Brand: The other thing that concerns me about the carnivore diet when we're talking about skin is that pretty much I would say not quite 100% but probably like 95%, if not 98% of the clients that I see have issues with digestion. So don't have levels of digestive enzymes needed to break down proteins. When we are not breaking down our food appropriately, it sits in the gut. Protein can petrify. And we get excess toxins. We get overgrowths of gut bugs that are feeding on it because we're not breaking it down. So it's just a very heavy diet, and for skin rashes, I have seen it make things worse. Again, not for everybody. But I have seen that happen.

Jennifer Brand: I've also worked with people where unwilling to change the diet. Let's give it a try, and I haven't seen it work. And that includes giving digestive enzymes along with it. I think it's just really important, and this goes back to also kind of where we started in the beginning, which is we do not want to see kids on a restrictive diet. Children are growing and developing. They need nutrients from a wide range of sources, and restricting the diet so far as to only include one food group I think can be very detrimental, not just to what's happening in the gut microbiome but for growth and development as well.

Jen: Yeah, and it can also create food fear as kids grow up as well. But anyway, that's a whole other conversation for another time. But Jen, I really appreciate you coming on the show. Can you share with everybody, what is the name again of your guide?

Jennifer Brand: So my guide is called Guide to Probiotics for Skin Rashes.

Jen: Perfect, and they can get that on your website. I'm going to put the direct link in the show notes. So for anyone tuning in, you can head over there. Jennifer's website is JenniferCarynBrand.com. I will have all of her social media links and everything. So you can connect with her there. As I said, the reason I love having her on the show is because for every single request I get into my practice when it's mom or dad being like, “Hey, our little kid or a baby is having issues,” I send them directly to Jen. I don't work with that population. She specializes in this. She loves working with parents and helping them troubleshoot these issues and find solutions for their little ones so that they can all finally get some relief. She's a really amazing, brilliant nutritionist that I count as not just a colleague but also a good friend.

Jen: I thank you so much, Jen, for being here, and I hope we can have you back sometime.

Jennifer Brand: Thank you so much for having me. I love being here, and I would love to come back.

“By addressing what's happening in the gut, we can get some resolution to what's happening on the skin.” [2:01]