Dietary Supplements for Atopic Dermatitis

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Reviewed June 2022 | Last updated: October 2023

Dietary supplements are ingestible products that contain ingredients that are intended to add nutritional value to the diet. Dietary supplements may be one or a combination of vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, metabolite, extract, or a substance to increase the total dietary intake. They come in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, liquids, or powders.1

How are diet and eczema related?

The relationship between diet and atopic dermatitis (AD) has been the subject of research for many years, in part because of the increased risk of food allergies among people with AD, especially children. Several studies have evaluated the potential benefits of various dietary supplements on people with AD, including probiotics, evening primrose oil, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and others.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics, also called “good bacteria,” are defined as live microorganisms similar to the beneficial bacteria found in the human gut. Probiotics are believed to help restore the gut environment in delivering beneficial bacteria into the gut and may influence the immune response.3,4

Probiotics for eczema

Research studies on the use of probiotics in people with AD have found limited evidence to support their use. A variety of probiotic strains have been studied, and the effect of probiotics on AD is small and does not seem to impact the severity or frequency of AD. The American Academy of Dermatology does not recommend the use of probiotics as a treatment for AD.4

What is evening primrose oil?

Evening primrose is a plant with yellow flowers that bloom in the evening. The oil from the plant contains fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).

Evening primrose oil for eczema

Some research on the use of evening primrose oil on AD has found that the supplement may benefit people who do not use high potency corticosteroids. Evening primrose oil reduces the symptoms of itching, crusting, inflammation, and redness after use for 4-8 weeks. However, the improvement is reduced in those who use potent steroids. However, other research trials have shown mixed results or no benefit to the use of evening primrose oil. One study found that high doses of evening primrose oil improve symptoms of AD, while low doses provide less benefit. More studies are needed to determine whether evening primrose oil may be a beneficial adjunct to treatment for some people with AD.3-6

What is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)?

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that play a role in several body functions, including muscle activity, blood clotting, digestion, and cell division and growth. DHA is naturally found in seafood and shellfish, and DHA is available in fish oil supplements.3

DHA for eczema

Research trials have found that DHA may provide a benefit in decreasing the severity of AD, however larger trials are needed to support the use of DHA fully and to understand how it works.7,8

What are vitamins and minerals?

Vitamins and minerals are essential substances needed by the body to function properly and develop normally. It is generally recommended that people aim to obtain the needed vitamins and minerals through healthy eating that includes a variety of foods, but supplements are available and may be used to support nutrition.3

Vitamins and minerals for eczema

Several studies have looked at the effect of various vitamins and minerals on AD, but there is not enough data to merit any recommendation. Promising results have been suggested in vitamin D and vitamin E supplementation, as well as a topical B12 cream, however, additional research is needed.4,6

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