Recent research shows that giving newborns a combination of probiotics and prebiotics—types of healthy bacteria and fiber—can reduce the incidence of childhood atopic eczema by 34 percent (Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2007, vol. 119, no. 1). In the Finnish study, 1,223 pregnant women took probiotic-prebiotic supplements or a placebo for two to four weeks prior to delivery and then continued supplementation to their newborns. The babies given probiotics-prebiotics showed significantly higher levels of "friendly" bifidobacteria and fewer instances of eczema. Why? Healthy gut flora stimulate immune cells in the digestive tract to become more active in regulating immunity and suppressing allergies—including the scaly symptoms of eczema, some researchers contend.

—Melaina Juntti