For sufferers of eczema, the winter can be an especially uncomfortable time. The dry, overheated indoors and the harsh, cold outdoors can aggravate symptoms.

Eczema, which is also called atopic dermatitis, is a condition that causes dry, thickened, itchy patches on the skin.

Research points to it originating in the immune system. In those with eczema, specialized white blood cells, known as mast cells, release high levels of histamine, which is an allergic compound that causes inflammation and itching.

Current research points to food allergens as one of the key underlying causes in eczema. This is supported by increased levels of serum IgE – an allergic antibody – in many sufferers, as well as the improvement of symptoms that tends to follow the elimination of allergenic foods.

If you are experiencing eczema that may be caused by food allergies, the best treatment is prevention. Because what we eat can linger in our system and take as long as 10 days to have an effect, it can be challenging to identify the culprit. Eliminating the most common allergens is a great place to start: milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, and – to a lesser extent – citrus and chocolate.

Eliminate suspected foods from your diet for a period of at least 10 days or until symptoms go away to clear them from your system. If your symptoms subside after the elimination, it is time to begin reintroducing them in a gradual manner to determine which one is the culprit. Add foods one at a time into your diet, waiting 10 days in between each food introduction to account for any possible effects.

If infants who are breast feeding are experiencing eczema flare ups, the origin may be a food that the mom is eating. A similar elimination protocol could be employed to identify the root cause.

An overgrowth of the common yeast Candida albicans in the gut may also be responsible for eczema. While Candida albicans exists without harm in the gut, in certain conditions it can begin to proliferate and cause systemic problems. Lifestyle and dietary factors such as antibiotic use and a high consumption of processed and sugary foods can contribute to a C. albicans overgrowth. To control C. albicans that may be underlying eczema, eliminate sugars and processed carbohydrates from your diet, take probiotics regularly, and eat plenty of greens, low-carb protein sources, non-starchy vegetables, and garlic. For significant gut imbalances, a more comprehensive C. albicans protocol may be helpful.

Zinc and omega-3 fatty acids can help to soothe symptoms and provide relief for eczema sufferers. Cold water fatty fish, ground flax, and chia seeds can all help to increase levels of omega-3 fatty acids through the diet. Supplementing with fish oils or vegetarian options of DHA, also known as docosahexaenoic acid one of the key omega 3 essential fats, can help offer greater benefits given the concentration and quality of the oil.

Zinc, in addition to helping the body synthesize DHA from chia and flax seeds, also helps to boost the immune system.

As eczema is connected with high levels of histamine, employing natural helpers that reduce histamine could offer additional relief. Vitamin C in therapeutic doses, quercetin and licorice root can all help to soothe allergic reactions.

If you are feeling that winter is bad enough without the additional discomfort of eczema, try any combination of these approaches to help find relief.