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Sight is probably one of the most precious gifts we have. For me, not seeing the myriad of colours and shapes and faces around me would make life so much poorer. Having watched my Mum’s frustrations at her deteriorating sight in her last few years and more recently an aunt suffering a detached retina, it has made me doubly (and then some) appreciative of my sight and I intend to do all in my power to boost my eye health for as long as I walk this planet!!

It’s far too common a belief that after a certain age we can expect to wear glasses and that the odds are stacked against us for getting cataracts or macular degeneration somewhere in old or not so old age. How depressing?!

The plain fact is that we can have a huge amount of control over the health of our eyes, if we so choose. Exercise, diet and lifestyle all play a big part.

Eye exercises and pinhole glasses

The old adage “If you don’t use it, you lose it” or rather “if you don’t use it properly, you lose it” applies just as much to the eyes as it does to anywhere else in our body.

The eye comprises six muscles and it has been shown that by specifically exercising the eyes, sight can be improved. The Bates Method is the most well-known. There are lots of YouTube videos showing simple exercises.

Pinhole Glasses look crazy but are a very effective means of reading without resorting to conventional glasses, and help strengthen your eyes too. I’m a great believer that as soon as we succumb to wearing normal glasses, our eyes weaken and thus we become dependent on glasses more and more. I’m determined to put off the evil moment for as long as possible, though I do confess to having used normal glasses for threading my sewing machine needle last week!!

What can we eat to boost our eye health?

“You are what you eat” means that your cells are what you eat, and this includes your eye cells.

Eating a healthy alkaline diet, with plenty of water, fruit and vegetables is a good foundation, but certain nutrients have a specific affinity for eyes and it’s some of these I shall mention here.

Don’t forget that the eye cells can see, so looking at a green leafy salad only gets up their hopes and they’ll be SO disappointed if you don’t eat it after all. Ha Ha 🙂 🙂

Antioxidants are an essential part of any diet as they help to keep free radical damage under control, be it from UV rays, pollution or internally generated activity. Nature has antioxidants in abundance and in fact derives her colours from them. Two such classes of pigments are carotenoids and flavonoids.

The retina of the eye selectively accumulates just two carotenoids – lutein and zeaxanthin (yellow pigments) – and their concentration is so high in the macula (the area of the retina responsible for fine details) that they appear as a dark yellow spot. The macula lutea literally means “yellow spot”. Together with certain flavonoids, these pack a powerful antioxidant punch in the prevention of AMRD (Age Related Macular Degeneration) and cataracts.

Best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are dark green vegetables, particularly kale (raw and cooked) and cooked spinach. One or both can also be found in bell peppers, saffron, wolfberries, corn, yellow carrots, egg yolks, pumpkins, and marigolds (calendula).

Foods rich in anthocyanins (flavonoids which gives berries their beautiful shades of red, purple and blue) include bilberries, blackcurrants, pycnogenol (pine bark) and grape seed extract, and these are often seen in eye-health supplements. They are potent antioxidants which amongst other things strengthen capillaries which serve the eye. Bilberries have long enjoyed a positive association with eye health. World War II RAF pilots were reputed to consume bilberry jam sandwiches to sharpen vision for night missions!

Over the last few years, astaxanthin (a carotenoid giving foods such as salmon its pink colour) has grown in popularity due to its incredibly potent antioxidant activity, which far exceeds that of its fellow carotenoids, not to mention Vitamins C and E. If you are looking for a good eye supplement, it is well worth including this one, although by no means ignore good old Vitamins C and E, and the other antioxidants.

No list about eyes would be complete without mentioning Essential Fatty Acids. The eyes are rich in Omega 3, in particular DHA, so it’s vital to include Omega 3 in your diet. Great sources include oily fish, fish oils, linseeds, and hemp and chia seeds.

When we have any concern (eyes or other), it’s easy to concentrate our efforts on consuming just those, and especially buying supplements containing them. Nature packages things together so it’s better to eat the whole foods where possible. Often it is the combination of nutrients in a food working synergistically that bestows the greatest benefits.

An organic, wholefood diet including lots of fruit and vegetables rich in all the colours of the rainbow, but in particular dark greens, purples and blues, will give your eyes the best chance of staying healthy, whatever your age.

Food-state supplements (i.e. those derived from food) are a good way of boosting what your eye cells need, but should be used to enhance an already healthy diet (not used instead of!). I would recommend a wide spectrum of antioxidants, as each has its own speciality!

Our toxic environment and the Liver – Eye connection

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a strong link between the liver and the eyes. If the liver is stressed, the eyes are likely to suffer too. It is therefore worth also considering the health of your liver.

The liver is our big detox plant and when overwhelmed with toxins, can become sluggish and under-perform.

Toxins and Lifestyle choices which can affect the liver include (amongst others)

  • Toxins in air, water and food, beauty / cleaning products
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Over-consumption of alcohol
  • Smoking

It is worth addressing all the above, and over time doing a liver detox (please see a nutritionist to help you do this safely and effectively). A nice supplement to support liver health is Milk Thistle, and is worth adding into a programme for eye health.

Sadly, even with medical breakthroughs, a lot of eye conditions are not reversible, so it pays to take care of your eyes NOW. Many doctors still don’t join the dots between health (eye or other) and food. I witnessed this for myself when I saw my aunt’s paltry fare whilst recovering in one of the top eye hospitals in the country!! It’s therefore down to YOU to invest in some solid preventative measures!!

Please note that this post is for information purposes only and is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care.

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