By Marcey Klein BS, CNC
Our eyes are so crucial and important, usually working overtime to meet our needs, yet, we abuse and neglect them all too often. They need to be exercised, nourished, and loved for all the work they do for us.
Our eyes need to be exercised, just like the rest of the body, for strength and to enhance peripheral vision. I have recently started doing eye exercises every day and have noticed benefits. With your eyes open, do three sets of figure eights in one direction, switch directions, then continue with similar reps of zig zags, up and downs, and left to rights. I find that this really helps relieve eye strain and resulting headaches. Another great exercise is to focus on something nearby, then look at something in the distance, and keep focusing on things further and further away.
Nutrition is also incredibly important for eye health. Vitamin A plays an important part in the health of our rods, which oversee nighttime vision. Therefore, it’s important to eat carotenoids, which the body converts to vitamin A. Foods rich in carotenoids are saturated with pigments like red, orange, yellow, and green, making them pretty and vibrant: Cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, squash, dark leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, apricots, and pumpkin. When we cook the vegetables, and put oil on them, absorption is increased because beta carotene is fat soluble.
Vitamin C is also a crucial antioxidant for eye health and for preventing cataracts. I like to take 1000 mg per day with bioflavonoids (which increases absorption) as a health insurance policy, since vitamin C is also important in cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and skin health. Raspberries, citrus fruits, red peppers, broccoli, strawberries, grapefruit, and kale are rich in vitamin C.
Hydration is also super important for eye health, helping to keep our tears nice and fluid. Tears are necessary for lubrication, keeping vision clear, and washing away debris, all of which help decrease the development of eye infection. We need to drink eight 8oz glasses a day, or half our weight in ounces a day. I drink a nice big glass of water upon waking, then keep a water bottle with me at all times, which I refill with purified water (no tap water please!). The more water you drink, the more you will want to drink; your body knows what it needs. If you want to make your water taste delicious so you will drink more, just throw in a tea bag to give it a slightly sweet or fruity flavor.
Good oils are important for our eyes, especially DHA omega-3 from cold water fatty fish. Our eyes utilize DHA because it is a major structural and functional fat in eye health. You can receive enough of this fat from eating three sardines a day, by eating fatty fish like salmon, cod, mackerel, and herring, or by taking a 1000 mg supplement a day. I also take a tablespoon of flax oil daily, some coconut oil, and vitamin E. In my book, the more oils we have the better. Cell membranes are made up of fats, hormones need fat to be created and maintained, we need fats to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and our brain is comprised of fat – we just need fat!
Antioxidants in general help keep the fragile components in the eye running properly and keep blood sugars in the normal range – excess sugars in the blood can cause damage to those fragile capillaries in the eyes. Watch your intake of refined sugars from sodas, pastries, alcohol, and desserts. You also want to keep free radicals in check. Smoking is the worst offender, but overuse of acetaminophen can decrease the most potent antioxidant, glutathione, which can leave the eyes susceptible.
Healthy eating and supplementing brings many benefits: Take care of your body, and your body will take care of you. Please come into New Leaf if you have any questions or would like to check out supplements and foods to support your eyes. Thank you and be well!