Protecting your eyes – naturally

Posted on: 8th November, 2016

Category: Health

Contributor: Hannah Dare

Shakespeare is known for saying our eyes are the windows to our soul. I was squinting recently to watch an escaped helium balloon disappear into the blue sky when it struck me just how precious my vision is. It’s a cliché but our vision is one of the things we can easily take for granted until it starts to desert us, and at the same time it is something that many of us simply assume will degenerate, as we get older. But if you do some reading you realise that much of what happens to our eye health is under our control, despite what we have been led to believe.

When I was first prescribed glasses, I was told to wear them as little as possible. My optician was also very reluctant to give in to my pleas for contact lenses, only prescribing them when I promised to wear them for only the occasional wedding or festival, when I wanted more freedom. He explained that, where I might take off my glasses and give my eyes a break, with contacts this wasn’t possible and my eye muscles would weaken through lack of use if I wore contacts constantly. I think this is pretty sound advice, and now 20-plus years on my vision has actually improved slightly (my prescription has decreased). While researching this article I have been reminded of another eye specialist from the 1860s called Dr Bates who routinely smashed his patient’s eyeglasses and instead taught various exercises to strengthen eye muscles, which he claimed would make glasses unnecessary. His methods made him hugely unpopular – perhaps because he challenged a large industry – but his methods are still being practiced today and while I’m not advising you throw away your driving glasses it certainly seems to makes sense to try some exercises out – especially if it costs nothing and causes no harm.

In an era when we spend hours with our eyes glued to screens small and large it also makes sense to think about the effect of this effort on the eyes. Apparently, blue light, which is emitted by smartphones and tablets, can be particularly damaging to our eyes.

What I concluded is that keeping our eyes in pristine working order, as we get older, is more about a comprehensive strategy than simply honing in on one nutrient or habit. Ultimately, a multi-faceted approach will protect our eyes on multiple levels, as well as being beneficial to our overall health. Here’s a few tips I have noticed coming up over and over again as I read about eye health:

When we think of vision we generally associate it with vitamin A or beta carotene (carrots rabbits etc) however optimising vitamin D levels seems to have more benefits to offer than eating lots of carrots. Vitamin D has been shown to help reduce the pace of AMD – Age Related Macular Degeneration – by researchers Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London. They concluded that ‘These changes were reflected in a significant improvement in visual function, revealing that vitamin D3 is a route to avoiding the pace of age-related visual decline.’ Separate research has also implicated vitamin D deficiency in the development of macular degeneration, with the people with higher levels of vitamin D being far less likely to develop AMD than people with low levels.

Vitamin D from sun exposure is the BEST way to optimise our vitamin D levels, but of course this means being outside without sunglasses or too many clothes on; which is not always possible in Ireland! When sun exposure is not an option, vitamin D3 supplement can be taken orally (there are lots of good reasons to take vitamin D all year round in Ireland anyway). I find DLux Vitamin D Spray 3000iu is a good option as it’s very easy to take and a highly absorbable form.

From a dietary perspective, eating a colourful diet is supportive of eye health because foods with strong colours contain nutrients that are beneficial to your eyes. This time of year you can start with plenty of fresh dark green leafy vegetables, especially kale. Then you want to look for anything yellow, orange and red – according to Dr Mercola, people with the highest consumption of carotenoid-rich vegetables, especially ones rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, had increased vision health. Lutein is one of the carotenoids, yellow and orange pigments, found in many fruits and vegetables including mangoes, corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes and dark, leafy greens such as kale and the leafy tops of beetroots. Egg yolks contain both Lutein and zeaxanthin and you can get zeaxanthin in orange bell peppers, oranges, corn and honeydew melon. When you start reading about these nutrients you find that a bit like vitamin D they have a lot of health-giving benefits – lutein is beneficial for heart health and both as associated with brain health.

In terms of supplements, if you are at all concerned about your eye health, I would recommend taking the supplement MacuShield. MacuShield contains a mixture of the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin – the final ingredient being the most interesting, as it is hard to get through a normal diet.

A recent trial of this regime was carried out by sceptic Dr Michael Mosley, from BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor. After taking the supplement for 12 weeks, Dr Mosley had a number of eye tests that showed marked improvements in his vision:

“I…was the star of the show…After 12 weeks of taking the supplements, not only were there markedly increased levels of pigment in my eyes – which they measured by shining beams in my eyes to see how well the blue light was absorbed – I but I also performed better on almost all the eye tests.

“What they found was that my ability to see in twilight scenarios was greatly enhanced – some of my rods (the cells your eye uses when light is low) were functioning as well as a 20-year-old. And my colour vision had also shown an immediate improvement. My vision had basically improved across the board.”

Furthermore, he states “It’s also possible that by boosting my macular pigments in this way I will reduce the risk that I will develop macular degeneration, as people with this condition are also thought to have low levels of these pigments in their eyes”. A ringing endorsement from a GP notorious for being sceptical of the logic behind taking supplements.

And lastly – read a book! We stock a really good book on the Bates Method by Jonathan Barnes. One of the most famous Bates Method techniques is palming. Look around and notice the level of clarity of your vision at present. Then, simply place the centre of your palms over your eyes. Relax your shoulders. You may want to lean forward onto a table or a stack of pillows, to facilitate relaxation. Relax like this for at least two minutes. Then remove your hands, open your eyes, and notice whether anything looks clearer. Usually, it will.

If you have any questions about this subject or any other call in and have a chat in Organico or drop me an email on organicobantry@gmail.com. And if you are interested in our Ayurvedic Cookery Demo with Sarika Hule it’s on Saturday, November 5 in Organico Cafe. Call us on 027 55905 to see if there are still any spaces available!

Latest News Articles:

Fundraising underway for new playground in Innishannon
Enibas commemorative pendant for Colin Vearncombe to raise funds for Brú Columbanus
Dunmanway tackles food waste
Doors open in newly revamped Schull Community College
West Cork aid worker forced to wade through snake-infested swamps to help support civilians fleeing war
New community building in Ballydehob nearing completion
Castletownbere Fisherman’s Co-op wins overall ‘Green Business of the Year’ award
Trinity exhibition honours West Cork botanist
3,000 people to attend events throughout Local Enterprise Week
€1m in funding sought for a new Air Ambulance

Join us on Facebook

WHALE WATCHING AT THE OLD HEAD OF KINSALE
Have you ever wondered how you can see whales and dolphins from the headlands? This is your opportunity to learn. Cork Nature Network are delighted to be able to offer an exciting event at the Old Head of Kinsale. All levels welcome. The event will be guided by Emer Keaveney, who will explain what to look for and which species can be seen from land. The event will include an optional tour of the lighthouse which costs €10 payable on the day. Those not wishing to avail of the tour can attend the whale watching event at no cost.
To book a place contact events@corknaturenetwork.ie
... See MoreSee Less

22nd May, 2017  ·  

Excellent speakers are lined up for the Dyslexia Assoc of Ireland's Information evening in Inchydoney on June 1st from 7pm. See poster for more.... ... See MoreSee Less

19th May, 2017  ·  

Visit Cork ARC's West Cork centre on Thursday 25th May between 10am and 2pm for a special Open House and Coffee Morning in aid of the Cork's 96FM Radiothon.

This special day will give supporters and sponsors an opportunity to visit the West Cork centre, explore the therapy rooms and drop in areas and meet members of the team who together make real difference to the lives of those affected by cancer.

Please call in for a friendly cuppa and some delicious home baking. The house is located quite near the Bantry Bay Golf Club & there will be plenty of parking and an open door for all.
... See MoreSee Less

19th May, 2017  ·  

Jump to:

Top