They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. While that may be a matter of personal belief, one thing is certain; your eyes are a good indicator of your health and nutritional state.
Your sight is one of the most dominant senses you possess, requiring the largest amount of sensory receptors. As we age, our eyes can start to deteriorate due to a combination of negative external and internal conditions, including harsh sunlight, UV reflection, nutritional deficiencies and even chronic diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis. Some degenerative eye conditions such as macular eye degeneration and cataracts are directly associated with ageing, and nutrient deficiencies play a large part in the process. A lack of some nutrients may contribute to glare sensitivity, poor day and night vision, near sightedness, irritation and redness, and a susceptibility to mild infections like conjunctivitis.
The most common degenerative eye conditions are…
Cataracts: Imagine looking through glasses smeared with oil. White cloudy spots, called cataracts, sit on the normally transparent lens of the eye and cause a range of disruptive symptoms. Blurred vision, light sensitivity, faded or yellowed irises, poor night vision and seeing halos around lights are all symptoms of cataracts, the leading cause of blindness around the world.
Macular degeneration: Macular degeneration is like having a blurry dot right in the centre of your vision while peripherals remain unaffected. The macula is the area of the retina where images are focused. Macular degeneration is split into two categories, dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is the most common type and occurs when retinal cellular debris is gradually accumulated, leading to a gradual loss of vision from the centre outward. Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels leak fluid that damages the macula.
The good news is there are a number of herbs, vitamins and minerals that can help protect and nurture your eyes.
- Bilberry is a key herb for the eyes and has long been recognised as a visual tonic. Bilberry jam was used by WW2 fighter pilots to enhance their night vision, a notion that has since been confirmed in clinical studies. Important components of Bilberry, known as anthocyanidins, help to protect against the collagen destruction that occurs in conjunction with cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
- Antioxidants are important for protecting the eye structures from free radical damage and collagen destruction. Helpful antioxidants include zeaxanthin, lutein, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, and bilberry. The bioflavonoids and carotenoids found in a diet of fresh, colourful vegetables and fruits are also incredibly beneficial. Some of the most protective foods include broccoli, corn, kale, spinach, and tomato sauce!
- Ginkgo heteroside flavoglycosides not only possess excellent antioxidants, they can also increase blood flow to the retina, improving vision.
- Eyebright soothes the conjunctiva of the eye that is responsible for irritation and redness.
Zeaxanthin and Lutein (extracted from Marigold flowers) improve visual function, preventing ocular diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Vitamin A and betacarotene have an affinity for mucous membranes. This increases healing and helps the formation of visual purple in the retina, which is essential for good night vision. Deficiency can cause drying and tiring of the eyes and sensitivity to variations in light.
- Chromium plays a role in the prevention and reversal of nearsightedness.
- Vitamin C has been linked to a substantially reduced risk of cataracts and is vital for protecting the lens against damage. The NZ recommended dietary intake for vitamin C is 45mg for adults between 19-70 years old. However, this is only the minimal amount needed to stave off deficiency. To get enough vitamin C into the lens of the eye, it is important to have more than the survival amounts of vitamin C in the blood.
- Zinc has been proven to be extremely beneficial to people suffering from macular degeneration.
- Copper is a necessary accompaniment for zinc to ensure optimum absorption.
- use good quality UV protective sunglasses
- get regular eye check-ups
- get your blood pressure checked regularly
- replace eye make-up and applicators frequently
- avoid smoking
- avoid excessive sugar and refined carbohydrates
- eat an abundance of colourful fruit and vegetables daily
- take supplementary herbal, vitamin and mineral supplements to naturally support and even optimise the condition of your eyes.