Eye Health: Keep Your Precious Eyes Protected and Nourished

May 26, 2017 | Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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Eye Health: Keep Your Precious Eyes Protected and Nourished
Our eyes are an amazing sensory organ that provide visual information of color, detail, depth, perception, and vibrancy. They even provide the “twinkle in the eye” and express emotions that words sometimes cannot convey. The eyes are an instrument that enable us to view the world and provide information to the brain. The eye-brain connection ultimately allows us the ability to interpret the visual pictures we see every day.

We often take our most basic senses for granted until something happens. Blurry vision, trouble seeing at night, loss of acuity for close or far away objects, central or peripheral vision changes, tearing or wet eyes, dry eyes, blood shot, gritty, red inflamed eyes all reflect changes in eye health. These are warning signs that tell us our eyes are in trouble and need assistance.

Vision and Aging

Strong evidence shows us that oxidative stress, or wear and tear is the root cause of vision changes and breakdown. Eye health in infancy and early childhood, when the eyes are maturing, and throughout adult life, requires adequate antioxidants, protection, and support. Loss of vision is one of the most feared concerns, especially in older adults, because it dramatically changes life quality and independence. Cumulative wear and tear may result in prescription eye glass changes, reading glasses, cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinal tears, vascular changes and even blindness.

Inadequate dietary and nutritional support, mitochondrial disorders, methylation defects, blood sugar stress, adverse effects from medications, blue light/white light LED exposure, UV radiation/sunlight, genetic conditions, and other concerns increase eye stress.

The most important eye nutrients are carotenes, lutein, bilberry, zinc, vitamins A, C, and E, B vitamins, astaxanthin, and omega-3 fish oils DHA/EPA. Additional support may be needed for nerves, blood vessels, eye lubrication, neurotransmitter formation and healthy development of eyes.

Several articles on our website focus on age-related eye health concerns.

Near Sightedness Related To Oxidative Stress and Low Dopamine in the Eye

Macular Degeneration: Chronic Inflammation, Blue Light, Mitochondria, and Blood Sugar

Glaucoma: Protecting Against a Silent Devastating Disorder

Vitamin C and Lipoic Acid Protect Eyes

Lack of Zeaxanthin Linked to Poor Eye Sight in Aging

DHA May Help Prevent Macular Degeneration

Vitamin C Protects Against Cataracts

DHA Reduces the Risk for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Lutein and Zeaxanthin Offset Gene Weaknesses that Cause Macular Degeneration

Lutein and DHA for Preservation of Your Eyesight

Astaxanthin Helps Protect Eyesight

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes are a very common complaint seen with eye stress. Our eyes require a healthy layer of moisture to protect their surface. Ducts and glands within the eyelids produce a blend of oil, water, and mucous to the outside surface of the eye. Blinking moves this complex mixture around in the eye to maintain proper moisture. Tears and eye lubrication help remove debris, keep the surface of the eye clean, reduce infection, and provide critical protection to the outer surface of the eye.

The inside of the eye also requires different fluid types. Those who struggle with dry eyes may not be able to produce enough of the tear mixture, or there may be an imbalance of the oil, water, and mucous. Autoimmune disorders like lupus, rosacea, scleroderma, and thyroid problems, eyelid inflammation from allergies or chemicals, LASIK surgery, antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, computer work, dry and windy climates, inadequate hydration and even the lack of vitamin A can increase the risk and presence of dry eyes.

Sometimes simple steps are all that is needed to help minor dry eye concerns. Adequate hydration and following the 20-20-20 rule when dealing with eye strain, computer work, and lack of blinking can help common concerns. The 20-20-20 rule is: every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.

For those who want to optimize natural eye moisture and tear production, extra lubricant support may be helpful. Omega-3 oils, DHA and EPA, n-acetyl-d-glucosamine (NAGS), coenzyme Q10, and the natural carbohydrate-fiber arabinogalactan provide the building blocks necessary for eye lubrication. A minimum of 1-2 grams per day of DHA/EPA may be needed for mild concerns; higher doses may be needed for difficult concerns.

It is also vital to address why the eyes lack adequate tear production. If there is underlying irritation and inflammation, ensure adequate dietary intake of richly colored fruits and vegetables, lutein, zeathanin, astaxanthin, bilberry, carotenes, vitamin A, Bs, C, and E for antioxidant protection.

Eye Stress

Our eyes face many different types of stress which can lead to faster aging and degeneration of the eyes. Today, more than ever, LED technology with toxic blue light 2 and even white LED light places a significant strain on the retina and the epithelial cells, the fine layer of skin cells that protect the retina. Similar concerns may occur with UV radiation. The retina and epithelial cells need antioxidants to buffer against light, especially blue light. Science has shown that lutein, zeaxanthin, and resveratrol help protect and buffer the retina and epithelial cells from the oxidative stress of light.

In addition, special forms of lipids like phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine provide a special negatively charged barrier that protects the retina from free radical stress. Low-fat, no-fat diets, and diets lacking these specific fats common in western culture can lead to an increased need for these nutrients in supplemental form.

Vascular challenges with high blood pressure, diabetes, high homocysteine and methylation defects, atherosclerosis and elevated cholesterol, and smoking cause significant eye stress due to the changes in capillary blood flow. Improving the underlying cause is essential to help eye health.

Mitochondria damage due to genetics or acquired by aging, inflammation, and stress have been linked with vision changes. Damage to mitochondria in the eye has been found with diabetic eye changes, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, optic nerve, retina, and eye muscle disorders.

Many of the nutrients provide multiple areas of support within the eye and throughout the body by protecting healthy blood flow, blood vessels, and mitochondria. Key nutrients for eye stress may include omega-3 oils DHA/EPA, choline, lutein, coenzyme B vitamins, magnesium, coenzyme Q10, astaxanthin, r-alpha lipoic acid and plant-based antioxidants.

Childhood Eyesight

Prenatal, infancy and early childhood health are critical times for eye growth and development, lens maturity, eye muscle training, and vision acuity.1 A challenge in any one of these areas can set a child up for a lifetime need of glasses or contacts, learning disabilities, coordination problems, headaches, lowered productivity, and even early degenerative eye changes.

Eye focus occurs in infancy by 12-18 months of age. This process requires several key factors like dopamine and a healthy balance in nitric oxide and nitric oxide synthase (NOS). These compounds regulate eye growth, help the eye muscles, blood vessels, and nerve activity within the eye. Choline is essential to help regulate NOS levels within the eye. Production of the neurotransmitter dopamine requires tyrosine, zinc, iron, and copper, vitamins B3, B6 and C. Pantethine helps protect nerves that contain dopamine.

DHA and the red-orange antioxidants are critical for children’s visual learning and eye health. Trouble with dyslexia, learning, reading, and interpretation of information may result from inadequate omega-3 fish oil DHA. Adequate DHA during pregnancy and infancy is essential to optimize the brain and retina growth and maturation and neurotransmitter pathways. Indeed, researchers have found those who struggle the most with dyslexia often have some of the lowest amounts of omega-3 DHA in their tissues.

Children who are picky eaters, have undiagnosed gluten intolerance/Celiac disease, had inadequate prenatal nutrition, are athletes, or simply don’t consume a wide variety of foods may lack these nutrients. This can make them more susceptible to eye strain, oxidative stress, vision changes, nearsightedness, and even more serious eye disorders.

If your mother told you to eat your carrots to help your eyes, she was right. In addition to the nutrients needed for dopamine production and healthy NOS, eyes require several different red-orange antioxidants and other deeply pigmented foods like dark green leafy vegetables, even in young children. Carotenes, lutein, bilberry, grape seed extract, astaxanthin and vitamin A help supply the needed daily antioxidant support.

Blood Sugar, Nerves & Eye Health

Blood sugar dysfunction and diabetes (all types) place considerable strain on the delicate blood vessels and nerves within the eyes. Decades of insulin surges and high blood sugar levels render chronic wear and tear with advanced glycation end (AGEs) products. This causes capillaries and nerves to stiffen or harden from inflammation which leads to breakdown in eye health like macular degeneration. Even low blood sugar is a cause for concern with eye health.

The retina is one of the most metabolically active tissues in the body and requires steady balanced blood sugar to function. Eye floaters and blurry vision are common effects of low blood sugar and retinal stress. Prevention of the wear and tear is of utmost importance. Management occurs in the form of improving blood sugar function and protecting the eye with antioxidants to withstand the increased stress.

Nerve stress and injury within the eye is a significant consequence of blood sugar dysregulation. In this setting, we want to take a dual approach to protect nerves and blood vessels simultaneously from advanced glycation end products that occur with high blood sugars. Carnosine and r-alpha lipoic acid are two nutrients among many that provide support for blood sugar and nerve stress.

Carnosine is a di-peptide made from the amino acids beta-alanine and l-histidine largely found in the nerves, brain, muscles, skin, and heart. It helps support the recovery function and clean-up process when proteins are damaged or made stiff from advanced glycation end products/AGEs and high blood sugar stress.

R-alpha lipoic acid, in particular Na-RALA, is an advanced form of lipoic acid. Lipoic acid is a well-studied antioxidant known for its nerve and blood sugar support. It plays a powerful role in blood sugar, nerve health and mitochondrial function. Lipoic acid has been shown to quench retinal damage from high blood sugar.

Acetyl-l-carnitine and coenzyme Q10 may be added to help protect eyes from blood sugar damage. Research shows that the amino acid, l-carnitine helps the retinal artery and retina when challenged by blood sugar, poor blood flow, and nerve stress when due to underlying poor health. Acetyl-l-carnitine, the active form of l-carnitine, is also essential for healthy mitochondrial function and antioxidant to numerous tissues, especially the brain.

Coenzyme Q10, especially the reduced form, coenzyme Q10 ubiquinol provides support for blood sugar, nerves, antioxidant, and mitochondria within the eye. It provides synergistic support with carnosine, r-alpha lipoic acid, and acetyl-l-carnitine. Just like when baking a cake, several ingredients are necessary to make the final product, so too does the eye need several nutrients for protection and support.

Other Eye Health Challenges

Our eyes face many daily challenges. Several of them have been addressed earlier in this article. There are, however, some additional challenges that needs to be mentioned. Here are some previous health articles that discuss more common challenges to the eyes that may be identified in your health history or medication usage.

Thyroid Problems Increase the Risk for Glaucoma

Mitochondria – Drugs that Injury and What Mitochondria Injury Looks Like

Statins Increase Risk of Cataracts

Statins Damage Liver, Kidneys, Eyes, & Muscles

Daily Aspirin Doubles the Risk for Blindness

Statins Injure Eye Muscles

No matter what your age, your eyes are invaluable. Modern ocular medicine can indeed provide miraculous interventions with LASIK surgery, cataract removal, lens and cornea transplants, but entire eye replacement surgery doesn’t exist. It is abundantly clear that our eyes rely on adequate nutrition from the initial stages of conception and development to when we are 105.

Nerves, retina tissue, the macula, cornea, lens, eye fluids, and blood vessels all require many types of nutrients. Underlying disorders with circulation and blood sugar significantly stress eyes. Mitochondrial injury and several medications can adversely affect eye health. If you have struggled with poor blood sugar control for decades or just in the last couple of years, it is important to take daily steps now to keep your eyes healthy.

Doing something to help support eye health and any underlying systemic concern that affects the eye is better than just waiting for the inevitable “Murphy’s Law” to occur. If your diet is lacking in cold-water fatty fish oils and richly colored fruits and vegetables, then you have some work to do. The best basic supportive nutrients include carotenes, lutein, bilberry, zinc, vitamins A, C, and E, B vitamins, astaxanthin, and omega-3 fish oils DHA/EPA.

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