Eye Health

In this era of ever-more screen use, it is more important than ever to look after our eyes, especially as we age.

How eye sight works

Light passes through the cornea at the front of the eye, through the pupil (the space at the centre of the coloured iris), through the lens and hits the retina at the back of the eye. A message is then sent through the optic nerve to the brain to tell the brain what it is looking at. The lens is suspended and held in position by zonules, which are small fibres that pull on the ciliary muscles. When we focus on something, the ciliary muscles contract and pull on the zonules, which then pull on the edges of the lens and change its shape.

How eyesight changes throughout life

At birth, the lenses are clear and flexible, the ciliary muscles are strong and can easily change the shape of the lens, so eyesight is good.

After 40, there is a loss of elasticity in the lens, ciliary muscles weaken and changes in the zonules make them to looser, meaning we can’t focus on close objects as well as we did.

After 50, there is a greater risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Cataracts occur when there is a clouding of the lens as proteins start to ‘clump’ which obscures the lens opaque, so that less and less light can pass through.

Glaucoma is associated with pressure building up in the eyes, which causes damage to the optic nerves. This causes peripheral vision loss and can lead to blindness.

Macular degeneration is a condition resulting from deterioration of the macular (centrally located area at the back of the retina), due to hereditary and environmental factors and can be exaggerated by smoking, obesity or ultraviolet light exposure.

How is your eyesight?

Try this eyesight quiz from Vision Matters. They also have a good vision simulator, so you can see if your eyes are having problems – are you developing cataracts or macular degeneration? Early identification is crucial to avoid future problems. And do an eye test with them here.

How to take care of your eyes

Obviously, regular eye tests are important, but as Vision Matters explain here, diet, exercise, alcohol, sun exposure and smoking all have a part to play too. Other risk factors include steroid use, hypothyroid, migraines, diabetes and general nutrient deficiency as well as injury and infection of the eye, of course.

Supplements for Eye Health

There are quite a few eye formulas about. Metabolics has OptimEyes and they did a good summary of the key elements in a good eye formula: (If ordering from Metabolics, enter 161026 in the Coupon Code box the first time you order and that will give you a 10% discount on all future orders – yay!)

Vitamin A
Vitamin A is vital for good vision and is a component of rhodopsin, a protein that enables the retina to absorb light. Rhodopsin is also really important for night vision. When exposed to dim light, rhodopsin helps the eye to adapt quickly ad become more sensitive to low levels of light.

Vitamin A also contributes to maintaining the health of the cornea, which is the clear, outermost layer of the eye. Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant in the eye helping to protect against harmful free radicals that can damage eye cells and tissues.
It can be found in foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which means it helps protect the eyes from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals can lead to the development of age-related eye conditions, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Vitamin C is also essential for the production of collagen, a structural protein found in the cornea, the clear, outermost layer of the eye. Collagen provides the cornea with strength, elasticity and transparency.
Vitamin C can also help strengthen the walls of the blood vessels, making them more resilient and less prone to damage.
Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits and strawberries.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are two carotenoids that play a crucial role in supporting and maintaining eye health, primarily by protecting the eyes from damage caused by harmful light and oxidative stress.
Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. It occurs when the cells in the macula break down and deteriorate. A good intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is associated with a reduced risk of developing AMD. These carotenoids protective effects on the macula may help slow the progression of AMD in individuals.
These are commonly found in dark leafy greens like spinach and kale.

Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a significant role in supporting eye health.
Zinc plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system. This is important because a strong immune system helps the body defend against eye infections and inflammation.
Zinc is also a component of various enzymes and proteins that play a role in maintaining the structural integrity of eye tissues. This includes the cornea, retina and other parts of the eye.
Zinc is included in the OptimEyes formula as a result of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS 2) study. The study concluded that supporting the supplementation of zinc along with vitamins A and C can slow Age Related Macular Degeneration.
Zinc is found in foods like oysters, red meat and poultry.

Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to have a higher antioxidant capacity than other carotenoids such as beta carotene or lutein. Antioxidants help protect against harmful free radicals that can damage cells and tissues in the eye.
Astaxanthin’s anti-inflammatory properties may also help reduce fatigue and discomfort associated with prolonged screen time or other activities that require intense visual concentration.
This is commonly found in seafood such as salmon and shrimp.

By combining a balanced diet and regular eye checks we can ensure that our eyes continue to shine brightly in years to come. Remember, healthy eyes are a lifelong investment in the beauty of the world around us.

Metabolics Blog

Biocare also do a good supplement with mixed antioxidants in it. And Nutri’s Vision Plus is another good one.

It’s the carotenoid antioxidants that are really important here. You can read more about carotenoids for eye health here.

I remember years ago in my Holland & Barrett days, my fave eye stuff included eyebright/euphrasia. You can make an eye wash with that using something like this or use drops like these from Vogel, which are great for irritated and dry eyes. You can get loads of different eye products from sprays, caps, creams etc from ND here.

More resources

Rupa health has a great summary of the functional medicine approach to eye health here.

Chris Kresser discusses the ocular microbiome here, too, which is fascinating – what upsets the delicate balance of our eye ‘biome’? He also goes much more on the anti-inflammatory treatment route, which I like. Here’s a useful podcast he did about it. I think this approach will start to become more recognised over the next few years – it was a new one on me, even!

So, hope that helps. Look after your eyes. Let’s finish with a nice quote from Carl Jung, no less:

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

Carl Jung

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