It was National Eye Health Awareness Week last week (21st -27th September) moreover, as our eyes are the ‘window to the soul’ it is imperative that we take good care of them. Below is a list of common eye disorders along with useful solutions:
Dark circles under the eyes may have a variety of causes. Lack of sleep is perhaps the most obvious culprit. If you’re not getting seven or eight hours a night of good quality sleep, this is worth addressing first of all – nothing else you can do will make up for the lack of sleep!
Thyroid problems or anaemia can be two other potential causes. If you’re confident that you’re getting enough sleep but are still feeling excessively tired (which can be a symptom of both these conditions) as well as still have the dark circles, then see your doctor to get tested for both of these conditions. If you are diagnosed with anaemia or have very low iron levels, then an excellent iron supplement to take is Nature’s Plus Hema-Plex, which also contains B vitamins and vitamin C that work in synergy with the iron for total blood support.
Another common cause may be food intolerances – especially to wheat, gluten or cow’s milk. If you have eliminated the other possible causes above, then try cutting out one of these for a period of one month to see if this helps. If you decide to eliminate one (or more) of these foods long-term, it is best to work with a nutritional practitioner who can give you a healthy food programme to make sure you are not missing out on any nutrients.
Lastly, dark circles can be made worse by smoking or excess alcohol consumption.
If you are experiencing red or bloodshot eyes it’s wise to see your doctor first of all, to rule out conjunctivitis, blepharitis or uveitis; all these are types of inflammation of different areas of the eye, and other more serious causes such as high blood pressure. It’s also important to see a doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms following an injury to the eye, even if it was just a scratch.
Bloodshot eyes may also simply be a result of eye strain. If you do a lot of computer work or other ‘close’ work, then make sure you are giving your eyes a break every now and then – at least for five-ten minutes once an hour, and preferably looking away and into the distance every 15 minutes or so. If you are experiencing eye strain it can also be worth having an eye test to see if you need glasses or to have your prescription changed.
Bloodshot eyes may be related to capillary fragility – when the walls of the capillaries become weak. Other symptoms you may notice include nosebleeds or easy bruising. If this is the cause, it’s vital to make sure you are getting enough vitamin C from a variety of fruits and vegetables. Taking a daily supplement of vitamin C with bioflavonoids could also be helpful – try Quest’s Bio C Complex, taking two tablets a day.
Bloodshot eyes, like itchy eyes, can also be the result of an allergy. If you are also experiencing other allergic or hay fever-type symptoms such as sneezing or general eye irritation, then try a quercetin-based supplement such as Nature’s Plus Quercetin Plus, taking the maximum dose on the label. For longer-term support for immune imbalances, it can be helpful to take a supplement based on beta glucans and the immune-supporting ingredients vitamin D, selenium and zinc, such as Quest’s Immune Biotix.
Lastly, like other eye problems, excess alcohol consumption and smoking can make things worse.
Dry eyes may be caused by a deficiency in vitamin A. True vitamin A is only found in animal foods – especially liver, other organ meats and cod liver oil; with some in egg yolks, butter, fish, other meats and grass-fed dairy products. Although vegetables are often said to contain vitamin A, they don’t – they only contain beta-carotene or ‘pro-vitamin A’, which the body may only convert to vitamin A in very small amounts (as little as three per cent!).
The best ways to get enough vitamin A are to either eat a small serving of liver once or twice a week, take a good-quality cod liver oil supplement, or make sure you’re regularly eating the other animal foods listed above. When choosing a cod liver oil supplement, go for one that contains naturally occurring vitamin A, such as Garden of Life Icelandic Cod Liver Oil from www.nutricentre.com priced £20.19. If you are vegetarian or vegan, then a vegan-friendly vitamin A supplement may be the best way to ensure you are getting enough – but make sure you get vitamin A as retinyl palmitate or retinyl ascorbate and not beta-carotene. Note that liver and individual vitamin A supplements should not be consumed if you are pregnant or planning pregnancy.
Another contributing factor to dry eyes may be lack of healthy fats in your diet, potentially because you need fats to actually absorb vitamin A from your foods. Most of the foods listed above as good sources of vitamin A are good sources of fats too, which makes sense – nature gives us nutrients that work in synergy with each other! Again, if you can’t eat these foods, then making sure you have enough good fats in your diet from other sources is essential – think coconut oil, avocadoes, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Lastly, another cause for dry eyes can be a condition called Sjögren’s syndrome. This is an autoimmune condition that can affect many areas of the body and particularly the glands that produce saliva and tears. If you suffer from Sjögren’s syndrome then it is best to work with a nutritional practitioner or doctor who can work with you to tackle the underlying immune imbalance.
For dry eyes, Dr Marilyn Glenville Phd, one of the UK’s leading nutritionists offers some advice: “Ensure that you are eating well and not having too many things that are dehydrating such as caffeine, alcohol and too much salt. Also, consuming more fluids generally, this could be plain water or herbal teas, which can have a positive effect. I would suggest NHP’s Omega 3 Support to help with lubrication of the eyes. An ‘eye’ supplement could also be helpful containing vitamin A, lutein, astaxanthin and zeaxanthin. Also, a supplement containing N-acetyl cysteine may be beneficial.”
NHP Omega 3 Support is available at www.naturalhealthpractice.com priced at £27.77.
Puffy eyes may be related to an imbalance between sodium and potassium in your diet – specifically, too much sodium (salt). Most processed foods tend to be high in added salt, providing sodium but very little potassium – these include breads, cereals, sauces, processed meats and snack foods. In contrast, vegetables contain much more potassium than sodium and better match the natural balance that we should be getting. So cutting down on processed foods, avoiding adding salt to your foods, unless you don’t currently eat any processed foods, and increasing your fresh vegetable intake can help.
Puffy eyes may also indicate that your kidneys need extra support. Drinking enough water is the most important step here, to ensure you’re well hydrated. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which are diuretics and can make the problem worse. Nettle leaf and dandelion leaf tea can help. For extra support, try Nature’s Plus AgeLoss Kidney Support, which contains cranberry concentrate, parsley, antioxidants and a blend of targeted botanicals.
The causes of itchy eyes can be similar to bloodshot eyes. A particularly common cause is allergies. If you are also experiencing other allergic or hay fever-type symptoms such as sneezing or general eye irritation, then try a quercetin-based supplement such as Nature’s Plus Quercetin Plus, taking the maximum dose on the label. For longer-term support for immune imbalances, it can be helpful to take a supplement based on beta glucans and the immune-supporting ingredients vitamin D, selenium and zinc, such as Quest’s Immune Biotix.
Other causes can include fatigue or eye strain, so similar to the recommendations for bloodshot eyes, make sure you are taking regular breaks from computer work, and consider getting your eyes tested. Also make sure you have been checked out for conditions such as conjunctivitis, uveitis and blepharitis.