YOUR EYES: How They Testify to Body and Soul

Are your eyes sensitive to the sun, sore, dry, itchy, watery, have creamy discharge, get encrusted with debris, or work poorly at night? Are they accompanied by dark circles beneath, puffiness above or below, or many fine dry lines?

Your eyes not only receive images, but they can also convey messages: a diagnostic status report on what is happening throughout the whole system.

Life is sustained by the sun. Plants, animals and humans orient to its daily and seasonal shifts. Vision too requires light rays reflecting off objects. Eyes and their muscles lie in a bone cavity padded by fat to enable movement. The sclera is the tough, white fibrous covering that protects the surface of your eyes. It extends from the clear front section or cornea to the optic nerve at the back. The cornea – like the lens of a camera – is where reflected light enters. It bends rays that pass through the dark pupil at the eye’s centre. The coloured, muscular iris surrounding the pupil makes it grow bigger or smaller according to degrees of light.

The lens is behind the pupil and cannot be seen (unless cloudy with cataracts). The lens helps focus light on the back of the eye or retina. The retina’s delicate tissue contains millions of light-sensing nerve cells named for their shape. Cones are mainly in the macula at the centre of the retina. In bright light they enable sharpness of vision, colour and fine detail. Rods are outside the macula. They detect motion, enable peripheral vision and work in dim conditions. Rods and cones convert light into electrical impulses. The optic nerve – made of over one million nerve cells – transports these to the brain which then produces a photo-like image. So what is seen is always a delayed and reconstructed interpretation!

Errors can occur when the curvature of the cornea does not allow light to focus accurately on the retina. This can result in myopia (short sightedness); hyperopia (far sightedness); astigmatism (irregular curvature of the lens or cornea); or presbyopia (loss of reading vision).

Although the human body is astoundingly complex and varied, each of its structures is made from similar components and works via similar mechanisms. Top quality fats and fluids are needed for cushioning structures, and cell permeability for nutrients to enter and wastes to depart. Key minerals contract and relax all nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and construct strong, durable tissue. Vitamins and other antioxidants protect from pollution, sun damage, poor food choices and other destructive free radical sources and assaults.

Carbohydrates that support balanced blood sugar levels (BSL; see my Health Store report: You Are Only A Few Steps Away From Peak Vitality; or The Shape Diet) give tissue access to dependable fuel for optimal performance. Protein is needed at each meal (see my website TIPS: Protein) for all building needs and balanced BSL. Even if you do not have one of the conditions below, note the lifestyle advice to help prevent problems and achieve radiant, healthy eyes.

Eye Problems

Cataracts can happen so gradually that people only act when impairment becomes extreme (including poor vision in sunlight, increased glare from headlights at night, impaired ability to see colours, double vision and halos, a worsening of long distance vision but improved near vision). This can affect about 60% of people over age 60.The blurry deterioration develops with changes to the lens, which becomes cloudy, slowly blocking and distorting light.

The lens is made of 65% water and 35% protein. Specific proteins maintain its clarity. Over time proteins become damaged, especially by smoking, excess sun exposure, poor BSL and diabetes (which can destructively cross-link or ‘caramelise’ proteins like the browning of meat), and medications such as steroids and statins. Surgery can remove the natural lens and install an artificial one. The remaining lens capsule can still become cloudy. After surgery (or head injury) there is increased risk of detachment of the retina. This leads to seeing floaters, showers of black spots and flashes of light. Minimising the risk factors is a far better approach. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants found in high amounts in your eyes. They help against excess oxidation – damage like rust on your car or the brown deterioration on sliced fruit. Spinach is a top source followed by other leafy greens.

Glaucoma: #1 preventable cause of blindness in New Zealand and the developed world. The optic nerve fibre progressively and irreversibly dies while visual loss can go undetected. Peripheral vision is the first to go and excessive eye pressure is the cause. A healthy eye needs pressure or it would collapse like a balloon with a puncture. A pump produces aqueous fluid to provide the eye with oxygen and vital fuel. This fluid circulates behind your iris and into channels in front that drain into the bloodstream. If the fluid does not drain readily then pressure builds and delicate tissue is damaged. Even babies can develop glaucoma although people with vascular disorders such as diabetes (and BSL problems in general), hypertension, migraines and Raynaud’s are more at risk. Research indicates that lutein, zeaxanthin, Omega 3 Fish Oils and vitamin C can lower intraocular pressure (IOP).

Blueberries and other high flavonoid foods (most colourful fruit and veg) help reduce the breakdown of vitamin C and contain additionally supportive antioxidants. Most medicated eye drops prescribed to lower IOP work on lowering blood pressure (which can slow the heart and lead to fatigue) or affect prostaglandins (PG): hormone-like regulators that increase or decrease inflammation (TIPS: The Fats of Life; Inflammation). The best natural regulator of PG is Omega 3 Fish Oils. Magnesium is critical for nerve and muscle function (TIPS: Magnesium). It helps dilate blood vessels and improves blood flow to the eyes – as does regular exercise (lowering IOP up to 20%), which also assists BSL. Sufficient fluids and alkaline minerals (chiefly magnesium, potassium and calcium) are critical for the kidneys to regulate blood pressure.

Macular Degeneration leads to blurry central vision, difficulty seeing details, colours and shapes. Age, smoking and obesity put you most at risk. One in 6 people between ages 55 and 64 will be affected; by 75 this increases to 1 in 3. It progresses slowly or quickly and at first the brain compensates for the missing parts of pictures. The macula is only a half centimetre in diameter yet has the highest concentration of cones to enable fine discrimination such as for reading. This requires a nutrient rich blood supply.

The macula has one of the highest rates of blood flow in the body, which is impeded by anything which narrows or rigidifies blood vessels (smoking, cholesterol plaques; low magnesium, calcium, potassium); thickened blood (poor BSL; low omega 3; damaged fats: rancid, overheated, non-cold-pressed, TFA, hydrogenated; see The Fats of Life); or low antioxidant levels (vitamins E and C particularly help prevent cholesterol deposition and inflammation; with Zinc (TIPS) highest in the retina; US National Eye Institute study shows these supplements reduce risks by 25%; lutein is also concentrated in the macula, retina and lens).

Sore, Dry, Itchy, Red, Sun-Sensitive or Watery Eyes; Dark Circles, Puffiness, Discharge are often related to allergies (contact this office for an allergy test), which can be to topicals (eg shampoo), inhalants (eg mould), toxins (eg plastics, food additives such as MSG-TIPS) or food particles (eg Gluten-TIPS; citrus is a common irritant as it is to sinus problems). There is limited control with something airborne such as pollen, but often these sensitivities initiate or worsen due to underlying food intolerances. Address these and the reaction to externals lessens or leaves. If skin or respiratory symptoms (nose, chest) are also involved then consider vitamins A and E (oil-based is better absorbed), and zinc to improve tissue strength and repair.

Collagen is one of the most widespread proteins in the body, essential to the structural integrity of the sclera, cornea, skin around the eyes and everywhere else. It connects to and supports other tissue – and breaks down with age (Cellulite-TIPS). Protein and vitamin C are essential for manufacture, as is the mineral silica (deficiency signs include cracks on lips, heels; split ends; ridges on nails). Also sulphur: one form is MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) to aid repair, eye pressure, nutrient absorption, as well as liver health – often compromised if eyelids or other skin is yellow; with random itchiness, over-Weight or if taking Medications (TIPS).

Every cell in your body needs top quality fats to be in good repair. Two of these are called Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) as they cannot be self-manufactured and must come from food. The far better absorbed form of the Omega 3 EFA is fish rather than flax/linseed based. It has the strongest anti-inflammatory actions. The other Omega 6 EFA can be sourced from evening primrose oil. Some people do best on supplements of one rather than the other – or both. This can only be determined with professional diagnosis. Without EFA eyes and skin are dry, tissue is easily inflamed and ages prematurely.

With any symptoms of dryness also remember the obvious: water. Enjoy 6-8 cups water or herb tea daily and limit diuretics that stimulate excess urination (caffeine, soft drinks, alcohol and highly sweetened drinks). Blood is mostly water and critical for ferrying fuel to the eyes and removing debris. The kidneys filter blood to regulate pressure, acid/alkaline balance, and eliminate wastes (TIPS: Kidneys). Poor function can be evident when eyes (or skin) are itchy, or if skin above or below is puffy (hands and other areas may also display fluid retention).

More Eye Tips
Contrast short distance work with long distance viewing. Indoors use good lighting and minimise glare. Replace old, flickering CRT computer monitors with big, flat LCD screens with high resolution; use good seating and posture; up antioxidants to offset radiation. Get out in natural light daily but wear sunglasses during peak hours. Only touch your delicate eyes with clean hands. Minimise contact with toxic chemical topicals and fumes by switching to truly natural toiletries and cleaning agents (TIPS: Chemicals). Once you are over 40 have eye checks every 5 years; when over 60, every 2 years. For a holistic programme of eye exercises and systemic protocols that assist most of the conditions above see Eyebody.

Maria Middlestead Reg.Clinical Nutritionist, Auckland Call Today!

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