Most of the articles posted on our blog have to do with symptoms and treatments for common eye conditions. Some of those conditions are inherited or unavoidable, but many of the conditions we write about could be eliminated or reduced with smarter, lifetime lifestyle choices.
A Healthy Diet Prevents Many Common Eye Conditions
A lifetime of healthy lifestyle choices can prevent or significantly reduce the effects of common eye conditions. A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the relationship between vision and healthy sleep habits. This time, we want to focus on diet because nutrition is important. It’s not an exaggeration to state that many of the eye conditions we treat here at the Atlantic Eye Institute wouldn’t occur in our patients or may not be as severe if they had made better diet and lifestyle choices throughout their life.
Nutrition Is Important And Your Eyes Are A Window To Your Diet
Most people reconsider the eyes as a window to the soul. However, as career optometrists and ophthalmologists, we know the eyes are also a window to our patients’ diets. For example, dehydrated patients are more prone to dry eye, and their eyes have a sunken appearance. Those who drink too much alcohol tend to have redder, watery eyes and puffy lids, and undereye tissue. In addition, the whites of their eyes may be tinted a creamy/yellowish hue if their liver is struggling.
The eyes have even more to say about what you eat or what you aren’t eating, by the conditions that manifest inside of them. Most diet-related health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, are major risk factors for developing vision loss, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Then, there is the relationship between diet and your immune system. The healthier you eat, the more fortified your immune system is to fight disease and infection. Patients who are run down and who don’t nourish their bodies are prone to developing full-blown eye infections. If their bodies can’t fight the infection independently, patients require medicated eye drops when a healthy immune system could have done the trick.
Nutrients That Support Healthy Vision
The good news is that some of the most familiar health conditions contributing to vision problems (high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, autoimmune conditions) are supported and managed by a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. You may even notice that increasing your intake of eye-friendly nutrients and foods improves night-driving vision. You can indeed take a multi-vitamin, but multiple studies show that our bodies absorb nutrients best when they come to us through edible food products. Supplementation is only second-best.
FRIENDLY REMINDER: Always speak to your physician before making any major dietary changes or adding supplements into your daily health routine.
Nutrition is important, so consider an anti-inflammatory diet
Inflammation is linked to all of the health conditions that contribute to eye disease and vision problems. Adhering to your version of an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best things you can do to support whole-body wellness. People who eliminate foods that trigger or exacerbate inflammation (processed snacks, refined sugars, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, etc.), and focus on a balanced diet with lots of food that relieve inflammation have rather remarkable results.
Click Here to read more about an anti-inflammatory diet. To get you started, read 18 Anti-Inflammatory Recipes…. The list includes multiple days’ worth of delicious meals – many of which contain eye-friendly nutrients/ingredients listed below.
Zinc is a natural immune-boosting agent, but it also has a direct link to vision health. Without zinc, the body can’t bring as much Vitamin A from the liver to the retina. This means your retina has less melanin, making your eyes more prone to cloudy vision, cataracts, and poor night vision.
Foods that include zinc are:
- Red meat (focus on local, grass-raised options for leaner fat and higher Omega-3 content)
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
People who lack sufficient levels of lutein and zeaxanthin have a higher risk of developing cataracts and other chronic eye diseases. They are easily ingested via dark, leafy veggies and greens. Start making salads, stirfries, snacks, and side dishes that utilize:
- Bok Choy
Lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in other brightly colored vegetables and fruits, such as tangerines, corn, and bell peppers.
Vitamin C is one of those all-around great vitamins. You can’t get too much of it since it’s water-soluble, and Vitamin C has a positive impact on every aspect of the body. This includes immunity-boosting, cell regeneration, and collagen production (essential for eye structure). In addition, patients who get enough vitamin C are less likely to develop cataracts.
Vitamin C is found in:
- Dark leafy greens (like the ones listed above)
- Citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons)
- Fortified fruit juices (read labels and look for fortified juices with 100% vitamin C RDA levels)
- Bell peppers
Unstable molecules, called free radicals, are commonly found in diseased tissues. The more free radicals are stuck in the body, the more prone you are to all kinds of diseases, including eye diseases and even cancer. Vitamin E fights free radicals and helps the body eliminate them. The presence of vitamin E helps to prevent the breakdown of healthy tissue.
Vitamin E is found in:
- Vegetable oils (especially wheat germ, sunflower, and other nut oils)
- Sunflower seeds
- Atlantic salmon
- Rainbow trout
Essential fatty acids
Omega-3s and 6s are essential fatty acids that support heart health, brain function, moods, and – you guessed it – eye health. They support both vision development and the health of the retina. Meat and eggs from pasture-raised farms have higher omega-3 levels than their conventionally farmed counterparts.
Examples of essential fatty acid sources are:
- Nuts and seeds (especially flaxseed, chia, and walnuts)
- Oils from nuts/seeds
Nutrition is important and luckily most of these ingredients pair so well together that it’s easy, nutritious, and delicious to whip together salads, entrees, snacks, and dressings/sauces that cater to these vision-friendly nutrients.
Are you interested in working with optometrists and ophthalmologists that care as much about your overall health as they do about your vision and eye care? Schedule your next eye appointment with Atlantic Eye Institute.