Nutrition for your Eyes
The key to understanding why eye conditions develop is to recognise that your eyes require a higher level of nutrition than most of the rest of your body. In order to cope with the potentially damaging effects of light and exposure to the outside air, your eyes demand more than their fair share of the available nutrients.
If you ask most doctors or opticians why people develop conditions like dry eyes, cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration, more likely than not they will blame it on the fact that eyes just inevitably wear out. However abundant research has shown that what you eat can have a major impact on your eye health – everyone knows that you need to eat your carrots to have healthy eyes – right?
Well perhaps not everyone, as a recent study found that very few eye health practitioners talked to their patients about the potential role in eye health of nutrients like Omega-3, vitamin C, selenium, beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin D, B vitamins and glutathione - yet all these nutrients have credible research backing their use for various eye conditions.
You might know that the retina of your eyes contain one of the highest levels of Omega-3 in your body - not surprising really, given that embryonically they are actually an extension of the brain. What is less widely recognised is that the stability of the tear film on the outside of the eyes seems to require higher than usual levels of the primary Omega-3, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).
Dry eyes can effect around 20% of the population and it is one of the most frequent conditions seen by opticians and ophthalmologists. The condition is characterised by sensations of burning and stinging of the eyes, redness of the eyelid margins and even sensitivity to light.
Dr Carol F. Boerner, did a study of 200 patients lasting 3 years, where she had her patients consume only 2000 mg of flaxseed oil daily (I recommend 15,000 mg for overall health benefits). She found that dry eye symptoms improved for many of her patients within 2 weeks and 85% had total relief of the symptoms at the two-month check but at this dosage the improvements lasted only as long as the treatment was continued. Importantly, some patients also reported that “dry skin symptoms, such as cracked cuticles; flaky elbows, legs and feet; and itchy backs were alleviated.”
Other research has shown that the flaxseed oil is impacting on two different mechanisms which address the cause of the dry eye symptoms.
Roughly 10 – 15% of dry eyes are initiated by background inflammation, but once the dry eyes develop, inflammation inevitably develops, to become part of a downward spiral. Omega-3’s provide the precursor for the powerfully anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, so it's hardly surprising that flaxseed oil can help with dry eyes.
Flaxseed oil has not only been shown to stimulate tear secretion, but it also thins the oils secreted onto the eye surface by the meibomian glands, while increasing the depth of the oil layer. These effects combine synergistically to slow the evaporation of the tear layer and help to alleviate the dry eye symptoms.
What to do about it.
Most adults consume way too many polyunsaturated oils (Omega-6) for their health and so have an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio in excess of 10:1, which contributes to the development of inflammatory conditions like dry eyes. There is good evidence that our bodies evolved on roughly a 1:1 ratio, so this is the level you should be aiming for. This works best if you not only up your intake of the Omega-3 oils, like flaxseed or chia seed oils, but also decrease your intake of the damaged Omega-6 oils which sit on the supermarket shelf in clear plastic bottles. Because of the need to reduce inflammation you are likely to get the best results by supplementing your diet with my Flax Boost oil
For more information about the impacts of inflammation on your health and why you should include flaxseed oil in your diet, see my soon-to-be published book “Take Charge of Your Happiness, Belly Fat And Sexiness – A Working Woman’s Route to Wellness”
David Musgrave - Owner