10 EASY NUTRITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE YOUR EYE HEALTH
Natural Health

10 Easy Nutritional Recommendations to Improve Your Eye Health

Today’s blog post is submitted by Dr. Tessa Sokol of Sokol Advanced Eye Care.

Disclaimer: The following information has not been approved by the FDA. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice and is not a substitute for a visit with a medical care professional. Always speak to your doctor about any health concerns. 

Latest News! “Teenage boy goes blind after existing on Pringles, white bread, and french fries.”1

This story broke the headlines in early September. All of the major news channels covered it, such as CNN, Fox News, and NPR. 

What caused his vision loss? His poor diet resulted in a Vitamin B deficiency, most commonly Vitamin B12. This deficiency caused nutritional Optic Neuropathy, a dysfunction of the optic nerve. 

Although this is an extreme example, this case study serves as a wake-up call reminding us all of the importance of good nutrition and its relationship to our vision. Small changes can be made today that will make a big impact on your health tomorrow.

We are going to cover the top nutritional recommendations you can do that will keep your vision healthy for a lifetime!

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Do you spend a lot of your time staring at Blue Light? Blue Light is emitted from computer screens, smartphones, and TVs and is damaging to the eyes. 

Lutein and Zeaxanthin are powerful antioxidants that act as an internal pair of sunglasses, protecting your eyes against the oxidative stress caused by blue light exposure. They create internal protection against the damaging effects caused by this high energy light. These nutrients also protect you from ultraviolet light as well, and help prevent the blinding eye disease Macular Degeneration!

Where Can I Find It?
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are found in very green leafy foods such as Spinach or Kale. They are also fat-soluble, so drizzle on the olive oil for maximum absorption and deliciousness!

Vitamin A

There is some truth to the tale that eating carrots will help your vision! Beta-Carotene, which is responsible for the vegetable’s orange color, is one of the main plant compounds in carrots and is a precursor to vitamin A. Vitamin A can help your eyes adjust to dim lighting conditions and improve your night vision. 

Where Can I Find It?
Vitamin A is fat-soluble and is so plentiful in the average American diet that it is more common to have an overabundance of it than a deficiency. Many fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and fish contain the precursors to which our bodies then transform into Vitamin A.

Zinc

When it comes to eye health, minerals are important too. Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is considered a “helper molecule” in the eye. It plays a vital role in bringing Vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes. Zinc deficiencies can cause poor night vision as well as cataracts. 

Where Can I Find It?
Oysters deliver more of this mineral than any other food, but you can also get plenty of zinc from beef, shellfish, or black-eyes peas!

B Vitamins

Known as one of the “anti-stress” vitamins, B complex helps to reduce chronic inflammation and prevent elevated homocysteine levels, which have been associated with blood vessel damage in the retina. B vitamins also reduce the risk of macular degeneration and uveitis, a type of blinding inflammation found inside of the eye. 

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for neurological function. A deficiency of B12 can cause the optic neuropathy noted in the teenage boy addicted to junk food

Where Can I Find It?
Although it is mostly found in meat, B Vitamins can also be found in milk, eggs, leafy greens and legumes.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage by free radicals. These unstable and harmful molecules can break down healthy eye tissue which can lead to Macular Degeneration and Cataracts. 

Studies have indicated that those who ate a healthy diet, with at least 15 milligrams of vitamin E a day, had a significantly delayed formation of cataracts compared to those who ate lesser amounts.2 Also, the landmark Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) established that people are 25% less likely to have a progression of Macular Degeneration if they take 400IU of Vitamin E daily! 

Where Can I Find It?
Most Western diets are low in Vitamin E. Add nuts, sunflower seeds, and sweet potatoes to your diet to get more of this (and other) important nutrients.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C should really be called Vitamin See! Like other antioxidants, it helps prevent free-radical damage and may reduce your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Smoking, diabetes and steroid use deplete the eye’s lens of vitamin C. This depletion increases your risk for early cataract development. Vitamin C also helps build collagen, which provides structure for your cornea! 

Where Can I Find It?
Vitamin C is found almost exclusively in fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, strawberries, and red bell peppers!

Vitamin D

It is well known that Vitamin D is good for our bones and teeth. But, did you know that it is also great for our eyes? 

Vitamin D protects you against the development of dry eyes by enhancing the tear film. It also helps to reduce inflammation on the surface of the eye. Research shows that individuals with the more severe form of Macular Degeneration (a blinding eye disease) were deficient in vitamin D and more likely to have progressed further in their illness.3

Where Can I Find It?
Vitamin D deficiency is a global health problem. A significant percentage of the population lacks an adequate amount of Vitamin D. The best source is light from the sun. When our skin absorbs ultraviolet light, it triggers the synthesis of vitamin D from our liver. Most adults these days spend their lives indoors, usually staring at computers. This is why supplementation of Vitamin D is so important.

Probiotics

Listening to your gut may help you see! Researchers are constantly finding new and impactful connections between our body’s microbiota and how it affects our physiology. Abundant evidence is showing us that having “good” gut bacteria has a key role in controlling inflammation which, in the eye, is the culprit for chronic problems such as dry eyes and ocular allergies. 4 Probiotics have been shown to improve this allergic inflammation! 

Additionally, the eye possesses its own microbiome that protects against infections. Therefore, it is extremely important we protect this healthy bacterium to prevent infections and support healthy contact lens wear!

Where Can I Find It?
You can find probiotics in fermented foods, such as sauerkraut or kimchi, as well as plain natural yogurt. Supplementation is suggested.

Fatty Acids

Fat is vital for bodies to function properly. Essential fatty acids are necessary in our diets because our bodies cannot produce them.

DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), an essential fatty acid, is the primary structural fatty acid of the gray matter of the brain and the retina. Infant vision development is dependent on DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids found in breast milk. Several studies have shown that infants who received these nutrients developed better visual acuity! 

Adults also benefit from healthy fatty acids as they help prevent macular degeneration and dry eye. Essential fatty acids also help facilitate proper drainage of intraocular fluid from the eye decreasing the risk of high eye pressure and glaucoma. 

Where Can I Find It?
To help protect your vision, it is recommended to have a diet rich in DHA from foods such as fish or flaxseed or from a DHA supplement.

Avoid Processed Foods

While your eyes might light up when you see those french fries, the long term effect of junk foods will be vision problems. Eliminating processed foods from our diets is my top and most simple recommendation for everyone looking to protect their eye health. Junk food is bad for your eyesight! 

Fat-filled snack foods heighten the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Vegetable monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats along with linoleic acids are put into processed foods and place junk food addicts at higher risks for this eye disease. A diet high in these fasts can also disrupt the gut microbiome, which can increase inflammation throughout your entire body. 

Be careful with the foods you buy on the shelf. The processing and refining process often removes our sight-saving vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Avoid processed, packaged foods and choose to purchase raw fruits and veggies and healthy meat options. 

I also suggest the complete elimination of soda, as they contain no nutritional benefits and only harm the body. This includes diet sodas! A 2018 study found that individuals who consumed more than four cans of diet soda a week had a much higher risk of a more advanced form of retinopathy (disease of the retina) from diabetes.5

Remember to visit your eye doctor should you notice your vision changing!

Contributed by Tessa Sokol

10 easy nutritional recommendations to improve your eye health from vitamin a to zinc

References:

1 https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/03/health/poor-diet-blindness-scli-intl/index.html September 3rd 2019

2 https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/vitamin-e

3 https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/vitamin-d

4 https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/microbiome-articles/2018/december/looking-for-links-between-the-gut-microbiome-and-eye-disease

5 https://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/diet-soda-habit-associated-with-blinding-diabetes-complications


*Disclaimer: All information and recommendations given on this site, in email correspondence, newsletters or other materials provided by The Healthy Place is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice nor be viewed as a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider. Consult a licensed healthcare practitioner before modifying, stopping, or starting the use of any medications, health programs, diets, and/or supplements, as well as regarding any health concerns you may have. Our statements and information have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As with any health-related program, product, or service, your risks and results may vary. We expressly disclaim responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the information provided to you here.”


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Dr. Tessa Sokol has been in the optical field for over 20 years, gaining education, experience, and a broad skill set in all-things eyes. She began her journey in vision health with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and then received her doctorate in optometry at the Illinois College of Optometry. Upon graduating with honors, Dr. Sokol greatly expanded her experience with four optometric internships throughout the country.

West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida: Trained in ocular disease, low vision rehabilitation, advanced medical care, and surgical co-management.
Child and Family Optometry Clinic in Wichita, Kansas: Studied developmental vision disorders, vision therapy, and pediatric optometry.
Naval Hospital and Parris Island Marine Training Facility in Beaufort, South Carolina: Developed an understanding of primary care and contact lens fittings.
Illinois Eye Institute in Chicago, Illinois: Provided advanced ocular disease and pediatric care as well as low vision examinations and device fittings.

Following her education, Dr. Sokol took her talents to rural Georgia where she practiced for several years. Like all true Wisconsinites, she returned home to Madison, Wisconsin where she now runs Sokol Advanced EyeCare, an independent eye care clinic.

Dr. Sokol enjoys contributing a significant amount of effort to Wisconsin Optometric Association (WOA), American Optometric Association (AOA), InfantSEE, Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity (VOSH), and OneSight. She often travels internationally to serve in underprivileged areas without access to eye care. She also gives back to her community by providing examinations and screenings to infants and children for early detection of visual development.

Dr. Sokol is well-versed in the optical field! In addition to her professional work and community activities, she is one of our blog contributors, providing valuable information and recommendations on how to maintain healthy eyes and vision throughout our lives. And just like the rest of us here at The Healthy Place, she loves to stay active! She enjoys cycling, running, playing with her dogs, learning how to fly, cooking for dinner parties, and even taking part in planning Madison’s St. Patrick’s Day parade — whew!

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