Caring for our eyes as we mature will find us checking in with various lifestyle factors, for both prevention and reversal of over-40s reading blur (presbyopia). Many of the daily habits that affect mature eyes are also those basics that help maintain our general health. Life is so full of demands and distractions we sometimes need to be reminded to maintain these foundations for wellbeing.
The importance of what we eat
A vital aspect of maintenance involves the nutrients we take in. In our August 2008 article on night vision we discussed certain nutrients that provide for the chemical reaction that gives us our eyesight in low light conditions. Vitamin A and zinc are both noted as necessary nutrients for night vision, but in a recent discussion with O.D. Bryan Smith, it arose that these are also important nutrients for ‘recovery’ of the retinal cells in terms of how long afterimages last – even in daylight conditions.
A brief list of some of the vital nutrients for vision, and some food sources:
Vitamin A: For colour and night vision and maintenance of low intraocular pressure. The body can manufacture its own vitamin A if given sufficient quantities of the precursor carotene, which is found in carrot juice and green leafy vegetables, as well as in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. It also comes as the formed vitamin from sources such as fish oils. (Use supplements under consultation with a health professional, as preformed Vitamin A can be toxic in overdose.)
Vitamin B2: For general eye health. Can be found in almonds, wild rice, wheat germ, millet, kelp, soybeans (non-genetically modified) dandelion, and mushrooms.
Vitamin C: Important for lens integrity. Cooking reduces vitamin C. Citrus fruits, berries, dark green leafy, red, orange and yellow veggies all contain vitamin C.
Vitamin D: Required for good circulation, and assists with eyestrain and focusing. It is also important for the immune system and bone health. It can be absorbed from fish and fish oil, eggs, organic meats, sunflower seeds, alfalfa, celery, spinach, corn and sunlight on your skin. (Always in moderation, never allow your skin to burn.)
Zinc: The healing mineral. Required for general health, night vision, and utilisation of other vitamins. Sources include pumpkin and sunflower seeds, seafood, soybeans, and eggs.
Chromium: For iris function. Note: Avoid chromium in processed cereals, which lack calcium. Corn, barley, beetroot, cabbage, rice, garlic, and oats all contain chromium.
For further reading on nutrition, we recommend the book Laugh with Health by Manfred Urs Koch.
What about supplements? There are two major considerations when looking at taking dietary supplements for nutrition. Firstly that we only want to take supplements for nutrients that are not sufficiently provided by our diet, and to take them in the correct amount, as while essential in moderation some can be toxic in overdose. In addition, some vitamins and minerals require other specific nutrients to be present in order to be utilized by the body. This means that fresh organic foods are the first choice for nutrients, as they can often provide the complete group needed.
Some people may find it difficult to obtain all their needed nutrients in this way, in which case it is best to consult with a naturopath or other nutrition professional regarding the best quality brands of supplement and exactly what is needed for the individual.
‘Good fats’ and ‘bad fats’ and their role in free radical formation can have an effect on our eyesight as we age, especially regarding the flexibility of the lens of the eye. The lens must remain flexible in order to focus clearly up close. For more information on this topic please read our article at:
It’s common for those with presbyopia to find themselves very busy, so it’s good to know that the specific vision activities for reversing reading blur are simple and can be done for short periods of time each day. They can also be fitted in with and/or between other daily activities.
These same activities can act as a preventative for those who want to stay out of reading glasses. Not only do the vision games keep the lens and eye muscles active and flexible, to keep our range of vision both as near and far as possible, but they can also help to maintain the general health of the eyes by keeping the fluids moving and helping with elimination of toxins.
The strains of daily use, whether it is reading, computer use, or the increasing use of small hand held screens, will have more effect on our eyes as we grow older. Our tolerance to certain types of stress tends to reduce and we need to provide our visual system with balancing activities even more regularly.
Activities such as Tromboning and Near Far Swing help keep the mobility and flexibility of function in the eyes and keep us aware of keeping the connection between brain and eyes fully active. Fusion games keep the eyes working together and increase visual stamina. Palming helps to keep the eyes relaxed and the retinal cells recharged.
(These activities and more are taught in our book and kits such as the Read Clearly Naturally Kit.)
What about emotions?
Sometimes emotional stresses may also play a role, creating tensions that can translate into temporary discomfort or increasing blur. The first step when you are experiencing any visual changes or symptoms is always to check with your doctor or optometrist. Where these symptoms are found to be the result only of ‘age’ or ‘stress’, then vision activities and attention to emotional needs are called for.
Regular emotional expression and support is something that we all need in our lives. Some of the ways you might do this are by talking to friends or family, allowing yourself to cry, keeping a journal, hitting a phone book with a length of hose, or there may be other activities that work for you. Expressing emotions such as anger, sadness and fear in appropriate ways can be so vital in avoiding the build-up of tension within ourselves that can play a role in chronic stress, and doing this usually makes us freer to express our joyfulness.
After an emotional release, we may feel depleted. It can take a lot of energy to move those emotions out. Rather than going straight on to your next task, here is when it’s a good idea to take some time to breathe deeply and imagine filling the space created by that release with a positive emotion. Drink some water, and follow up with doing something you find replenishing and nurturing whenever possible.
Think about when you feel emotional or overwhelmed. In what healthy ways do you express or release emotion and nurture yourself through those times?
Move your whole body
Maintaining general health and stress reduction also calls for engaging in regular movement activities for the whole body such as walking, stretching and/or other gentle exercise. During this time you are moving your lymphatic fluids to reduce toxicity in all areas of the body, keeping muscles and joints mobile and flexible, stimulating the digestive system, breathing deeply to keep your lungs in good health (and eyes and brain oxygenated), keeping both sides of the brain active and producing endorphins for ‘feeling good’. You can also move your eyes near and far and in all directions during this outdoor time.
If you engage only in indoor exercise, do your best to have a window view or a landscape poster to involve your eyes. Remember that physical activity helps to reduce physical, emotional and mental stress in a great variety of ways.
Are you drinking enough water?
A woman in her early 40s recently spoke to me about an occurrence with her eyesight in the past months. Normally she can see the numbers on her digital clock clearly across the room from the bed. But there have recently been some occasions when she has experienced a temporary spate of blur on the numbers when waking after some hours of sleep. This blur would last just for 15 or 20 seconds. This was a bit unusual as those in that age bracket usually start to experience close rather than distant blur in the common development of presbyopia.
As should be done with any new eye symptoms, she consulted an optometrist, who found no unexpected issues with her eyes, in particular no signs of pathologies. The optometrist mentioned that in this case this experience could be due to the aging process, specifically in terms of lack of fluid or dryness in the eyes after lying down with eyes closed for several hours. She suggested drinking more water could be useful. In considering this I find it interesting that a vision student once wrote to me about the major role that they felt sufficient water intake played in improving their presbyopia.
Keeping our water intake sufficient is such a wide ranging necessity to maintain the function and health of our bodies in so many ways. The importance of hydration may also have more impact on our visual system than we are generally aware of.
One method that I have found very useful is to make a habit of keeping a good quality water bottle filled on the desk within arm’s reach of the computer. This encourages sipping at regular intervals, and also helps to to monitor how much water is taken in.
- Ensure adequate intake of essential nutrients, such as those listed above.
- Be aware of your diet in terms of reducing processed sugars and ‘bad’ fats, and ensuring intake of ‘good’ fats.
- Drink plenty of water – the amount needed according to your lifestyle (discuss your fluid needs with your naturopath or MD).
- Do regular vision improvement activities to both stimulate and relax your eyes, even in small amounts. (For more information visit our website products page or check out the Read Clearly Naturally Kit.
- Take regular exercise for the whole body, gentle but consistent. Include more than one type of exercise if possible.
- Do have your eyes checked regularly with your optometrist if over age 40, even if your eyesight is good (early detection is best for any potential eye diseases).
Take time for yourself in your busy lifestyle – to rest, to move your body, to address your emotions, to relax, to have fun!