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A focus on eye health

It was National Eye Health Week in the UK last week. Vision, and eye health in general, is something that we tend to take for granted until things start to go wrong. We thought we’d explore ways we can support our eyes on a daily basis.

Why does eye health matter?

Sight is the sense that people overwhelmingly say they would miss the most. In a US poll in 2018, 70% of participants put loss of vision as their first choice. Sight loss is more prevalent amongst women, who account for two thirds of cases as a result of hormonal changes through their lives and, typically, living longer than men.

However poor eye health also encompasses conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and glaucoma, as well as being one of the first signs of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Can we improve eye health naturally?

The good news is that diet can play in important role in supporting eye health. I’m sure that many of us were told as children to eat carrots in order to ‘see in the dark’. Well, it turns out that there is a lot of truth in this ‘myth’. Carrots are rich in carotenoids, the phytonutrient that has been shown to be beneficial for eye health. 

In particular, carotenoids lutein – found in maize, kiwis, winter squash and pumpkins, carrots and leafy green vegetables – and zeaxanthin – found in orange peppers and maize. Eggs are also a rich source of both.

Carotenoids’ antioxidant properties protect against free radical damage as we age. They also act as a blue light filter, protecting the eyes against damaging UV light.

Other vitamins and minerals that have been shown to be beneficial for eye health include:

Vitamin C – shown to lower the risk of developing cataracts. Citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, strawberries and kiwis are rich sources of vitamin C.

Vitamin E – a fat-soluble vitamin, its antioxidant properties may help protect against AMD and cataracts. Found in nuts, wheatgerm, wholegrain and eggs.

Omega 3 – this essential fatty acid is key in the healthy development of children’s eyes. It may also reduce inflammation within the eye and support tear production. Cold water fish, walnuts, flaxseeds and leafy green vegetables are good sources, although rarely found in young children’s diets. It may be worth taking a good quality supplement to ensure healthy levels.

Zinc – a zinc deficiency has been linked to poor night vision and cataracts. Good sources include oysters and other shellfish, red meat, nuts and seeds.

Other ways to support our eyes

Many adults and teenagers spend many hours in front of screens nowadays whether for work or pleasure. This often leads to long periods with reduced blinking, and an excess of blue light. Opticians recommend taking regular eye breaks throughout the day. If you find this hard to remember, try the 20:20:20 technique. Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen for 20 seconds, focusing on something at least 20 feet away.

Wear sunglasses when outside on bright days, and blue light glasses when working at a PC for extended periods of time.

Support your health generally by taking regular exercise, reducing alcohol and giving up smoking.

And finally, and most importantly, ensuring regular visits to the optician to keep track of any changes in your sight and eye health.

New research shows a link with our gut bacteria

Emerging research is focusing on the ocular microbiome, and what is being called the gut-eye axis. This exciting new area of study is showing that good bacteria on the surface of the eye may be responsible for maintaining homoestasis of the eye (keeping everything in balance) as well as playing a role in eye conditions such as blepharitis, trachoma and dry eye.

Meanwhile, studies have shown that the health of our gut microbiome may have an impact on our eye health. Gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance in good and pathogenic bacteria in the gut, may influence the development of AMD, glaucoma, dry eye and other conditions. 

Ensuring a regular intake of fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and live yoghurt can help maintain a good balance of bacteria within the gut, as can supplementation with prebiotics and probiotics.

Find out more

Eye health calculator – Vision Matters
Eye care: a guide to looking after your eyes – The College of Optometrists

Want to know more about eye health?

ProVen Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health and staying healthy please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth ProVen research.

ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107

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