Winter Woes: Dry, Dry, Dry
Dry eyes are a common nuisance during winter months, exacerbated by dry heat at night and general dryness that just comes with the territory of winter. According to Ayurveda, winter is vata, air, or dry season, when even water dries out and becomes snow.
The antidote to the cold and dryness of winter is eating a higher fat diet that lubricates and insulates us from the dry winter chill. Dry eyes is a common symptom of being vata-imbalanced by the seasonal influence of winter.
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Omega-3s for Eye Health
In a meta-analysis in the journal Cornea, researchers evaluated 17 trials measuring the effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on over 3,000 participants with dry eyes. The study provided evidence that omega-3 fatty acid supports healthy eye lubrication and balances issues related to dry eyes.1
On average, support for dry eyes consisted of omega-3 supplementation with 1650mg of EPA and 560mg of DHA per day for 12 weeks.1,2
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Disclaimer: While Ayurveda has employed this technique for thousands of years to address underlying imbalances in the eyes, modern sanitary practices and FDA guidelines strictly prohibit use of non-sterile or home-sterilized solutions in daily eye care routines. As a result, we must recommend against engaging in this traditional practice. Consult with your healthcare practitioner before beginning any eye care regimen that involves introduction of foreign material into the eye. Home-sterilized solutions cannot prevent growth of harmful bacteria and are not a substitute for modern eye care products.
I recently went for an eye exam and the doctor asked me if I was having some dry eyes in the morning, to which I pleaded guilty. He said my meibomian glands were congested and suggested I use a hot washcloth as a compress to soften my crusty glands. Meibomian glands produce meibum, an oily substance that prevents evaporation of the eye’s tear film. Without healthy flow of meibum, eyes can dry out.
While I experienced some relief from the warm washcloth, it was not enough to do the trick. Here in Colorado, a mile above sea level, dry eyes are very common. Other optometrists suggest washing eyes with a tearless baby shampoo to gently break up congested meibomian glands—a technique that also fell short.
I decided to get serious: I employed an Ayurvedic technique called netra tarpana, which uses warm ghee in the eyes. Oils are lipophilic, attaching to other oils, theoretically allowing ghee to attach to and release meibum.
Netra Tarpana Instructions
- Fill sterile glass eye cups with warm organic ghee, just above body temperature.
- While lying down, or holding head back, keep ghee eye cups over eyes for 3-5 minutes, with eyes open.
- Wipe excess ghee off the eye and around the eye.
- Follow with a warm washcloth, pressing heat into the lower eyelid, where meibomian glands are located.
One to three of these sessions on consecutive days is typically all that is needed to free up healthy flow of meibum into the eye and support natural lubrication.
For me, after only one treatment, my eyes were significantly improved and steadily improved in the days following. I only had to do the one treatment and am not having that issue any longer here in the very high and dry Colorado winter air!