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When I worked for the New Jersey Nets basketball team, I traveled with the team during their 82-game season. I would always take advantage of the time on the planes to write – in fact, in the early days, I wrote a couple of my books predominantly on airplanes.
I remember connecting in Chicago on my way to Newark, where the Nets called home, and having a hard time getting my eyes to re-adjust to the lights inside the terminal. Then, night-driving my rental car from the airport to the arena was crazy. I kept thinking that the road signs in New Jersey were just way too small.
Then, while watching the Nets play, I remember the team doctors who I sat with complaining about calls that the referees made, and I would think, “How did they see that!?” It never dawned on me that my distance vision was declining, because I always prided myself on my eyesight in my youth.
The final blow… I went in for a driver’s test renewal and the attendant asked me to look into the eye test machine. I told her that I thought the machine may not be working because I didn’t see any of the letters displayed that I was supposed to read. She double-checked the machine and looked at me and said, “From now on, you cannot drive without glasses.”
I am sure many of you have a similar story as you have watched your eyesight deteriorate with age. Today, one out of five Americans between 40 and 60 take some type of supplement to support their eyesight.
In this article, I would like to delve into this topic in detail, in an attempt to understand why our eyes get weaker with age, and what we can do to counteract this process. Let’s begin.
Micro-Lymph Circulation Matters
There is no doubt that eye strain, along with some nutritional deficiencies, may play key roles in our overall eye health, but the Ayurvedic take makes a lot of sense. The muscles of the eye are some of the smallest in the body, and every muscle has to get blood and nutrients in, and waste and toxins out. In such small muscles, much of this is done naturally when we look around. Every time the eye focuses on something, the muscles of the eyes either contract or relax – which pumps the blood in and the waste out.
Logically, if the eye muscles are focusing in on a computer screen for hours on end, there will be a lack of this natural pumping action. Without adequate circulation to the precision muscles of the eye, soon these muscles can become congested and unable to relax and contract the way they were designed to. This accumulation of waste and poor eye micro-circulation can start to outpace your aging lymphatic drainage system in your forties.
According to Ayurveda, there are micro-lymph channels that drain and nourish the eyes, and when congested, the function and precision contracting and relaxing of the eye muscles is impeded. Over time, this strain can eventually challenge the circulation and health of the eye.
Today, some of the most effective eye health supplements are antioxidants that support healthy lymphatic flow. New studies on the lymphatic system show that antioxidant-rich foods, such as greens and berries, worked directly to support healthy lymphatic flow. A lack of this lymphatic flow has been linked to aging. (4) One can only deduce that such lymph congestion can affect the youthfulness of the eye muscles as well.
Lutein is perhaps the most popular eye health nutrient. (5) It is a powerful carotenoid found in green vegetables, as well as in the lens and macula of the eye itself. As an antioxidant for the eye, which works via the micro-lymphatic channels of the eye, it helps to shield the eye from the extreme rays of the sun. For healthy eyes, it makes sense (particularly in the summer when these foods are harvested) to eat a more lutein-rich diet. Include more of the following organic lutein-rich, lymph-moving veggies in your diet:
- Swiss Chard
- Collard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Brussels sprouts
- Yellow corn
- Green beans
In one study tracking the eating habits of thousands of men and women, researchers found a significant lower risk of cataracts in those with higher levels of lutein. (1) While it is much better to get your lutein from your diet, studies suggest that when we get older, supplementation may be needed. (6)
Bilberry is another very popular eye health supplement, particularly for night vision, but the science does not support all of the claims and the testimonials bilberry has receive. While a powerful antioxidant, in one study, 15 adults were given 160mg of bilberry daily for 3 weeks, and the bilberry group saw no improvement in night vision over the placebo group. (2)
Ayurvedic Herbal Support
According to Ayurveda, there are two herbs that have been well-studied to support eye health, triphala and amalaki. In one study, the antioxidants and vitamin C constituents of amalaki were shown to support healthy lens clarity and overall eye health. (3,7,8) Amalaki is one of my go-to herbs to support healthy inner and outer skin. The eye is lined with epithelium or skin, and the studies support the concept that amalaki is beneficial for all types of skin in the body. (10)
Triphala is another of the classic Ayurvedic formulas made up of three fruits, amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki, which has been shown to support healthy lens clarity. (9) The study found that the introduction of triphala increased levels of the antioxidant glutathione in the lens by 82.5 percent. It also showed an increase in soluble proteins by 59 percent and insoluble proteins by a whopping 105 percent – which are the markers of available healthy lens function and clarity. (8)
The combination of these two herbs, as well as a healthy lymph-moving lutein diet, may be the best way to support your eye health. Here are some other important eye health tips:
- Don’t smoke. It increases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. (11)
- Lose weight. Excess weight increases the risk of eye health concerns. (12) Download my FREE Ayurvedic Weight Balancing eBook.
- The best way to improve lymphatic drainage, and thus eye health, is with regular exercise. Please try my 12-Minute Workout and read my Nose Breathing Exercise articles.
- Keep blood sugar under control. Increases in blood sugar have been linked to eye health issues, as the most refined tissues and muscles are the first to be affected by excess sugar and sugar-related glycation. (13) Please read my FREE Blood Sugar Balancing eBook.
- Read all my articles on supporting healthy lymphatic flow, as the eyes are the first to show signs of poor micro-lymphatic circulation.