From the category archives:

eye health

Carrots and Better Vision: The Nutritional Truth Behind Some of the Myths

by Ed

The following is a guest post by Tara Heath. Also check out her cool info-graphic on this topic.

Many of us were told as children to eat more carrots in order to improve our vision. While these healthy root vegetables contain naturally occurring beta carotenes that produce vitamin A, which is important for good for eye health, there is considerable debate on whether our vision actually improves from increased consumption. There has also been considerable controversy stating that by eating more of them will prevent night blindness and curb other vision problems.

The carrot conundrum began with propaganda campaigns spread by the Royal British Air Force during WWII. According to the UK Ministry of Food, this now defunct agency was rolling out messages that credited the consumption of carrots as the key ingredient for the pilot’s successful shooting down of German aircraft at night. Decades later, rumors were swirling around about the use of new radar technology that the Brits were hiding from their enemies by concealing this fact underneath the promotion of increased carrot consumption.

But the question remains, does eating carrots really improve eyesight, help to prevent blindness and enhance vision in the dark? There is actually a little bit of truth behind all of these statements, but no absolute guarantee that consuming carrots are the complete answer to better vision.

NIGHT VISIONcarrots

As stated previously, our bodies use the beta carotenes in carrots to produce vitamin A, which is essential for good eye health. Vitamin A allows our eyes to convert light into the signal that transmits images to our brains that allows people to see in conditions of low light.

BLINDNESS

The cornea, the clear front surface of the eye that covers the iris and pupil, can disappear if the body does not get enough vitamin A. It’s estimated that somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 children around the world lose their vision due to a vitamin A deficiency. In some third world countries like Nepal and India, where vitamin A deficiencies are a result of malnutrition, beta carotene and vitamin A supplements have been shown to improve vision.

SUPPLEMENTS

Some research suggests that beta carotene supplements alone do not convert to vitamin A very efficiently. Some estimates show that between 12 to 20 molecules of beta carotene are necessary to create just one molecule of vitamin A. This would suggest that one might be better off taking vitamin A rather than attempting to eat enough carrots to supply our systems with this important chemical compound.

ALTERNATIVES

Instead of chomping carrots at a Bugs Bunny level, there are plenty of other foods that are packed with beta carotenes and some offer other nutritional benefits that can protect our valuable vision. For example, lutein and zeaxanthin found in spinach, kale and collard greens, have been shown to reduce the risk of older adults contracting age-related macular degeneration.

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Other foods rich in beta carotenes include pumpkins, sweet potatoes, turnip greens, winter squash, cabbage, along with spinach, kale and collard greens. As with any healthy diet, we shouldn’t be concentrating on any one healthy food like carrots. We should all be eating a balance of healthy foods that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and cutting down on carbs, sugars and unhealthy animal fats.

Natural Vision Improvement

by Ed

Natural vision improvement includes various methods of improving vision through eye exercises. The movement was started by Dr. William Bates, who wrote Perfect Sight Without Glasses in 1920. Most teachers of natural vision improvement use techniques from the Bates Method. Medical Science of his day, and still today, deny some of his key theories. I tend to side with medical science in most of those cases. However, it is possible to improve your eyesight through exercises. Even though Bates’ theories may have been wrong, his techniques often bring substantial results. And if natural vision improvement works at all, then medical science needs to re-look at some of their own theories.

Like other parts of our bodies, improving our vision involves strength, flexibility, and relaxation of the muscles involved. And, as with enhancing other areas of performance there is a mental aspect to it as well. If you can imagine yourself seeing better, you can learn to see better. To get started on improving your vision, try doing the following exercises, and read my post on eyestrain.

  • Swinging: Stand with your legs about 2 feet apart. Begin to swing your body from right to left, turning as far as you can comfortably. As you shift your weight onto your right foot, turn toward the right, and as you shift over to the left foot turn to the left. As you swing your body let your gaze become relaxed. Do not focus on anything. It should seem as if the world is turning around you, and not you turning. Do this exercise for about two minutes.

  • Palming: Warm your palms by rubbing them together briskly. Then close your eyes and place your palms over them. Allow your eyes to relax into the warmth and blackness. Do this for about 5 minutes.

  • Shifting: Hold your finger in front of you at a comfortable distance to look at. Shift your gaze back and forth, between your finger and something in the distance, as far as you can comfortable focus. You may also want to look at something in the middle distance, shifting your gaze between all three. Do this for about 1 minute.

  • Drawing the world:Imagine you have a long pencil attached to your nose. Trace the outline of all the objects you can see. IF you feel that your gaze moves jerkily, this is an important one for you. You should be able to move your head and eyes smoothly as you follow the lines. Do this for 1 or 2 minutes

  • Reading the spaces: As you read, focus on the white space between the letters instead of the letters. Imagine the white is glowing. This one is particularly good for farsightedness.

  • Yawning: Practice nice wide deep yawns, regularly. This helps to relax the eyes and flush the tear ducts.

About a month after I first started doing eye exercises, I yawned one day and suddenly my vision was crystal clear. I was amazed. It only lasted a few seconds, but I am sure I had 20/20 vision at that time. That continued to occur, more regularly and for longer periods of time. However, like many people I got lazy and stopped doing the exercises. It really is quite a commitment, doing them every single day. My vision did improve, somewhat. I think I went from a 2.5 diopter to a 2.0 diopter lens. I spend most of my time without my glasses now, though I need them to drive. I am also much less prone to eyestrain now, and I am more comfortable in bright sunlight.

If you want to read a book on improving your eyesight, I recommend Natural Vision Improvement by Janet Goodrich.

On Taking Vitamins

by Ed

I consider vitamins to be pharmaceutical grade medicinals, and as such should be taken with caution. I believe there are many times when it is appropriate to take vitamins therapeutically, to treat a particular condition. However they are not suitable for long term use.The body was designed to take its nutrition in the form of whole foods, not in the form of highly concentrated, isolated chemicals. Consuming them this way can be a shock to the body, affecting the hormonal, circulatory, immune, and nervous systems adversely. Our bodies were designed to consume large numbers of nutrients, all of which act synergistically. They need to work together to work. Also many nutrients, taken in large doses, can negatively impact absorption, availability, or usefulness of other nutrients.

A couple of examples:

Vitamin C taken in large doses inhibits the absorption of Vitamin B12.

There are many carotenoids, including beta carotene. If you take large amounts of beta carotene, other carotenoids will not be able to find their receptor sites. Lutein, for instance, is necessary for macular health. Not enough lutein and you will go blind from macular degeneration.

This brings up another point. Although the nutrients act synergistically, many of them have very specific functions, for instance lutein protects the macula of the eyes, and lycopene protects the protects the prostate. If we take vitamins, we may get lazy about eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, thinking we have our nutrition covered. The problem is there are thousands of plant chemicals that protect our bodies. We could never get them all in a pill, even if we knew what they all were.

To maintain good health in our modern world, we should be eating about ten servings a day of fresh fruits and vegetables. The only thing that comes close to a substitute is taking whole food supplements. One of the best, and one that is backed by a growing mountain of scientific research is Juice Plus+®. To see the research click here. That is the only supplement I would recommend for long term usage. Again, vitamins are very useful, therapeutically, when taken short term, but do more harm than good, when taken long term.

Acupressure First Aid

by Ed

Here are two famous acupressure points that are very useful for self-help.

hegu Hegu is well known as the headache point. Find a sore spot in the meat of the hand, between the thumb and first finger.

Hegu is also useful for colds, sore eyes, toothache, and allergies.

Neiguan is the famous motion sickness point.

neiguanIt is located about three finger widths from the wrist, between the two tendons on the palm side of the arm.

Neiguan is good for all kinds of nausea including morning sickness, tightness in the chest, tight diaphragm, hiccups, and insomnia.

When you have one of the symptoms hold or massage the point for a minute or two, or until the symptom goes away. On a very bumpy flight I hold neiguan until it gets smooth again. It is also a good point for calming anxiety.

If someone faints, try pressing quite hard between the upper lip and the nose. Of course, always seek medical attention when appropriate.

Computer Users: No More Eye Strain

by Ed

If you use a computer for several hours a day, chances are you get strained or fatigued eyes. What can you do about it? There are three important factors in taking care of your eyes: relaxation, oxygen and lubrication.

In general, when looking in the distance you are relaxing the eye muscles, and when you look close up you are contracting them. Imagine what it would be like if your keyboard was at shoulder height, your arms would get pretty tired. It’s the same with the eyes, so give them a break.The ten, ten, ten rule is a good one. Every ten minutes look at least ten feet away for at least ten seconds. That gives the eyes a little opportunity to rest. Also when you keep muscles contracted for periods of time, they tend to lose flexibility. For flexibility and relaxation, do the following exercises twice a day.

Warm your palms by rubbing them together, then place them over your eyes. Consciously relax your eyes and enjoy the warmth for about three minutes. Sit somewhere where you can see something about ten feet away and something in the distance without moving your head. Hold your finger in front of your face and look, in turn, at something in the disance, something ten feet away, and your finger. Look just long enough to focus on the object. While you are doing it breathe deeply and calmly. Do that for about thirty seconds.

Oxygen: Every cell in our body needs it. Muscles use more of it when they are working hard, which the eyes do when you are at your computer. The problem is, most people don’t breathe deeply enough. Plus most of us have poor posture at the computer, which restricts oxygen from getting to the head. In order to get full breaths, we need to sit tall to allow room for the diaphragm to drop into the abdomen, and for the ribcage to expand. When you sit roll your pelvis forward, creating an arch in the lower back, and let your shoulders drop back. This will expand the entire torso. Not only are you improving your breathing, but you are also decreasing your susceptibility to repetitive strain injuries. That topic is for another post. This posture also helps keep the head up. Remember to not let your head tilt forward, beacause that puts a lot of strain on the neck muscles, which further inhibits oxygen flow to the head. Stretch and relax your neck and shoulder muscles regularly, to avoid a build up of tension in the area.

Lubrication: When the eyes are dry they are uncomfortable, itchy, gritty. Even if that did not contribute to eye strain, it is no fun in itself. Make sure you get plenty of water. Not coffee, not pop, not even juice (unless it is watered down), it has to be water.Too much caffeine and sugar will defeat the purpose of getting more fluids. Aim to drink six ounces of water every hour that you sit at the computer. Over the course of an entire day, you should drink six to eight glasses of water. If your computer is in a very dry room, see if you can humidify it. For comfort humidity should be between forty and fifty percent.

Finally enjoy your time at the computer, but don’t let it take over your life. There’s a lot more to life than a 17 inch screen.

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