Coronavirus has totally upended our normal way of life and has left the majority of us at home, staring at screens all day. Whether it’s for work, school, or just for entertainment, we’re all using technology to get through our day. The benefits of these technological advancements can’t be denied, but it’s not all risk-free. While the sedentary lifestyle obviously has a big impact on health, today I wanted to focus specifically on the impact this spike in screen time has on our eye health. There are ways to protect your vision while also enjoying the wonders that the internet has to offer.
5 Ways to Keep Your Eyes Healthy and Your Vision Clear
The best way to stay healthy is always first and foremost through your diet. The nerves supporting your vision have some of the fastest conduction speeds in the nervous system (much, much faster than the pain signal from your foot to your brain after stubbing your toe, for example). These incredible nerves, therefore, require a lot of energy, nutrients, and myelin sheath covering (a fatty covering that increases the conduction of electricity; think of the rubber coating over electrical wires). The nerve cells produce energy, ATP, via mitochondrial action, so it’s, therefore, essential to eat to “feed your mitochondria.”
For optimal functioning, mitochondria require significant amounts of B vitamins, vitamins A, C, and E, as well as beta-carotene, selenium and zinc.
The best food sources of this include:
- Organ meats (especially liver!)
- Brightly-colored vegetables such as carrots, yams, bell peppers, cantaloupes, squash
- Green leafy vegetables
- Berries such as blueberries and strawberries
- Nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds and brazil nuts
- High-quality fats such as avocados, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter help support the myelin sheath.
There are also herbs that are known to improve vision, including:
- Bayberry bark,
- Red raspberry leaves
- Bilberry extract.
If you are not including these foods or herbs in your diet, you might consider taking a supplement as necessary.
Antioxidants to Support Eye Health
Because your eyes utilize so much energy, they are also susceptible to oxidation and damage. This means you should include some forms of antioxidants in your diet as well. These might include:
- Liposomal glutathione, which is by far the most powerful antioxidant known to man.
- You could also consider high dose vitamin C, alpha-lipoic acid, N-acetyl-cysteine (a precursor to glutathione) to minimize damaging oxidation.
- Chlorella, derived from seaweed, is a natural detoxifier that is also high in vitamin A and zinc.
Limit or Completely Avoid Poor Quality Foods
Finally, just as high-quality nutrients can support the health of your eyes, poor quality foods can damage your vision.
- Smoking and nicotine are particularly dangerous for your eyes as it leads to constricted blood flow by damaging the integrity of your arterial walls.
- The same goes for high consumption of simple carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, alcohol, candy, cookies, white potatoes, white rice, white flour, soda, etc.). These can lead to spikes in blood sugar and glycosylation, which destroys the small blood vessels of the eye.
- You should also consider the health of your water supply. Heavily fluoridated and/or chlorinated water can directly damage circulation, and can also interfere with iodine absorption (which can impact the health of your thyroid gland). Foods high in heavy metals, such as mercury in tuna, can also be potentially toxic to your body and eyes.
Sleep is absolutely essential to our health for many reasons, but it’s also especially crucial to our vision health. Sleep is our body’s primary recovery and detoxification time, which is especially crucial for cells that utilize a lot of energy (aka nerves and mitochondria!). Make sure you’re not just getting a good amount of sleep, but also a good quality of sleep.
Protect Your Eyes
Screens’ greatest risk to your eyes mainly comes from the bright, light background. Firstly, I recommend setting your phone or computer to the “night setting,” which has more of a yellow tint than the traditional blue. The blue light has a significant impact on our melatonin (our sleep and anti-inflammatory hormone) production. The blue light signals to our pineal gland that it’s daytime and shuts down melatonin; this is why you should try to avoid using screens 30-60 minutes before going to bed.
Additionally, I’d take that one step further and recommend using blue-light blocking glasses if you’re going to use screens for a prolonged period of time. There are different glasses available out there, but the best kind are the orange-tinted glasses that completely eliminate blue light. Plus they’re super stylish!
If you wear contacts, it may be worth considering switching to glasses if you’re going to be looking at screens for long periods of time. As listed in the book, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, studies have shown that leaving contact lenses in place for more than 24 consecutive hours can result in ulcerative keratitis, a condition in which the cells of the cornea are rubbed away by the contact lens, leading to infection and scarring.
Be Mindful of Sunlight
Now, this may be a little controversial for some people, but controlled and limited exposure of your eyes to sunlight can actually be good for your eyes! Now, I’m certainly not saying go outside and stare directly at the sun, but just like going outside with exposed skin to get a boost vitamin D, the sun is also critical to healthy vision.
Just like darkness stimulates melatonin production, sunlight helps stimulate serotonin production, our “happy” hormone that is also critical for sleep. As written in the NCBI article, “Benefits of Sunlight,” “sunglasses may further limit the eyes’ access to full sunlight, thereby altering melatonin rhythms. Going shades-free in the daylight, even for just 10–15 minutes, could confer significant health benefits.”
Particularly when it comes to working at the computer, people tend to lean forward to get their eyes closer to the screen. Shifting your head and neck forward can lead to squinting, along with a host of other problems, including headaches and neck pain. Ideally, we would like the ears to be over the shoulders to maintain proper alignment of the neck and minimize potential future musculoskeletal issues. (I couldn’t resist adding in a little chiropractic support too!)
Talk to Your Littleton Chiropractor
Please note that this information provided is not meant to diagnose or treat, and should not be taken as medical advice. Please contact our office at 303-948-9998 or Arnechiro@aol.com if you have questions or wish to discuss ways to further improve your health, and we can set you up with a telehealth visit with one of our doctors. Thanks for reading and check back soon for other posts about relevant health topics!
Lindsay Herzog, DC, MS