What Is Eye Health Connected to ?
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), going back more than two millennia, all diseases involving the eye are closely related to liver health, as well as all your internal organs. Taking that into consideration, an imbalance in any of the internal organs may lead to diminishing eye health and eye disease.
In TCM the following organs are directly connected to the eyes…
the lens and pupil to the kidneys;
the sclera to the lungs;
the arteries and veins to the heart;
the top eyelid to the spleen;
the bottom eyelid to the stomach;
the cornea and iris to the liver;
the spleen and stomach to circulation in the eyes.
As a pointed example, we often do not know how much liver health can affect eye health. Yes, at first glance you’d think the liver has about as much in common with your eyes as milk and champagne.
Understanding the Invisible
Eye disorders are believed to be caused by liver blood deficiency, scarring of the liver, anemia, and/or toxic overload—all prevent healthy blood flow through the liver— blood from the liver is believed to moisten and nourish the eyes. TCM teaches that these conditions manifest when there is heat in the liver…and…liver heat is associated with inflammation. As eloquently stated by top acupuncture expert for the U.S. Military Academy, Dr. Marc Grossman, “The body does not work as a series of parts in isolation, but as a dynamically integrated living system. Every cell in the body has receptors for neurotransmitters, so in a real sense every cell is a nerve cell…This biological awareness of every cell is really the foundation of vision.”
Liver health and eye health are inseparable, although all organs have some connection to eye health; the liver is more intimately connected to proper eye function. Chronic eye problems can usually be traced to a liver deficiency of blood. A good example is the fact it is not uncommon in Chinese and Wholistic Medicine principles to detoxify and then support liver function only to find that the side-effect is better eye health.
Eye Health and Diabetes
Diabetes is serious and it affects the eyes among other organs. It can contribute to diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. It’s important to note that more than 90 percent of severe vision loss and blindness is caused by diabetic retinopathy and it CAN be prevented by closely monitoring blood sugar, and taking appropriate supplements to help stabilize blood sugar and vision. Of course, dietary modifications MUST be made to avoid sugar, simple carbohydrates, and chemical food additives. So, yes, eye health is directly related to blood sugar and it cannot be taken lightly.
Eye Health and Hydration
The surface of the eye at the cornea is 98 percent water. When the amount of ocular surface water, which is mostly contained in the “basal tear film,” begins to drop, either from evaporation or poor tear production, the results are dehydration and dry eye complaints. When eyes are exposed to high temperatures, low humidity, and intense sunlight, the tear film water protecting the eyes and enabling sight evaporates faster than at other times.
Tear film dehydration and dry eye can cause eye discomfort, watery eyes, dry eyes, itching eyes, burning eyes, fatigue, headaches, blurred vision and many other symptoms. Too little tear film water, among other things, stimulates the production of inflammatory hormones in the tear film, causing inflammation and discomfort that lead to blurred vision among other dysfunctions.
Spring and summer are also allergy seasons, with dramatic increases in airborne pollen. When the eyes’ natural defenses against allergies and pollen are diminished due to insufficient tear film water and the presence of inflammatory hormones, the allergic reaction to pollen will be greater. Dry eye and dehydration caused by a summer heat wave and intense sunlight can be minimized or avoided by drinking eight glasses of water per day in addition to other non-caffeinated fluids, wearing sunglasses, taking frequent cool showers and baths, avoiding direct sunlight, keeping your home humidified, and replacing water and salt when you become overheated.
Eye Health and Hypertension
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, impacts eye health as well as elevates the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Hypertension damages vessels that supply blood to the retina and, therefore, creates leakage in the eye. Without early detection and intervention, this can lead to:
Bleeding in the eye;
Optic nerve damage, and;
Keep in mind that hypertension can also be a side-effect of diabetes and some common diabetes medications. There are non-drug options to assist in reducing and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels; a wholistic practitioner can guide you.
We’ve heard of the benefits of beta carotene, a fat soluble vitamin, as one of the many nutrients known for maintaining eye health. These beta carotene-rich foods include:
dark green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, spinach, romaine, parsley, cilantro)
squash (butternut, crook neck, zucchini, hubbard)
dried apricots, peaches and prunes
These foods cleanse the blood, assist in reducing liver inflammation and are powerful immune boosters. I find the best is to consume a green drink daily—“liquid salad”—in order to get enough to truly affect good eye health.
Liver Detox, Support and Rejuvenation
It’s important to keep in mind that our liver is the largest organ within our body. It is adversely affected by many things, among the most common are a poor diet of processed foods, alcohol consumption, acetaminophen, non-prescription pain medications, and the myriad of toxins we’re exposed to daily including those from personal care products, food additives (preservatives, flavor enhancers, food coloring, etc.), and toxins from the environment. Everything we expose ourselves to must be filtered by our liver. It is responsible for…
Filtering blood from toxins and converts waste products from metabolic functions into urea so it can be eliminated via the urine;
It creates bile to help digest fats and carbohydrates;
It also filters toxins from the blood stream and synthesizes glutathione—the master antioxidant that helps recycle other spent antioxidants;
It balances blood sugars;
It creates red blood cells.
If your liver isn’t healthy, wellness cannot be achieved. Fortunately, the liver is the ONLY organ that can completely rejuvenate itself given the appropriate detoxification protocol and support.
The following herbs have been used for centuries to support liver health:
Milk Thistle (silymarin)—recommended for all liver ailments and for protecting a normal liver from onslaught of daily toxins. It’s common for those with liver issues to take 300 mg three times daily but check with your natural health practitioner.
Dandelion—a very safe herb that is sometimes mixed with milk thistle in specific formulas for liver support. Besides being helpful for liver health, dandelion is a good source of most major vitamins including, iron, potassium, and zinc. It is most credited for stimulating production of bile and its flow between the gallbladder and liver to improve liver function and overall wellness.
Burdock root—a favorite blood purifier among practitioners of East Indian medicine known as Ayurveda. It stimulates bile flow while assisting a weak liver by purifying the blood and restoring damaged cells.
Artichoke (cynarin)—also assists in bile production and flow. It is credited for preventing gallstones and has been used to dramatically reverse jaundice.
Turmeric (curcumin)—the most clinically tested and written about herb for any and all inflammatory conditions. Liver disorders ARE inflammatory so it’s advised to include this in any healing protocol. It is available in capsules and tablets.
I find that the best method of assisting the liver with all the above referenced herbs, especially if you already have issues related to a toxic liver, is to work with a natural health practitioner who can recommend the appropriate medical food protein shake that not only contains a full complement of nutrients in one formula but also vegetable protein specifically formulated only for health professionals as a medical food. The one I use and recommend is a proprietary blend, Clear & Rejuvenate, and is available exclusively through www.gloriagilbere.com.
Eye Health Antioxidants, Minerals & Botanicals
Lutein and zeaxanthin act to protect from damaging ultraviolet blue light and age-related macular degeneration.
Additionally important for liver and eye health is alpha-lipoic acid (ALA)—known to help prevent cataract and dissolve toxic substances in the liver.
The formula I use and recommend is a proprietary blend called Wholistic Eye Care Complete—a comprehensive blend of antioxidant vitamins and minerals along with plant flavonoids and standardized botanical extracts for protection and promotion of healthy ocular health. It’s contents are unparalleled for providing a full-spectrum of ingredients to support overall eye health including: Vitamin’s A- C and E, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Chromium, Tocotrienols, Citrus bioflavonoids, N-acetyl-cysteine, Quercetin, Rutin, Bilberry extract, R-alpha lipoic acid, CoQ10, Ginkgo biloba, Green tea, L-glutathione, Lutein, Lycopene.
If you, like most people, are unable to, or choose not to, incorporate all the necessary nutrition-based foods daily, consider an eye health vitamin/supplement and a medical food to get all the antioxidants needed to support your vision all in one formula.