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Bright eyes

Keep your eyes working well by following these diet and lifestyle tips

The most common eye issues we see in the shop are itchy eyes with hay fever and dry eyes,” says Sian Eustace of health store Healing Harvest in Kinvara, Co Galway. “We also have people come in for support if they know there is a family history of macular degeneration.”

“Customers come in looking for supplements to help prevent or reduce age related damage,” says Dorothy Browne Nice and Natural, Cootehill, Co Cavan. “We recommend an omega-3 and lutien supplement; we have a selection of very good vision supplements, and eye drops to help with allergies, strain and dryness in the eyes.”

Eye supplements

“There are several supplements on the market which are specifically formulated for eye health,” says Sian Eustace. “These typically contain lutein, lycopene and astaxanthin or zeaxanthin which are all carotenoids as well as berries such as bilberry which contain the anthocyanins. Other brands also incorporate fish oils.”

“Omega 3, lutein, astaxanthin, vitamins A, C, E and B and zinc are all supportive of general eye health,” says Dorothy Browne.

Bilberry contains antioxidant vitamins A and C that help to prevent damage to the eyes. Available as tablets, sometimes with lutein and zeaxanthin.

Flaxseed oil is good if you have dry or itchy eyes due to an omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Available as capsules and a liquid.

Dry eyes

“For dry and tired eyes our advice is to rest them with used chamomile or fennel teabags (once they have cooled, of course!), or slices of cucumber from the fridge,” says Sian Eustace. Also, make sure that your computer monitor is arm’s length away; take frequent breaks and minimise glare and reflections on the screen; blink frequently – about 15 times per minute is normal but many computer users blink less often than this leading to dry eyes; essential fats, particularly omega-3 from fish oil is also beneficial for dry eyes, so increase your intake of salmon, sardines and mackerel or take a supplement.

Macular degeneration

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is the slow deterioration of the cells in the macula, an area in the centre of the retina at the back of the eye which affects central vision. Astaxanthin helps protect the eyes against damaging free radicals and zinc is needed in high concentrations in this part of the retina. To boost your zinc levels eat nuts, seeds, seafood, meat and wholegrains.

Eating for eye health

“We've all heard as children that carrots will help you see in the dark,” says Sian Eustace. “In fact, any vegetables and fruits which are orange, red or yellow are great for eyes as these contain antioxidants called carotenoids. Also those that are purples and blues contain antioxidants called anthocyanins.”

“We recommend the following foods for eye health,” says Dorothy Browne. “Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines which are rich in omega 3; nuts and seeds, rich in vitamin E and omega 3; citrus fruits, blueberries, leafy green vegetables for vitamin c and antioxidants; eggs, a rich source of lutein which may reduce your risk for macular degeneration and cataracts. Eggs are also rich in vitamins C, E and zinc. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, and beta carotene; beef is rich in zinc which can help delay age-related eye loss and macular degeneration.”

Lifestyle tips

“Try not to strain your eyes by looking at screens for prolonged periods of time and reading in suboptimal lighting conditions,” says Sian Eustace. “Bluescreens such as computer monitors and phones can cause particular eye stress. Consider having a yearly eye check as this will help with prevention or early diagnosis of conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.”

“Never look at your computer or phone screen for more than 20 minutes at a time,” says Dorothy Browne. “Drink water and take lots of rest and sleep and visit your optician regularly.”

Also, wear sunglasses that filter out 100% UV light to prevent sun damage. If you get sore eyes, carry a small bottle of saline solution with you to help soothe them.

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