Being able to see is something that lots of us take for granted — that is, until we start having trouble with it. Just imagine not being able to take in beautiful sights and all of their exquisite details, or simply to be able to read a book, or a menu at a restaurant? Our vision is essential to quality of life, and taking steps to support healthy eyesight can make a big difference in your overall happiness.
Poor vision doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of getting older. While eye diseases like macular degeneration and glaucoma are common for older men and women, there are ways to decrease your risk and even improve your eyesight naturally. While some vision health experts swear that this is impossible and that only surgery, glasses or contacts can help, other professionals say that with time and dedication, there are things that can be done to naturally help you see better.
1. Give your eyes a break
Staring at a computer screen all day results in dry eye and eye strain, which can even lead to the eyes aging prematurely. When you’re focused on that screen, you don’t tend to blink as often as you would when you’re doing something more active. This tires the eye muscles, increases evaporation of eye fluid, and encourages dry eye along with eye strain.
Giving your eyes a break is an absolute must. So if you work at a computer, remind yourself to gaze around the room periodically in a different direction, and get up as often as you can — which is good for your overall health too. This doesn’t only apply to staring at screens. Reading for long periods, using dim or artificial light, and not getting enough natural light isn’t good for your eyes either. All of these activities require giving your eyes a break regularly.
In places like China, Japan and Singapore, children tend to have high rates of vision problems. Research from the Australian National University discovered that eyesight problems were very common in East Asian nations, with as many as 90 percent of the adult population exhibiting signs nearsightedness. Perhaps this is because the population is focused on reading tiny print at an early age, as well as studying indoors with artificial light.
2. Perform eye exercises
Eye exercises are important to help improve vision naturally too. For about five to ten minutes every hour while you’re working at a computer or reading, look away or simply close your eyes. Pay attention to how often you blink and make an effort to blink regularly in order to relieve the strain of continuous focus. Rolling your eyes is actually an exercise for supporting eye health. All you have to do is look up, slowly circle them ten times clockwise and then ten times in the other direction, counterclockwise.
Another exercise recommended by holistic physicians is to place the eraser side of a pencil on your nose. Point the pencil at an object on the other side of the room, and then trace it using the point of the pencil, while keeping your eyes focused on the tip of the pencil.
3. Protect your eyes
You probably lather sunscreen on your skin to protect it from burning in the sun, but do you protect your eyes from the sun too? Exposing your eyes to harmful UV and high-energy visible (HEV) rays will prematurely age and damage the eyes as well as the eyelids. Being out in the sun for long periods of time without eye protection results in a sunburn of the surface of the eye, known as photokeratitis. It can also lead to macular degeneration, cataracts or even cancer of the eyelid!
Always wear sunglasses that block all UV rays and HEV rays when you go outside, even when it’s cloudy. Choose sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV protection. And when you’re outdoors in the sunshine for an extended period, wear a wide-brimmed hat for blocking damaging rays.
4. Eat a healthy diet that supports vision
If your diet consists of lots of processed foods and fast foods (and lacks fruits, vegetables, healthy oils, proteins, etc.), you aren’t doing your eyes any favors. Your body probably isn’t getting the nutrients it needs for optimal eye health. Just like all parts of your body, diet plays a big part in good vision.
To improve your vision naturally, fill your diet with a wide range of colorful, fresh and organic fruits and veggies like leafy greens. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild-caught salmon are essential, too. Think bright yellow and orange vegetables like carrots, which are famous for supporting good vision.
Munching on carrots for better eye health isn’t a myth! In fact, Bugs Bunny’s favorite food is jam-packed with beta-carotene, which has been found in scientific studies to help protect against macular degeneration and cataracts. Research in 2001 published by the Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group discovered that those who ate the most beta-carotene had a 40 percent lower risk of developing macular degeneration as compared to those who consumed little of this essential nutrient.
Beta-carotene is also transformed into vitamin A in the liver, while vitamin A is converted in the retina to rhodopsin, a purple pigment that’s a must for good night vision. All you have to do is consume one medium-sized carrot a day and you’ll be getting roughly 210 percent of the average daily recommended amount of vitamin A.
Of course, carrots aren’t the only food that’s important for good eye health and improving your eyesight naturally. Other important foods to include in your diet include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Yellow peppers
- Egg yolks
- Any kind of dark leafy greens
There are also foods that are rich in compounds like sulfur, lecithin and cysteine that are important for preventing cataracts, like garlic, onions, capers and shallots. Certain foods are especially known to improve vision and enhance eye health, such as goji berries, grapes and blueberries, as well as foods that are rich in DHA fatty acids, including cod, wild-caught salmon and mackerel.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, consuming holy basil juice, also known as tulsi, helps to protect the eyes from free radicals and environmental damage. It can even help prevent or reduce the risk of serious eye issues such as cataracts and other vision defects, and it’s also an effective natural treatment for glaucoma and macular degeneration.
5. Avoid toxins
Toxins can cause serious damage to your eyes. So, even if you’re doing everything you can to improve your eyesight naturally, you could be counteracting those good efforts if you smoke, or are constantly exposed to polluted air, exhaust fumes and the like. Smoking, in particular, is associated with a long list of chronic illnesses and diseases, and that includes some serious eye disorders. If you smoke, stop. Avoid secondhand smoke too, as well as all other forms of pollution.
Other toxins come in the form of foods that we eat. Consuming processed foods that contain trans fats, like pastries, French fries, cookies and the like are also believed to interfere with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are needed for good vision. Trans fats have also been associated with macular degeneration.
— Susan Patterson