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The Eyes Have It

Vision Health Vision Health
Longevity By Nature

Vision annoyances affect everyone at one time or another. You can help your patients/clients see the light of good eye health and vision.

Seeing, it is often said, is believing. But it is indeed so much more than that. Those with healthy vision and eye function can often take it for granted, until annoyances that blur, cause excessive blinking to moisten the eyes, and more set in.

Vision interruption can be annoying and be responsible for work mistakes. There are supplements you can recommend to any patient/client who may be concerned about eye health and maintaining clear vision (that is not an optometry or ophthalmology issue).

The vision support supplement market has been growing steadily over the past five years, according to Vanessa Pavey, ND, education scientist, Life Extension, Florida. Eye health supplements grew significantly, by 14.3 percent over 2020 and continued through 2021 to reach $909 million, according to data from Nutrition Business Journal. Of this segment, multivitamins still hold the largest share of the category coming in at 50.9 percent, telling us that most consumers are looking to address multiple health concerns in their quest for overall wellness. Trailing behind multivitamins is lutein with 20.7 percent of the market share, an ingredient with strong scientific backing and longtime promotion as a staple ingredient in promoting eye health.

Vision Challenges

According to Marc Grossman, ODLac, medical director at Natural Eye Care, New York, there are three common age-related eye conditions that are not serious.

Dry Eyes: Due to slowed-down production of tears, dry eyes are experienced by 75 percent of seniors over the age of 65. Dry eyes can also be caused or worsened by smoking, drinking coffee, menopausal changes, computer use, overuse of sugar, dehydration and allergies or could be a symptom of a larger problem like diabetes or auto-immune diseases. Artificial tears are sometimes prescribed but these give only temporary relief and may exacerbate the problem. Homeopathic eye drops for women and for men are quite helpful.

Presbyopia: Also called age-related focus dysfunction, is a blurring of close vision which makes it difficult to do fine work. While far-sightedness is caused by inherited and environmental influences on the shape of the eyeball, presbyopia is caused mainly by age-related thickening of proteins within the lens, making the lens less flexible.

Cataracts: According to Dr. Grossman, “cataracts are so frequent among seniors that many eye doctors consider them to be normal. Blurry, hazy vision that worsens over time and over-sensitivity to light are signs that an opaque spot on the lens of the eye may be growing and obscuring vision. Causes may include buildup of free radicals in the metabolism, chronic stress or pain of the back and neck, food sensitivities or allergies, eye-harming side-effects of prescribed drugs, smoking and poor digestion.

Older clients/patients may be more susceptible to reduced pupil size, which, said Dr. Grossman, makes seniors’ pupils less responsive to changes in ambient lighting, increasing the necessity for more light for reading and protection from bright sunlight.

Alison Gers, vice president of marketing for Vitamin Health Inc., Michigan, the maker of the Viteyes line of vision-support supplements, likewise described several common eye health conditions for which supplements can help.

Occasional Dry Eye: For clients/patients who mention they have dry, itchy eyes from allergies or mask-wearing, there are nutrients such as omega-3, flaxseed and more that can help promote healthy tears in the eyes.

Eye Strain: With overuse of digital screens (from remote working, virtual learning, etc.), astaxanthin can help to relieve tired, strained eyes by working right in the ciliary muscle in the eye that controls focus.

Blue Light: There is also a major concern that digital screens, LED lights and the sun play on our eye health. Lutein is a major nutrient that can help protect eyes from harmful blue light and can be found in Viteyes Blue Light Defender supplements.

Dr. Pavey explained, “Prior to 2020, we were already inundated with increasing screen time; but in the current climate of telecommuting to work and school, we have been faced with non-stop digital activity.” This has raised concerns with consumers about the negative effects of blue light on future eye health and vision acuity.

Eye concerns are a global focus as consumers across the world seek out eye health supplements. Jay Wilkins, ND, founder and formulator, Bionox USA (Greenville, NC), reported that the global eye health supplement market is targeted to grow at a rate of 6.1 percent from 2020 to 2027. Agreeing with Dr. Pavey, he asserted that this growth is “correlated to an increased usage of screenings following and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rise in concern for eye health among the older demographic and Millennials can be correlated to digital eye fatigue.”

He added that other contributing factors include aging and the ongoing obesity epidemic. The relationship between eye pressure and blood pressure can cause ocular perfusion, which is when blood has difficulty getting into the eye to supply oxygen and nutrients.

John Guszak, marketing manager for California-based Sun Ten Laboratories, observed, “You don’t have to be a software developer to experience screen fatigue and excessive blue light damage. These days, a 25-year-old probably spends just as much time glued to a screen as a web developer.” He elaborated, “Whether they are programmers who suffer from eye fatigue, gamers or golfers who need extra attention, or people who want to ensure their eye function remains intact as they approach middle age, people of all ages want effective vision supplements.”

More specifically, explained Dr. Wilkins, inside the eye there is a fluid called aqueous or vitreous humor, depending on if it’s in front of the lens or behind. This fluid provides the pressure needed to hold the eye’s shape. The amount of fluid in front of the eye determines whether intraocular pressure rises and subsides. Therefore, there are several factors that contribute to ensuring that the eye has proper drainage through the trabecular meshwork. When the meshwork fails, fluid cannot circulate properly, causing issues that can lead to glaucoma. This can be attributed to the normal aging of cells.

Dr. Pavey added that fluid buildup inside of the eye can increase the intraocular pressure resulting in possible damage to the optic nerve. “One way to support normal eye pressure is to promote healthy blood flow through the tiny capillaries within the eye. Slower flow can lead to unwanted fluid leakage through the capillary walls, giving rise to the eye pressure.”

According to Dr. Pavey, in addition to maintaining healthy eye pressure, factors that help support vision include blue light filtering, promoting lubricated eyes, protecting night vision and supporting daytime visual acuity.

She explained, “Blue light is everywhere! We are naturally exposed to blue light from the sun, but many of us are overexposed from our many digital devices, such as smart phones, tablets, computer screens and televisions. Excessive blue light can damage the delicate structures of the eye. The cornea and lens of the eye are not able to filter out blue light before it enters the eye; only the macula in the back of the eye can block blue light.”

She elaborated that the maculae contain high concentrations of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which filter blue light at different wavelengths, therefore both are needed for coverage, which is why they are combined in eye formulas In addition, increased screen time can also lead to dry eyes. Chronic dry eyes are not just uncomfortable but could also lead to eye inflammation and corneal damage.

Another issue many individuals are experiencing is the inability for the eyes to sustain natural tear production. Dr. Pavey noted that healthy eyes have a balance between making tears and tear evaporation/drainage. The lacrimal gland produces the watery fluid for the tear film that covers the outside of the eye. Oxidative stress from blue light from exposure can damage the cells of the lacrimal gland, resulting in less tear production. Night and day vision are equally important to maintain, although many of your clients/patients may not place as much importance in nocturnal sight as they do diurnal sight, but it is quite important to ensure its function.

Night vision is the ability to see in low-light conditions and is facilitated by the rod cells in the retina of the eye, Dr. Pavey explained. Rod cells contain a light-sensitive protein called rhodopsin. When rhodopsin is stimulated by light, it splits into two pieces and needs to be regenerated before it can detect light again. Rhodopsin regeneration can decelerate with age, making night driving more dangerous.

“During the daytime we rely upon visual acuity, measured using the Snellen eye chart that assesses the sharpness of the smallest line of letters (for example) seen,” she added.

All-seeing Solutions

An increasing number of studies are published that are identifying specific nutrients that are lacking in individuals with specific (and more serious) eye diseases, pointed out Dr. Grossman. Clients/patients may be able to reduce risk of development of several eye conditions by consuming the nutrients (supplements) he said research shows are lacking. Examples that you can recommend include:

Vitamin C: “In parts of Europe and Asia, vitamin C is considered part of routine treatment for glaucoma,” Dr. Grossman emphasized. Vitamin C reduces eye pressure through a combination of suppressing fluid production and improving the outflow of aqueous humor. A normal healthy lens contains a higher level of vitamin C than any other organ in the body except the adrenal glands. Research has linked a low level of vitamin C in the aqueous humor when cataracts are forming. Vitamin C has also been shown to control sugar imbalances that often play a role in cataract formation.

Omega-3 EFAs: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) may help reduce the chronic inflammatory processes that is found in many individuals with glaucoma. Epidemiological studies have shown that Eskimos, who have a high intake of omega-3 EFAs (essential fatty acids), have a very low incidence of open-angle glaucoma. There is some evidence indicating that fish oil consumption can reduce fluid pressure within the eyes.

Coleus forskohlii: Several studies have shown that the herb coleus may lower intra-ocular pressure by relaxing smooth muscles in the eye.

Ginkgo biloba: Known mainly for its brain circulation support, ginkgo may increase the circulation of blood to the eyes. It has been shown in some cases to help lower intraocular pressure in the eyes.

Vinpocetine: Also known for brain health, vinpocetine improves the utilization of glucose and oxygen in the brain and retina.

Magnesium and Zinc: Magnesium relaxes smooth muscles, which regulates the outflow of aqueous humor from the inner eye, while zinc deficiency can contribute to macular degeneration.

Lutein/Zeaxanthin: As with zinc, these carotenoids have been shown to be low in individuals with macular degeneration. “Increasing intake of them either by foods or by supplements has been found to prevent and even improve macular degeneration in many cases,” underscored Dr. Grossman.

Bilberry: This berry strengthens the structural integrity of blood vessels, supporting healthy circulation, particularly to the small capillaries that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the eyes. Rich in antioxidants, bilberry also helps prevent free radical damage to the delicate structures within the eye.

Glutathione: A compound composed of three amino acids: cysteine, glycine and glutamic acid, glutathione could be effective in preventing cataract formation. Some studies have shown that many lenses with cataracts contain approximately 1/5th the amount of glutathione as compared to normal lenses. “N-acetyl cysteine, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin C, selenium, vitamin E, vitamin B2, vitamin B6 and zinc can help the body increase its glutathione production and levels,” said Dr. Grossman.

Illinois-based Protocol for Life Balance offers a popular vision-support supplement. Celine Torres-Moon, science writer for the company, explained that the supplement “is a comprehensive ocular nutrient formula focusing on supporting macular health.” It features 10 mg of lutein (FloraGLO) per serving, as well as zeaxanthin (FloraGLO), beta-carotene, antioxidant vitamins C and E, B-complex vitamins, essential minerals (zinc, selenium, chromium), and free radical scavengers, including N-acetyl cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, CoQ10, glutathione. The formula is completed with botanicals and plant-derived compounds such as citrus bioflavonoid complex, rutin, as well as green tea, bilberry, grape seed and Ginkgo biloba extracts.

Life Extension has several specific eye-/vision-support supplements for natural practitioners to recommend, according to Product Manager Kristin Chapman.

Gummy Science Digital Eye Support berry-flavored gummies feature Lutemax 2020, the patented marigold extract that provides lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin to help maintain healthy macular pigment density. “Lutemax is a standardized marigold flower extract that provides lutein and the zeaxanthin isomers in the same 5:1 ratio found in nature. Daily intake of 10 mg lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin can help build up macular pigmen ocular density (MPOD) to support increasing need for blue light filtration,” Dr. Pavey noted.

Life Extension’s Tear Support with MaquiBright features maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis) extract standardized to delphinidins, which Dr. Pavey stated helps support lacrimal gland function. Delphinidins absorb into the lacrimal gland cells to quench oxidative stress and help restore tear production. Taking standardized maqui berry extract orally is one way to keep the eyes lubricated all day by helping to make our own natural tears.

Life Extension’s Eye Pressure Support with Mirtogenol promotes ocular health by helping to maintain already-healthy eye pressure. Mirtogenol is a blend of European bilberry extract and Pycnogenol French maritime pine bark extract. And Life Extension’s MacuGuard Ocular Support with Saffron & Astaxanthin helps fight eye fatigue and support night vision.

Sun Ten Laboratories’ Lutein Complex “is a potent eye health supplement comprised of two marigold extracts, lutein and zeaxanthin plus a blend of vitamins, minerals and herbs that include vitamins C and E, copper, zinc, chrysanthemum flower and lycium fruit,” Guszak described.

He explained that research shows that low dietary levels of the xanthophylls lutein and zeaxanthin are linked to the gradual deterioration of vision (e.g., cataracts) and an increased risk of age-related sight problems, some of which may be irreversible. “The average daily intake of lutein plus zeaxanthin among adults in the U.S. is about 2 mg, which is considerably low as studies suggest that 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin are needed to support long-term eye health. These two xanthophylls enhance eye health by absorbing vision-damaging blue light and targeting harmful reactive oxygen species thereby protecting the retina.”

Further, Guszak explained, the combination of vitamins C and E, and the minerals zinc and copper has been clinically proven to target age-related vision problems. Long-term research shows that this blend of common minerals and vitamins reduces the rate of vision loss for up to five years.

Sun Ten Laboratories’ Lutein Complex supports optimal visual function, filters out eye-damaging UV rays, lowers the risk of age-related vision insufficiency, absorbs vision-damaging blue light, reduces digital eye strain and dry eyes, and neutralizes harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can damage retina cells, he added.

Bionox’s M3 provides nutritional support for vision by managing ocular blood pressure to allow for optimum circulation to lower intraocular pressure, according to Dr. Wilkins.” Nitric oxide is primarily used to regulate blood pressure as it reduces intraocular pressure and regulates the trabecular meshwork. Through Bionox’s M3 Ultimate Nitric Oxide Nutrition consumers can boost their nitric oxide levels through the l-arginine, l-citrulline pathway,” he explained.

Even if clients/patients come in for other reasons; and this is likely, asking about their vision or eye comfort is important. Many people don’t realize that their vision may be slightly impaired by excessive blue light consumption or life stress.

“Naturopaths can introduce vision health as a topic by asking how many hours of screen time a patient is getting every day,” Torres-Moon advised. “If the patient regularly wears contact lenses or prescriptions glasses, the naturopath can inquire whether the patient sees their ophthalmologist annually as an entry to a conversation about eye health. Other opportunities to discuss eye health occur if the patient is diabetic or has high blood pressure, a family history of glaucoma, cataract and/or macular degeneration. Finally, when investigating a new patient’s typical diet, an obvious lack of carotenoid or omega-3 fat intake or inadequate fruits and vegetables in the diet can be an opportunity to discuss the importance of these nutrients for eye health.”

By discussing this topic with your clients/patients, you can open their eyes to maintaining sound visual health.

Healthy Take Aways

• Eye health supplements grew significantly, by 14.3 percent over 2020 and continued through 2021 to reach $909 million.
• Due to slowed-down production of tears, dry eyes are experienced by 75 percent of seniors over the age of 65.
• Presbyopia is caused mainly by age-related thickening of proteins within the lens, making the lens less flexible.
• Fluid buildup inside of the eye can increase the intraocular pressure resulting in possible damage to the optic nerve.
• The average daily intake of lutein plus zeaxanthin among adults in the U.S. is about 2 mg, which is considerably low as studies suggest that 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin are needed to support long-term eye health.

For More Information:

Bionox USA, www.bionoxusa.com
Life Extension, www.lifeextension.com
Protocol for Life Balance, www.protocolforlife.com
Sun Ten Laboratories, www.sunten.com
Vitamin Health, Inc., www.viteyes.com