Our eyes are the windows to the world around us.  They are very complex organs and we often just take them for granted.  That is, until they begin to show signs and symptoms of damage and or vision loss.  Diseases and conditions of the eyes include:

-   cataracts
-   eyestrain
-   colorblindness
-   glaucoma
-   inflammation and infection
-   macular degeneration
-   dryness
-   bloodshot and blurred eyes 

These disorders and symptoms are often an indicator of a more serious health problem within the body.

Protecting our eyes goes beyond wearing UV protecting sunglasses and minimizing eyestrain at the computer screen.  Many other considerations can affect eye health, including the use of various pharmaceuticals, inadequate water intake, poor lighting and malnourishment.

Key to good eye health is diet.  A poor diet contributes to many of the symptoms of eye trouble.  The well known vitamin for eye disorders is vitamin A, but often overlooked is essential fatty acids, commonly known as omega 3 and 6, alpha-linolenic and alpha-linoleic acid respectively.   To be healthy, we must include these essential fats in our diet.  A deficiency of these fats in the body are associated with many physical and mental conditions, and specifically, the eyes require essential fatty acids for optimum function and health.

Sources of EFA’s

The Standard (North) American Diet (SAD) is exactly that… sad and lacking in general in omega 3’s but overly abundant in omega 6, which is found in products like safflower, sunflower, canola and corn oils, as well as almonds and olive oil.  It’s omega 3 that our eyes are looking for. This essential fatty acid is absolutely necessary for good eye health.  Good sources of omega 3 are flax seeds, flax oil, evening primrose oil, nuts and seeds such as walnuts, dark leafy green vegetables and cold-water fish.  

Also available are EFA oil blends sold in most health food stores.  Essential fatty acids are very susceptible to oxidation.  This means that they do not have a long shelf life and they are very prone to the formation of free radicals.  Essential fatty acids should be kept in a refrigerator away from air, light and heat sources.  They should also be kept in a dark bottle or container. 

Deficiencies of essential fatty acids can lead to any of the potential eye problems mentioned above.  It can also lead to retinal damage and problems with pressure in the eyes.  Nutritional deficiencies affect the entire body and as mentioned, poor eye health can be an indication that there is another problem going on elsewhere in the body.  Our eyes are precious, delicate and very susceptible to damage.  We need to nourish them as much as any other part of our body and a diet including fresh vegetables, fruits, sufficient protein, carbohydrates, pure water and the essential fatty acids are a healthy approach to protecting one of our greatest blessings – to be able to see!

Erin Bell