A Functional Approach To Eye Health & Dry Eye with Dr. Travis Zigler
There’s always a great story behind a holistic practitioner’s reason for becoming interested in this field. For many, it might be a personal struggle or witnessing the struggles of a family member finding that Western medicine failed them. For us, it began when we tried to have children. We spent years trying and failing with Western medicine pills and procedures until finally diving into Eastern medicine practices.
We began weekly acupuncture and slightly changed our diets in order to balance hormones. Within three months, we were pregnant. So, we thought to ourselves, we’re treating dry eye disease with eye drops...but maybe there’s a much better way to go about it. Many people are turning toward holistic medicine to treat chronic conditions because they’re finding that the traditional medical model isn’t working for them, and this is very true for those with dry eye disease.
When it comes to the eyes, they’re often neglected because many people do not get routine eye care. But routine eye exams are so important because the eyes are literally the windows to your entire body. The pupil, or black part in the center of your eye, is actually a hole that allows us to view into the back of your eyes. We’re then able to see all of the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye. It’s actually the only place in the body where we can noninvasively see what’s going on with your blood vessels.
Just on a routine eye exam, we’ve caught nearly 10 brain tumors, multiple undiagnosed diabetics, and even cancerous lesions. In addition to this, glaucoma and macular degeneration are often asymptomatic until the disease is severe. This means you won’t notice any changes in your vision until it’s too late. While there are many reasons to have a yearly comprehensive eye exam with dilation, these are just a few of the diagnoses we make that can be prevented or treated effectively if caught early.
3 Common Eye Care Mistakes You’re Making
1. Increased Phone and Computer Use
With the rise of screen time, we’re seeing a great increase in those suffering from dry eye disease. The reason we’re seeing this is because of a lack of blinking. We have glands in the eyelids called meibomian glands, which release oils into the tear film. The oily layer of the tear film is crucial for keeping tears on your eyes, giving you clear vision, and keeping you comfortable. Without a proper oily layer, the tears can evaporate.
We’re starting to see meibomian gland atrophy and dysfunction in younger and younger ages because of a lack of blinking. Blinking effectively milks the meibomian glands and releases oil onto the eyes. Because we blink half as often when we’re reading or using a screen, the glands are not being milked and used like they should. When this happens, the glands begin to stop working and eventually atrophy.
To avoid this, use the 20-20-20 Rule. Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to take a break and look at something at least 20 feet away (or close your eyes). This allows your eyes to relax, and it gives you time to consciously blink so the oils can be excreted from the glands.
2. Ignoring Blue Light
Blue light is made naturally by the sun and we get most of our blue light from this source. When the sun comes up, it allows blue light to enter our system and then it dissipates at the end of the day when the sun goes down. Blue light tells your body to produce serotonin in the morning, which is then converted to melatonin at night.
However, blue light is also emitted from screens. A lack of blue light at night tells your body to increase melatonin production, but when you’re on your smartphone right until you go to bed you’re going to potentially miss out on deep, restful sleep due to the inhibition of melatonin production.
To combat this, turn off your screens at least an hour before you go to bed. Power yourself down! If you’re going to watch TV, wear blue light blocking glasses to prevent blue light from entering your system and keeping you awake. Restful sleep is so important for all bodily functions, and this includes maintaining your eye health.
3. Lack of Hygiene
Our eyelids are incredibly important for the health of the eyes. The glands in our eyelids can become inflamed and dysfunctional due to not only a lack of blinking, but also due to a buildup of excess bacteria. While it is normal for the eyelids to have bacteria on them, an overpopulation of bacteria will become problematic. Bacteria produce waste products that contribute to inflammation, and this creates redness, dryness, and irritation.
When you’re washing your face, consider using a hypochlorous acid eyelid cleanser after washing your face. This substance is made naturally by the neutrophils of your body to kill microorganisms. By using this spray, you’re helping to complement your immune system and keep your eyelid bacteria at a manageable level. Simply spray it onto your closed eyelids twice per day, rub it in, and let it dry.
By doing this, you help enhance the hygiene of your eyelids. Dentists have it right. We’ve been taught since we were little to brush our teeth twice a day and remember to floss to prevent cavities. Cleansing the eyelids is the same thought process. Clean your eyelids twice per day and prevent eyelid inflammation, including blepharitis, meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), and dry eye disease.
Common Dry Eye Causes
The most common cause of dry eye is inflammation. By toning down this inflammation at the core, you can begin to feel much better. We don’t look at dry eye as a disease but rather as a symptom of a diseased state. This is the basis for the holistic model of healthcare. When you approach treatment by getting to the root cause, you begin to see people being cured of their disease.
The first step in treating dry eye is changing lifestyle factors, and small changes add up to big impacts. We first teach you about how mindset plays such a large role in healing. If you don’t believe you can get better, you likely never will. After this, we’ll teach you to replace your breakfast with a green smoothie. Bacon, sausage, pancakes, cereal, dairy, bread, and the like are all inflammatory in nature. Drinking more water is also so important because your cells need water to function properly. In addition to this, you need to remove toxins in the environment. These include everything from pollution and smoke to cosmetics and the plastic containers you’re using to store and heat your food.
One simple change per week helps decrease inflammation, and patients report that their entire body feels better after just a few weeks. Often, the all-at-once strategy isn’t effective because you’ll get overwhelmed. By taking it one step at a time, you’ll begin to see a cascade of effects that improve your life.
Supplements to Optimize Eye Health
There are many helpful supplements on the market, but it can be overwhelming to figure out what you should be using to maximize your eye health. The following are our baseline suggestions which we believe everyone should be taking.
This is vital for eye health because leafy green and colorful vegetables contain carotenoids that build up the pigment in your macula. This is where light focuses in the back of your eyes, and it allows you to see 20/20. Macular degeneration can occur due to a degradation of this area in the eye, and greens can go a long way in preventing this. Greens are also antioxidants that scrape away free radicals and help keep your body healthy overall. By consuming a diet filled with a variety of colorful vegetables, you’re allowing your body to fight off disease.
Avoid cheap multivitamins because these will be simply ingested and excreted by your body. We recommend either Passion4Life liquid multivitaminor Healthycell Bioactive Multi gel vitamin. Keep in mind that multivitamins are there to supplement an already healthy diet, so don’t expect them to be your ticket to health unless you’re also eating well and treating your body well.
These are important carotenoids that act as antioxidants and help decrease free radicals in your body. As discussed in the greens powder section, these powerful substances can be found in green leafy and colorful vegetables. They’ll also help ramp up the pigment in your macula, which can help prevent macular degeneration and vision loss. If you’ve already been diagnosed with macular degeneration, or even if you have a family history of the disease, we recommend taking a supplement containing these carotenoids.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and can help those with dry eyes produce healthier oils. By ingesting healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and maintaining the right omega-6 to omega-3 ratio (4:1 is recommended), you’ll give your body the best chance of producing high quality oil for your tear film. While there is some controversy on the effectiveness of omega-3 supplements when compared to placebo, multiple peer reviewed studies have shown the benefits of omega-3s for those with dry eyes. Make sure you’re looking for a supplement that is sustainably sourced, triglyceride based, and high quality.
By taking all of the above into consideration, and thinking of dry eye as a symptom instead of a disease, you can begin to combat it at the root level of inflammation. Doing this will ensure not only total body health but also healthier and more comfortable eyes.