By now, you've likely heard about lutein, but you may be wondering what it is and why it's so important for you. Lutein is a type of carotenoid, which is a fat soluble yellow to red pigment found in many vegetables and plants. Carotenoids give brightly colored vegetables and autumn leaves their color.
Lutein is known to be a yellow pigment, but it appears orange-red in higher concentrations. Within plants, lutein works to dispel damaging light rays that release increased levels of energy that can harm plants. In the same way, it is thought that high concentrations of lutein in the eyes may help prevent damage from ultraviolet radiation and especially blue light.
As was previously stated, lutein is thought to be incredibly beneficial for the eyes because it concentrates in the macula. There, it helps to prevent damaging blue light rays from wreaking havoc on the cells of the macula, the area of the retina (in the back of the eye) responsible for seeing in fine detail.
The macula allows us to read, drive, recognize faces, and function during any other small detail task. Because of the high concentration of lutein in the macula, it actually appears a bit yellow to the eye of your optometrist. Joining lutein in the macula are carotenoids zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin as well, and all function in much the same way.
These carotenoids appear to function as antioxidants in the eye and in the rest of the body, acting alongside other antioxidants like Vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene. These antioxidants work to guard the eyes against oxidative damage from free radicals that can build up and destroy the cells of the eye, leading to diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Multiple studies have shown that lutein can be beneficial in preventing the development of AMD. The most significant one to note is the AREDS2 study which demonstrated that those with early macular degeneration who took the studied supplement containing 10mg lutein and 2mg zeaxanthin daily for 5 years saw a 10-25 percent reduction in the risk of AMD progression.
Lutein Foods | Foods High In Lutein
The best food sources of lutein include those with bright color. Green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greensand spinach are wonderful sources (put them in your breakfast smoothie or make a big salad for lunch!)
Other great foods containing lutein include squash, green peas, brussel sprouts, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and peppers. These can easily be incorporated into a big salad or a dinner with roasted vegetables. Organic eggs are also a great source of lutein that give you loads of protein, and eggs are a great staple for any meal! Don't be afraid of the cholesterol in eggs, as this is a healthy form of cholesterol and eggs contain so many great nutrients our bodies thrive on (like lutein).
Since there is no recommended daily allowance of lutein, incorporating these healthy foods into your diet will ensure you're well on your way to healthy eyes.
Top 3 Lutein Supplements
Supplements are a great way to get lutein into your body, so we'll highlight a few we enjoy here. The lutein in these supplements is derived from marigold extract, which is common for lutein, and the zeaxanthin is usually from red peppers.
As stated previously, there is no recommended daily allowance or intake of lutein. The AREDS studies looked at 10 mg lutein, and at least this amount is often found in supplements. There are no known toxic effects of taking too much lutein (or any of the other carotenoids).
The most notable side effect of eating too many carotenoids is a yellowing of the skin, known as carotenemia, so if you love carrots, you might want to watch out for that! This condition can also occur due to taking too high of a dose of carotenoids in supplement form, but the condition is reversible by cutting back on the amount you're consuming.
Lutein has so many great benefits for the eyes and vision that it's well worth looking into a supplement or ramping up your intake via other dietary sources. This carotenoid may help prevent damage from blue light emitted from your cell phone, computer, and TV, and this blue light exposure is only going to increase as technology continues to advance in the coming years.
Protect yourself now!
This past week my eyes have been far more dry than usual! Could it be due to the changing seasons?
Yeah, it absolutely could be! Changing of the seasons, especially as we go into fall and winter, the air gets drier and that dry air is really going to dry your eyes out. So you do have to be a little bit more vigilant in the fall and winter months as far as eyelid hygiene and omega-3s and other things that you might use like warm compresses. Those are things that you really want to make sure that you're doing on a consistent basis as you go into the winter time because the winter is going to make things quite a bit worse. Also a lot of people do have fall allergies so that could be something that's also contributing to your dryness.
An example... we're in Mexico City right now and we're at 7,000 feet altitude, and it's a desert climate, and Jenna's eyes, skin, lips and everything else are so dry. That's why we're drinking a large bottle of water a few times per day. The eyes are definitely feeling it, my lips are feeling it and all of that. So yeah changing seasons, for sure, but even changing elevations and things like that can do it too.
What is the best rewetting drop for soft contact lenses?
So this is a great question and there are a lot of soft contact lens drops that are out there. Unfortunately, I don't like any of them because they're all preserved and what I actually recommend for my patients that have soft contact lenses is of course fixing the problem first. But if you need a drop, then using just Retain MGD is fine (it's a little milky white so it might cause a little blurry vision) but I like that because it's preservative free. Now you're going to read on the box that it's not approved for contact lens wear, but that's because they didn't get it approved. It costs millions of dollars to get it approved for contact lens wear but just know that it's a preservative free drop so it's perfectly safe for contact lenses.
Another note on contact lenses is if you have dry eyes, daily disposable contact lenses are really going to be the best for you in most cases. Some people do like other contact lenses but daily disposables are going to be great for that. So if you use Retain MGD on top of those I'm not as concerned because you're throwing them away every night anyway.
I love your show! I have dry eyes and I work all day on the computer. Would blue blocker glasses be good to wear while I work on the computer? And if so, can you recommend a pair (because I wear prescription glasses)?
That's a great question and, yes definitely, wear blue blockers because blue blockers are going to help with fatigue. They're also going to help make sure that there's no glare coming off your computer screen but, that being said, since you wear prescription glasses you can actually get a blue block coating on your glasses and it's also going to be an anti-reflective coating (or a no glare coating). Make sure you have both of those when you make your prescription glasses because they are anti-reflective or the no glare coating is going to block glare from your computer screen and then you can get a blue light specific one that will be on your glasses to begin with.
Also, you can get transition lenses. Some transition lenses will actually be dark even on the inside and they'll get darker on the outside and that will help with eye strain if you don't mind a little tint. But the blue blockers over your glasses... ours can actually fit over your glasses. Ours are pretty large, so you can always try that in the meantime because I know you might not be ready to run out and get a new pair of glasses or lenses. So, you could always try ours in the meantime.
What's the best over-the-counter drop?
We kind of discussed this with the soft contact lenses and we recommend Retain MGD but we usually don't recommend over-the-counter drops at all because they just cover a problem and they don't fix the problem. They're more for relief. I've been using them in the middle of the night if I wake up because it is so dry here. So, if you have that issue then Retain MGD is the one we recommend the most. It works really well and it's preservative free so it comes in individual vials. Then if you want to learn how to fix it naturally you can visit dryeyecommunity.com to get started.
I have a pair of sunglasses that had a label "driving glasses anti-glare". Are you saying this means that these are blue blockers?
Most sunglasses are blue blockers because they're sunglasses and so they're going to block blue light as well.
I use Refresh Optive Mega-3 drops for MGD and I used to use Retaine, but I found Refresh Optive Mega-3 works better now.
Refresh Optive Mega-3 is brand new and it's great. You use whatever works for you as long as it's preservative free. I'm much happier than if you use something that has preservatives in it because preservatives are just going to irritate your eyes.
When I'd read more than an hour, my eyes get blurry. What can I do
to be able to read without my eyes getting blurry?
We call it the cheesy 20-20-20 Rule. Every 20 minutes of reading, take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away or further. What that does is it just relaxes your eyes. When you're reading, what happens is your eyes are constantly focusing and they can get stuck in that focusing state and it makes it very blurry. And so, it's a way to relax your eyes and it helps your eyes bend a little bit more and then therefore you're going to be a lot more comfortable.