The “Eyes” Have It: Fish Oil for Eye Health 0
These days, you can’t pick up a health magazine or nutrition book and not find someone singing the praises of fish oil. From supporting cardiovascular health and a normal inflammatory response, to supporting healthy brain function and keeping the skin supple and hydrated, there’s certainly no shortage of feathers in fish oil’s cap. Eating oily fish as a whole food is a great option, since it comes with complete protein and other helpful nutrients, but many of the benefits that come from eating fish are primarily due to the omega-3 fatty acids found in the fat – specifically, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, EPA and DHA for short.
Fish oil is well known for helping conditions associated with the body’s natural inflammatory process. (Think of good quality fats as oil being added to rusty machine parts to help them work more smoothly.) One of the lesser-known properties of fish oil is that it may be good for eye health. Occasional inflammation in the eyes may interfere with the production of tears and other eye lubricants, both in quantity and chemical composition. Tears aren’t just water and salt; they contain an oily layer, which prevents them from evaporating too quickly and leaving someone with excessively dry eyes.
Dry eye syndrome, or “dry eyes,” has been the unfortunate victim of somewhat comical ads for prescription and over-the-counter eye drops and artificial tear products. To people living with the condition, however, it’s no laughing matter. It can cause mild to moderate discomfort, and more severe cases may interfere with work and reduce overall quality of life. Studies support a role for EPA and DHA in aiding this condition.
The incidence of dry eyes is lower in populations consuming large amounts of omega-3 fats, and is higher in populations with a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. In one trial that investigated the effects of fish oil supplementation in individuals with dry eyes, compared to placebo, subjects taking fish oil (1245mg EPA and 540mg DHA per day) for 12 weeks experienced small but notable improvements in subjective eye pain and dry sensation. Aside from dietary supplementation, topical application of omega-3 fatty acids via eye drops may be another way to introduce these helpful compounds into the eyes. Experiments employing mouse models of dry eye indicate that eye drops containing a mixture of omega-3s and hyaluronic acid improved corneal function and decreased inflammation and oxidative stress markers on the surface of the eyes.
Another eye health concern for which fatty fish consumption or fish oil supplementation may be beneficial is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Compared to healthy controls without AMD, AMD patients consume significantly lower amounts of oily fish. Amounts of EPA and DHA measured in blood and the cell membranes of red blood cells (a good way to assess body levels of these fats) showed that higher amounts of these fats in the blood and cell membranes were associated with significantly lower risk for AMD, independent of potentially confounding factors, such as high triglycerides, hypertension, and family history of AMD.
Okay, sounds great! But what if you don’t like fish? Are you doomed to the adult equivalent of when you were forced to choke down soggy, overcooked Brussels sprouts at the dinner table as a kid? Do you have to eat fish to get these benefits? No: fish oil capsules to the rescue! But what about those “fishy burps” that scare people away from taking fish oil supplements? Fortunately, many high-quality fish oils are now available that are designed to reduce the risk of the fishy flavor “repeating” on you.
For vegetarians and vegans, who may find it difficult to get adequate EPA and DHA from the selection of foods available to them, the omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, found in flax, chia, and walnuts) has also been shown to be beneficial in animal models of dry eye. However, because many people do not efficiently convert ALA into the more potent EPA and DHA, it may be best to prefer eating fish or taking fish oil, but if those are not options, plant-based omega-3s are still a good choice.
- Liu A, Ji J. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids Therapy for Dry Eye Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Studies. Medical Science Monitor: International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research. 2014;20:1583-1589.
- Miljanović B, Trivedi KA, Reza Dana M, Gilbard JP, Buring JE, Schaumberg DA. The relationship between dietary n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and clinically diagnosed dry eye syndrome in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2005;82(4):887-893.
- Kawakita T, Kawabata F, Tsuji T, et al. Effects of dietary supplementation with fish oil on dry eye syndrome subjects: randomized controlled trial. Biomed Res. 2013;34(5):215-20.
- Merle BM, Benlian P, Puche N, et al. Circulating omega-3 Fatty acids and neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014 Mar 28;55(3):2010-9.
Health Benefits of Grounding (Earthing) 0
Syncing your bare toes into wet grass, dirt, sand, or water is the latest trend in wellness. Known as “earthing” or “grounding,” when skin comes into contact with the ground, the human body becomes a sponge that soaks up negatively-charged electrons from the earth. This practice is quickly earning recognition as a novel way to protect your health and combat the insults of our current lifestyles. The modern concept of earthing made its debut in 2010 with the release of Clint Ober’s book, Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? Nearly 12 years earlier Ober, a retired pioneer of the American cable TV industry, discovered that the same system of grounding used to stabilize telecommunications and wires could also stabilize the atoms in the human body, improving the function of all body systems.
Grounding has been practiced since the beginning of time when our ancestors walked around in bare feet or conductive leather moccasins or sandals. Perhaps this is one explanation for their longevity and good health. After the invention of rubber-soled shoes, a non-conductive barrier was erected between mankind and our greatest source of electrons – the earth. As our direct contact with the earth fades through the routine use of synthetic flooring and shoes, electromagnetic instability threatens our health.
All our cells are made of atoms. Atoms possess unique positive and negative charges that are based on the number of negative electrons or positive protons they carry. Many healthy atoms have a negative charge because they possess more electrons; however, these atoms can have electrons “stolen” from them, leaving them highly reactive and damaging. In this state, they are called free radicals. As damaging free radicals infiltrate cells and tissues, our health declines. The only way to stop this destructive process is by supplying the body with neutralizing antioxidants or a large dose of negative electrons, through grounding.
Grounding Neutralizes Free Radicals
Free radicals are generated through inflammation, infection, cell damage, trauma, stress, and our toxic environments. They force our immune system to respond to these threats. An active immune system produces more free radicals and soon our body is attempting to put out fires, but it has insufficient resources to do so. Additionally, industrialization and our increasingly technological world have thrown us into a labyrinth of electromagnetic fields, which disrupt the electrical balance of our cells. An abundance of free radicals, instable charges, inflammation and immune activation are responsible for some of our most threatening chronic conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic pain syndromes, and autoimmunity.
Grounding is a simple, inexpensive means by which most of us can combat these destructive forces. The negative electrons absorbed from the earth quenches the free radicals, supports the immune system, and puts out the fires. Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman described an umbrella affect created when we “earth.” He claimed that grounding equalized the electronic potential between the body and the earth, so the body becomes an extension of the earth’s magnetic field. This potential “cancels, reduces, and pushes away electrical fields from the body.”
Grounding Improves Sleep, Pain Management, and Stress
Grounding appears to improve sleep, help manage pain, and normalizes cortisol (a stress hormone) to reduce the stress response.
The nervous system is an electrical system of the body and influences all these activities. An influx of negative electrons from the earth has been shown to calm the nervous system by shifting the autonomic nervous system from the sympathetic, “fight-or-flight” branch toward the parasympathetic “rest-and-digest” branch.
Sleep and stress reduction are vital for managing pain, and decreasing the risks of many chronic health conditions. In a blind pilot study of 60 subject suffering from sleep disturbances and chronic muscle and joint pain for at least six months, grounding each night for one month produced a 74 to 100 percent improvement in quality of sleep, feeling rested upon waking, muscle stiffness and pain, chronic back and joint pain, and general well-being. Grounding helps to establish a normal cortisol level at night, which improves sleep, pain, and stress.
Grounding Improves Inflammation and Immunity
New studies also show that grounding positively affects the inflammatory response and the immune system, which could have far-reaching health benefits. We already know that grounding improves cortisol levels. Since a high cortisol, associated with chronic stress, leads to systemic inflammation in the body, grounding can certainly improve inflammation as it normalizes cortisol.
The influx of free negative electrons from the earth also combats positively charged free radicals generated by inflammatory factors as they respond to injury, infection, trauma or stress. As grounding neutralizes free radicals, the immune response calms. Healing proceeds at a faster rate in the absence of destructive free radicals. When the body is deficient in negative electrons, cells and tissue are vulnerable to destruction, leading to free radicals, systemic inflammation, and chronic immune activation. This environment increases risks for cancer, autoimmunity, infections, chronic pain conditions, and a general decline in health.
There are many ways to encourage grounding. A plethora of grounding materials from sheets to shoes exist. However, the most simple and inexpensive way for everyone to ground is to simply walk on the ground in your bare feet. Moisture is a superior conductor and therefore, wet grass, dirt, a beach or lake provides the best grounding experience. It is also helpful to know that leather, metal, cotton, and non-stained concrete are conductive. However, pavement, wood, plastic, rubber, synthetic or insulated materials will block the healthful negative charges from the earth.
- Chevalier, G., Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2012). Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, 291541. http://doi.org/10.1155/2012/291541
- Oschman, J. L., Chevalier, G., & Brown, R. (2015). The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Journal of Inflammation Research, 8, 83–96. http://doi.org/10.2147/JIR.S69656