As a personal trainer and healthy weight consultant, I often get asked about adding supplements into one’s routine. Traditionally, if you ate a healthy diverse diet you would get all the nutrition you need from your food. However, times have changed, and due to soil depletion, as well as increases in environmental toxins, many wellness experts suggest supplementing your diet with key nutrients, especially as you age.
Trying to find out which supplements are right for you can feel a bit overwhelming at first. I’ve had many clients tell me of experiences of going into a health food store to pick up a simple protein powder, only to leave with nothing; as they felt confused by the staggering amount of options and information.
As such, I wanted to create a list that easy to read and understand. Instead of compiling a general list of supplements that can easily found with a search engine, I’m going to discuss ones I’ve used personally; as I try not to share on something I haven’t tried myself. This list is by no means complete, and specific to eye care, but it does include some unique items that are being studied more seriously now.
When it comes supplements, Naturopathic and Homeopathic doctors are your experts, however, depending on how diverse the training your family physician has had, they are can also be a great source. I am none of these, however, in addition to my background in fitness, I’m also a First Responder, as well as a Health and Science Tutor for college and university students.
I mention my background here, as with the flood of A.I. generated materials, it’s import to know the credibility of who you are reading. However, what actually gives me solid footing to speak on these supplements is my personal experience with injury and illness. Many years ago, I sustained a major back injury and have been on an intense healing journey ever sense. As well, I recently discovered my eye’s needed a little extra care (reading glasses), and decided to research what other positive things I can do to support my eyes. As I read a lot for work, like many of you, my love of books is a non negotiable.
Before we dive into the different types of vitamins and supplements, it’s best to go over a couple of key concepts. Even if you live a very clean life, eat organic and wear a pair of good reading glasses to your prescription, there are environmental toxins all around which affect us and our eyes.
These toxins are called, Free Radicals and cause oxidative stress which harms our cells. There are many studies that show links between Free Radicals and major health issues, such as cancer and dementia. So whenever possible, reducing Free Radicals in your life is a great step. However, the good news is, there’s something we can do about it- we can up our Antioxidants. For an analogy, if Free Radicals are the villains of the story, than Antioxidants are the heroes.
- Zinc is a vital mineral which helps maintain the health of the eye’s cell membrane, retina, and protein structure. Zinc interactrs with other vitamins, such as vitamin A and Melanin. “Zinc is a trace mineral, meaning that the body only needs small amounts, and yet it is necessary for almost 100 enzymes to carry out vital chemical reactions. It is a major player in the creation of DNA, growth of cells, building proteins, healing damaged tissue, and supporting a healthy immune system.” (Harvard.edu)
- Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most common causes of blindness in the world. Vitamin A affects many body systems, however, the most dramatic impact, is on the eye and includes night blindness. A 2023 study published in Ophthalmology Retina looking at vitamin A deficiency showed that, “early intervention can lead to dramatic visual improvement and avoid potentially permanent retinal damage, retina specialists should be familiar with its clinical presentation.”
Lutien and Zeaxanthin
- These minerals function as a natural sun block. They are also thought to play a key role in protecting your eyes against harmful blue light.
Nitric Oxide (NO)
- NO is an essential nutrient for the body and a potent vasodilator and a key regulator of ocular blood flow. In a 2010 study out of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, researchers looked at the effect of NO for visual function. It was found that participants with reduced NO levels had a less blood volume to submacular choroid in the eyes- essentially, the blood vessels were not able to carry as much oxygen to the eyes which is critical for central visual function. I will also note that NO is being studed as a fitness supplement as it increases oxygen to muscles and may help with post-workout recovery. Good sources for NO include dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and arugula, as well as beets, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots and broccoli, and it can also be bought in supplement form.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
- Keeping in line with the cardiovascular system, ALA does wonders for blood vessel integrity. I’ve had great results with ALA in my personal health. Years ago I was diagnosed with Reynaud’s Disease, which is a condition that causes the blood vessels to narrow, thus reducing oxygen and nutrient flow into cells. It’s so strange- I would wake up in the morning to my hands and feet looking like they belonged to a wax dummy. Supplementing ALA completely reversed it for me, and I was so intrigued by the progress I started to look into its affect for eyes. It turns out ALA is an essential nutrient to keep your eyes healthy and prevent diseases and vision conditions. Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant and it’s produced naturally by the body. However, sometimes, we don’t produce the amount of alpha-lipoic acid required to fight the amount of free radicals we are subjected to.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to healthy aging throughout life and are associated with cardiovascular function, reduction of Alzheimer’s disease and vision protection. Getting proper amounts of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) from oily fish or supplements has been shown to reduce several eye diseases, including annoying dry eyes. “It can be challenging to get the appropriate intake of EPA and DHA through diet alone, even though EPA and DHA are produced by water plants such as algae and are prevalent in marine (life).”(Swanson,2012)
Vitamins B6, B9, and B12
- B vitamins have a huge impact for health in general. Specifically, vitamins B6, B9, and B12 are linked to eye health. According to Healthline, “This combination of vitamins can lower levels of homocysteine, a protein in your body that may be associated with inflammation and an increased risk of developing AMD. A clinical study in women demonstrated a 34% reduced risk of developing AMD while taking 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 along with vitamins B6 and B supplements.”
- Another vitamin in the B family that’s been studied in relation to healthy eyes is riboflavin. As an powerhouse antioxidant, riboflavin has the potential to reduce damage by free radicals in your body. Specifically, scientists are looking at riboflavin’s ability to prevent cataracts, as continued riboflavin deficiency has been linked to cataracts, which is a clouding of the lens of the eye.
Did you know that over 80% of learning is through our vision? Any vision problem has the potential to block a child’s ability to write, read and learn. Undiagnosed vision issues can lead to poor performance in school or work, and feelings of frustration and lack of interest in learning.
Although it can be intimidating when you first start to consider changing your diet to target areas where they could be a lack of balance and missing nutrients, it’s best to take it one step at a time. Remember many of the supplements talked about above occur in our food naturally and therefore, unless you are allergic, they are completely safe. That being said, supplements are often engineered to be more bio-available and are concentrated, so it’s important to stick to the proper dosing, and be on the look out for fillers. As always, check in with your doctor- they may wish to run some blood work to see if you have low levels in any areas.
If you are looking at a place to start, pop into your local health food store, quite often they have wonderfully informed staff who are happy to share and guide you. To save money, I’ve noticed huge discounts on long weekends and especially big sale dates (Black Friday and Boxing Day). Supplements typically have a long shelf life, so picking them up on a big sale may be the way to go. Unless treating something specific, from a prevention point of view, just adding in a good quality multivitamin daily can be a great option to fill in some of the nutrition gaps due to the high prices of regular food now a days.
“Reading is Dreaming with your Eyes Open”- YoYo
An avid book reader and proud library card holder, Angela is new to the world of e-Readers. She has a background in education, emergency response, fitness, loves to be in nature, travelling and exploring. With an honours science degree in anthropology, Angela also studied writing after graduation. She has contributed work to The London Free Press, The Gazette, The Londoner, Best Version Media, Lifeliner, and Citymedia.ca.