6 Things You’re Not Doing For Your Eyes But Should Be

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but they’re also windows into your health.

“Many systemic conditions—such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis—have adverse effects that can be seen during a routine eye examination,” says Dr. Deana LaBrosse, founder and primary optometrist at Evanston Eye Wellness, a practice based outside of Chicago. “Changes to eyesight may be the first signs of some of these conditions.”

Just like any other organ in your body, your eyes require certain nutrients and healthy practices to function properly. So it’s not surprising that the effects of a poor diet, technology, sun exposure, and smoking can have a cumulative effect on our eye health, as well—even though these effects may not be realized until later in life.

Unfortunately, many people aren’t following healthy eye-care practices—and that’s because it’s easy to take eye health for granted when nothing is wrong right now. Let’s explore six things—besides an annual eye examination—that you should be doing for your eyes tomorrow, starting today:

1. Protect your eyes from blue light  

Thanks to modern society’s use of technology (cue everyone staring at their iPhones!) and artificial lighting, the American Optometric Association says our eyes have increased exposure to retina-damaging high-energy blue light—which wasn’t an issue in centuries past.

“Excess blue light may cause deep tissue damage in the eye and lead to increased risk of macular degeneration later in life,” says Dr. LaBrosse. “Too much blue light may also disrupt circadian rhythms, making it difficult to sleep after a long day on the computer.”

She recommends wearing glasses with blue-light filters, while also supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that build pigment in the macula, which act like an “internal sunscreen” to protect delicate photoreceptors.

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2. Protect your tear film

The standard American diet is low in omega 3 fatty acids, according to the journal Nutrients. “These acids are necessary components for a complete tear film,” says Dr. LaBrosse.

More than that, environmental stressors—like our computers—cause our blink rates to decrease. “This leads to a down regulation of the oil production in the eyelids and atrophy of the meibomian glands (these prevent the evaporation of the eye’s tear film).

Supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids is necessary for many people to ensure a healthy tear film. Look for a product (like this Nordic Naturals Omega 3) that can get you to 1,000 mg of EPA + DHA omega 3s daily.

3. Clean your eyelids

Your eyelashes don’t just exist for batting—they’re actually a natural reservoir for debris and oils. But those materials can create crusts and biofilms that coat the base of the lashes and create eyelid and eye inflammation, and may lead to chronic dry eye issues, according to the American Optometric Association.

Dr. Lacrosse recommends daily eyelid hygiene with a mild, non-foaming cleanser, along with using a Jojoba cleansing oil—which has a similar composition as our eyes’ natural oils—to break up stubborn debris.

4. Maintain good computer visual hygiene

If you spend a lot of time on digital devices, it’s wise to take frequent blink breaks. The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests using the 20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes take a 20-second break to blink and shift focus to an object 20 feet away before resuming close-up work. This will help prevent digital eyestrain and keep your focus flexible.

5. Use artificial tears

“Our tear layer is the first thing light goes through before it enters the eye,” says Dr. LaBrosse. “Therefore, if your eyes are dry, your vision will be blurry or fluctuate.”

She recommends supplementing your tears during computer use or during low humidity times. Unlike a commonly perpetuated myth, using artificial tears will not cause you to become dependent on them, according to the Cochrane Database.

6. Know your family history

As with most things, prevention is key. Certain sight-threatening conditions, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration, have a genetic component. “Knowing your genetic predisposition can help you employ preventative lifestyle changes to lessen your risk of visual changes later on,” says Dr. LaBrosse. If you know of family members with these issues, be sure to make this clear to your doctor.

7. Eat Well

“Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is important in reducing the risk of all diseases, including those of the eyes. In addition, stress reduction and exercise may help reduce overall inflammation in the body and eyes,” Dr. LaBrosse says.

If you worry your diet might be lacking in fruits and vegetables, she suggests taking a multivitamin or supplementing with antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E.

“If we can detect changes early and before they impact eyesight, patients have the best overall outcomes no matter the age,” concludes Dr. LaBrosse. “If your eyes don’t look good, feel good, or see good, see your optometrist immediately.”

 

This Everyday Spice Doubles Turmeric’s Power

Move over, salt—pepper has a new best friend. We’ve even got a celebrity name for them: Pumeric!

That’s right, pepper and turmeric make the perfect, health-boosting power couple. Read on for the pairing’s three major benefits.

Dynamic Duo: A Botany Lesson

If you’re a fan of Indian food, then you’re probably already familiar with turmeric. Like curry, it’s a saffron-colored spice that packs a ton of flavor. But turmeric’s allure goes far beyond the taste buds, thanks to its many potential healing properties.

Turmeric is a plant that comes from the ginger family. It’s native to India and Southeast Asia and has been used medicinally for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. That’s because it contains curcumin, a chemical compound with health-promoting properties. However, taking it alone won’t yield all the benefits you desire.

“Curcumin has a low bioavailability, meaning that it’s not absorbed well in the body,” says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com, best-selling author of Eat Dirtand co-founder of Ancient Nutrition. “To really take advantage of the potent health benefits of turmeric, it’s recommended to pair turmeric with black pepper. The active ingredient in black pepper, piperine, helps increase the absorption of the curcumin found in turmeric.”

Black pepper—which comes from a flowering vine native to South India—is cultivated for its fruit, which is dried and ground into the seasoning you may already have in your kitchen. Much like turmeric, black pepper has been used for thousands of years due to its distinct flavor and ability to increase the absorption of certain nutrients.

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In one study, adding just 20 mg of piperine to 2,000 mg of turmeric increased its bioavailability by 154 percent. Yep, you read that correctly. Clearly, these two ingredients go hand-in-hand, so make sure you’re enjoying them together for maximum benefit. (You’ll see that turmeric products like Gaia Herbs’ Golden Milk include black pepper as well.)

There are a few core reasons why you should consider adding turmeric and black pepper to your daily routine:

Reduces inflammation

Curcumin has been shown to be one of the most powerful antioxidant compounds available, which can help fight free radicals (found in pollution). Free radical damage can lead to health risks, says Dr. Axe, which is why he recommends doubling up with turmeric and black pepper as a way to potentially promote health. “Taking black pepper with turmeric can increase its bioavailability and enhance the benefits,” he says.

Reduces Joint Pain

Curcumin has been known to help promote relief from exercise-induced or arthritic joint pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, it was traditionally used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine as a way of blocking joint pain-causing inflammatory cytokines and enzymes. Plus,  a study in the Journal of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine found that it’s not only efficient, but it’s generally safe to use.

It Could Make Your Food Healthier

According to a study in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, black pepper and turmeric could have powerful effects on the lipids (or fats) in certain meats we eat. The study concluded that during preparation of high-fat foods, turmeric and black pepper reduced fat and increased antioxidant activity. 

How to Add This Power Duo to Your Life

Besides cooking with turmeric and pepper, or drinking golden milk, you can also supplement with turmeric and piperine. Dr. Axe recommends aiming for 500-1,000 milligrams of curcumin per day. For piperine, you’ll want to aim for up to 20 milligrams per day.

“Taking turmeric extract is an easy way to get in a concentrated dose, but be sure to look for a brand like Doctor’s Best, which contains piperine, to boost absorption and take at whatever time is most convenient for you,” Axe says.

For each teaspoon of turmeric, there are about 200 milligrams of curcumin. Aim for at least 2.5 teaspoons per day and pair each teaspoon with about 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.

Related: What Happened When I Drank Golden Milk For 30 Days Straight

4 Supplements That Can Help Get Your Joints In Check

Oh, my aching [fill-in-the-blank]! It hardly matters what body part you name—joint pain can be debilitating, impacting the ease of everyday life and the physical activities you want to participate in.

Millions of Americans (nearly 22.7 percent) experience joint pain. So it’s no wonder people are looking for safe, natural ways to promote joint health. Luckily, there are a variety of joint supplementation options available.

Related: Shop supps for joint health. 

1. Glucosamine and chondroitin

The most common joint supplements contain glucosamine or a blend of glucosamine and chondroitin. “Glucosamine is believed to stimulate cartilage production in the joints and chondroitin is a component of cartilage and attracts water to the tissue, which helps it stay elastic, and also blocks the action of enzymes that break down cartilage tissue,” explains Joseph Feste, M.D., FACOG, AACS, AACG,  medical director at Natural Bio Health, a Texas-based integrative medicine practice.

Something called MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane), a natural sulfur compound found in all living things, is sometimes added to the formula. The body needs sulfur for healthy connective tissue and joint function, says Feste.

According to the International Journal of Rheumatology, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are essential components of the cartilage metabolism, stimulating important cartilage regeneration processes.

2. Vitamin D

“Many people are chronically low in vitamin D,” says Feste. “Research shows that correcting low vitamin D levels can provide support for patients with knee, hip and other joint pain.” If you think this could be you, get tested by your doctor.

According to Journal of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, patients who needed joint replacements were often vitamin D deficient.

Since the two main ways to get vitamin D are by exposing your bare skin to sunlight and by taking vitamin D supplements (because it’s difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from food sources), supplementation may be your best bet—especially if you don’t spend much time outdoors or live in a sunny state. You can find them in gummies or chews if you don’t like swallowing capsules.

3. Fish Oil

Fish oil is high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which can help support your immune system and promote healthy joints, says Feste. In fact, patients taking dietary fish oil supps in a double-blind study done by Arthritis and Rheumatism exhibited improvements in their tender joints.

More reason to love fish oil? The omegas in fish oil promote a healthy heart, brain, skin, and gut. To get even more joint benefits, consider eating a mostly Mediterranean diet, which is chock-full of omegas. That means lean meats, fish, avocados, olive oil, fruits, and veggies.

Related: Want To Try The Mediterranean Diet? Here’s Exactly What To Eat

4. Turmeric

Turmeric isn’t just responsible for your Golden Milk’s glow—it’s got a bunch of health-supporting qualities. According to Feste, that most certainly includes joint health, mostly due to turmeric’s ingredient curcumin, which has been shown to promote healthy immune system function, according to Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects.

Make your own Golden Milk:
Ingredients: non-dairy milk (like coconut milk), a cinnamon stick, a piece of turmeric, a piece of ginger, a tablespoon of honey, one tablespoon of coconut oil, a teaspoon of peppercorn, and a bit of cinnamon.

Related: What Happened When I Drank Golden Milk For 30 Days Straight

Pour it all into a saucepan, bring to a low boil, reduce the heat and simmer until everything is smooth. This should take about 10 minutes. You can store this for about five days and reheat later, too.

Should You Combine Your Collagen With Your Whey?

There’s a lot of buzz right now around collagen, and for good reason: Collagen is the most common protein found in the body and it’s a vital building block for skin, hair, nails, bones, and joints. It’s found in tendons, fat, organs, and ligaments, working hard to keep your skin looking young and your joints working smoothly.

But as we age, the body produces less collagen, leading to joint pain, decreased muscle mass, and saggy skin. “Collagen is a connective tissue protein,” says Chris Hollingsworth M.D., a surgeon with NYC Surgical Associates.

The good news: Collagen comes in supplement form—and when combined with a whey protein supplement, your joints hit the jackpot.

How It Works

According to Hollingsworth, the amino acids glycine and arginine in protein improve our skin, bone, and joint health. Because of this, collagen-enhanced protein powders provide a one-two punch to help your body recover from a hard workout while helping to keep your joints healthy enough for the next one.

Related: I Drank Collagen For 30 Days—Here’s How It Turned Out

“Our bodies work most efficiently when they are building and repairing themselves,” says Hollingsworth. “Collagen whey benefits us by keeping our body in an anabolic state (where proteins are being built, instead of being broken down).”

If you experience pain, decreased motion, and stiffness in your hands, hips, or knees, collagen whey may also help to promote functionality. According to Current Medical Research and Opinion, patients with certain kinds of arthritis saw improvements with the use of collagen. And another clinical study suggests that the ingestion of 10g of collagen hydrolysate daily helped to support joint health in patients with knee or hip issues.

Increased Muscle Strength

“It becomes harder to maintain lean muscle mass as we age and our metabolism changes,” says Hollingsworth. But that’s where collagen whey comes in, yet again:  “Collagen whey supplementation has been shown to counteract these age-related decreases in muscle mass, as well as fight some of the effects of aging.”

Related: Shop collagen whey products. 

A study in the British Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that, compared with placebo, collagen peptide (a type of easy-to-digest collagen found in collagen whey) supplementation in combination with resistance training further improved body composition by increasing fat-free mass, muscle strength, and loss in fat mass. The study subjects underwent a 12-week guided resistance-training program and were supplemented with either collagen peptides or a placebo. Following the training program, the effect was significantly more pronounced in subjects receiving collagen peptides.

Younger-Looking Skin

According to the Cleveland Clinic, collagen makes up 75-80 percent of your skin, so it’s no wonder this protein may help to ward off wrinkles, sag, and even cellulite. A study in the Journal of Medicinal Food investigated the results of collagen peptides on the cellulite treatment of normal and overweight women, and the results showed that the regular ingestion of collagen over a six-month period led to a clear improvement of the skin appearance.

Similarly, collagen peptides have been shown to help with skin dryness—a common sign of aging skin. Other anti-aging effects, like improved skin elasticity, have also been observed.

If you’re already taking a whey protein supplement, consider exploring one that offers the additional benefits of collagen (we recommend Vital Proteins Collagen Whey Protein). Your joints, muscles, and skin will thank you!

9 Quick Ways To Crush Your Cravings

Cupcakes! You suddenly started thinking about their sweet, frosty goodness and now you want—no, you need—to have one. But seeing as you had a satisfying lunch and don’t make a habit of eating sugary snacks every day, you can’t help but wonder how this torturous temptation popped into your mind. Even more pressing: How do you get it out?

“First and foremost, be mindful of your why,” says Erin Clifford, J.D., a Certified Holistic Health Coach. “Are you really hungry or is it something emotional? Are you lonely? Bored? Stressed? Pay attention to your patterns and figure out an alternative plan for when your cravings hit.”

We all know that unnecessary constant snacking (a snack once in a while is totally normal and fine!) interferes with your weight loss or weight-maintenance goals, but it also makes you sluggish and irritable, which, in turn, sets up a never-ending cycle of even more cravings.

Related: Shop appetite-control products. 

Since the trick is to avoid your triggers and recognize when you’re teetering on the edge, these tips, straight from Clifford’s playbook, can help you shift your focus away from those midday cupcake cravings.

1. Stop the Cycle

If you always reach for a bag of cookies after a stressful day at work, call a friend and hit up a yoga class instead. Redirect the energy you’re giving your craving toward something positive. Once you do the work, you’re less likely to destroy it by bingeing on junk that rewinds your progress.

2. Change Your Environment

If you’re bingeing on caramel-coated popcorn while you’re Netflix-and-chilling, get off the couch, pop a Crave Crush lozenge (which blocks sweet taste receptors), and go take your dog for a walk. If you give yourself a time out, the cravings will usually subside.

3. Aim for Satiety

Including protein at every meal (lean meat, beans, eggs, nuts, yogurt, etc.) will boost your energy levels and keep you feeling satisfied—which should keep your cravings at bay. According to the Nutrition Journal, high-protein snacks improve appetite control and satiety, and reduce subsequent food intake.

What triggers a craving, anyway? Check out our Science of Cravings video:

 

4. Meal Frequency

Eating smaller meals more frequently was related to lower body mass index (BMI) and maintenance of weight loss, according to a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Not only will this approach to eating stabilize blood-sugar levels and keep your energy levels on track, it’ll leave you less likely to give into your cravings.

5. Don’t Skip Meals

Set yourself up for success by sticking to regular meal times. And always have breakfast (you’ll want to reach for a protein-packed morning meal like overnight oats, a goat cheese frittata, or a banana with almond butter).

6. Stay Hydrated

Next time a big craving hits, try drinking a large glass of water. Many times when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually simply thirsty, according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

A word to the wise: We’re talking about regular ol’ water here—sugary liquid calories from sodas, juices, lattes, sports drinks, or iced teas will spike your insulin and blood sugar levels, causing cravings. Not into plain H20? Add fruit, herbs, or ginger for a special kick. Or, drink tea, unsweetened.

Related: Shop yummy electrolyte fizz and kick your water up a notch.

Aim for 64 ounces (or 1900 milliliters) of water per day.

7. MEDITATE And Breathe Deeply

When you’re feeling the urge to plow through a bag of potato chips, take 10 minutes to center your mind and induce a feeling of calm. Or focus on your breathing, explains Clifford, in the ratio 1-4-2 (inhale for eight seconds, hold for 32 seconds, exhale for 16 seconds). Many devices and apps, like Fitbit and Breathe, have programs to help you meditate or count. Furthermore, according to the Mayo Clinic, practicing mindful eating and remembering that food is actually fuel (and not just fun, tasty stuff) can help prevent overeating.

8. Get Your ZZZs

If you don’t get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, you might feel the urge to eat carbs and sugar, since you disrupted the hormones ghrelin and leptin. According to the International Journal of Endocrinology, hormones like these are closely associated with sleep and circadian rhythm. Ghrelin is the go hormone that tells you when to eat, while leptin is the stop hormone that tells you when you’re full. Thus, more ghrelin plus less leptin equals non-stop cravings. In short: Get enough sleep so that your hormones work appropriately.

9. Brush Your Teeth

When all else fails, pop some gum in your mouth or brush your teeth—mint is a palate cleanser and can help to crush your craving.

Cravings You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

“If you simply cannot help yourself, then stick with foods offering nutritional value, such as non-fat Greek yogurt with a piece of fruit, a handful of veggies and hummus, or a handful (10) of almonds,” says Clifford. And, according to a new study in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, walnuts can help as well: The study suggests that these tasty little nuts decrease feelings of hunger and appetite. So, grab a handful of walnuts and munch away.

A few of Clifford’s other favorite go-to snacks:

Sweet:

  • Chocolate smoothie: A scoop of chocolate protein powder, half a banana, and ice. Add 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds or chopped almonds/almond butter for a nutty flavor.
  • 4 celery sticks with 2 tablespoons of nut butter, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cranberries or raisins, and cinnamon.
  • 1 serving of dark chocolate with 1 tablespoon almond butter.
  • ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese with ½ cup berries or pineapple.

Salty:

  • 2 Wasa crackers with ¼ cup hummus or 1 piece of part-skim string cheese.
  • 10 blue corn chips with ¼ cup hummus and salsa.
  • Pizza crackers: 5 flax seed crackers topped with 1 piece of Munster cheese or low-fat Jarlsburg divided and sprinkle with red pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.
  • Homemade herb popcorn (makes 6 servings): Pop 3 oz. of popcorn without oil in an air popper, melt 4 tablespoons coconut oil and drizzle over the popcorn with 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, and 2 tablespoons mixed dried herbs (rosemary, parsley, thyme, and oregano). Toss to coat.

Conceding to Cravings: A Last Resort

We get it. Sometimes you just need to give in because life is too short.

“If you’re only eating for emotional reasons, then you want to do your best to avoid indulging in your cravings,” says Clifford. “But if you’re craving pizza because you love pizza, then go for the occasional sampling—in moderation. For instance, if you have plans to meet your girlfriends out at your favorite Neapolitan pizza place, be sure to eat clean all day, order a salad to complement your meal, and stick to your clean eating and workout routine the following day.”