Are you taking care of your eyes? 8 ways for good eye health

Image: D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr


Your eyes are with you from the day you were born, so it’s only fair that you take care of them.


At the computer

A big cause for eye strain in most people is the computer. It’s become such a big part of our lives now that it really is important to remember to take little breaks often and a longer break every hour or so. Our eyes like to change focus often, and it’s never good to be staring at something for too long. They say that you need to repeat something 100 times to become a habit, so make it a habit to have a 30 second daydream. Not only are you refocusing your eyes, you’re also collecting your thoughts.


Walking

Take the time to soak in your surroundings when you’re out and about. It’s best to get yourself back in nature even if it’s just a quick stroll through the park. Be conscious of the birds or the squirrels or the dogs, and notice the twigs and branches and veins on the leaves. Breathe in the air and hear the sounds immediately around you.

Take time out from your book or newspaper when you’re on the train or the bus. Look out the window and let your eyes wander over the many colours and shapes of people, shop windows and street furniture. If I had kept my head down instead of looking around, I would have missed this charity shop’s great window display:


Play

Go out and throw a frisbee or play catch. A few summers ago I tried juggling, and although I never did manage to juggle three balls for more than four seconds, it did get me to use my eyes in a new range of motion Some people bounce a ball against a wall to help them think and it’s a great way to enhance your hand-eye coordination.


Eat

The same healthy diet that’s good for your heart and arteries can also help preserve your eyes and vision. After all, vision depends on tiny capillaries to supply the retina and other parts of the eye with nutrients and oxygen. Studies have shown that there are several key nutrientsthat may help ward off age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Regularly eating these foods can help lead to good eye health:

  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin may help protect against retinal damage and the onset of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration - Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
  • Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation and therefore protect against cell damage and age-related eye diseases - Salmon, tuna, and other oily fish, walnuts and flaxseed
  • Zinc helps with night vision and cataract prevention – Good sources include kidney beans, beef, seafood, poultry and pumpkin seeds
  • Vitamin C helps support blood vessels in the eye and may reduce the risk of cataracts – Fruit and vegetables like oranges, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, and red bell peppers
  • Vitamin E protects the eyes from free radicals – Nuts such as peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts


Emotions

In Chinese medicine, the liver is linked to the eye, so it’s no coincidence that when you’ve had an angry outburst or a particularly annoying day you tend to get headaches that creep in behind the eyes. Some people who are especially angry or irritable may notice that they have red eyes. Acupuncture can smooth liver qi to remove stagnation and allow it to flow nicely and evenly again or to rebalance the liver and remove excesses.

De-stressing is important: you may find exercise or a physical activity helps or that a softer approach such as meditation or even getting a massage. Start a hobby, practice mindfulness or just go out for a walk (remembering of course, to drink in your surroundings with your eyes).


Acupressure

There are certain acupressure points on the body that you can do yourself.

  • On the foot: press down on the spot between your big toe and the 2nd toe. Press down and hold, you should feel a slight ache or soreness. Don’t press so hard you leave fingerprint marks.
  • On your hand: locate the spot between your thumb and index finger, it’s the “meatier” part. As with the foot, rub and hold down, making sure you don’t press so hard you leave fingerprint marks.
  • On your face: Using your eyebrows as a guide, locate the area outside the bony rim (so between your eyebrow and your eye) and press gently along from the beginning of your eyebrow to the end.


Wear sunglasses

Protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays to minimise the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Choose sunglasses that offer UV protection, and polarised lenses help reduce the glare, very handy when you’re driving. Sunglasses may be associated with summer months but they should be with you even in the winter if it’s a particularly bright day -there’s a reason skiers wear shades. Not only will you be protecting your eyes, it will stop you from squinting and getting those furrows between your eyebrows.


Get annual checkups

Even if your vision is fine, you should still have a check up every year with an ophthalmologist or optometrist. And should you suddenly get blurred vision, blind spots, floaters or flashing lights go to A&E immediately.

 
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Best way to eat more fruit


Easy ways to eat more vegetables every day

Image: woodleywonderworks via Flickr

 
We all know that we should be eating our five-a-day of fruit and veg, and in fact, why stop at five portions? Go for ten! If forced to make a choice, I admit I prefer vegetables over fruit. After my first tentative stab at a Brussels sprout eight years ago I stockpile them when they’re in season. Nothing beats a grilled aubergine topped with feta cheese and the crunchy butteriness of kai lan and choi sum are so moreish.

 
Throw anything at a pasta bake: broccoli, cauliflower, aubergine, onions, leeks, it doesn’t matter, it will be delicious. A simple vegetable stir-fry with mushrooms, greens and eggs is fantastic with some warmed-up tomatoes. Stews are ever so accommodating since you can keep adding to it. I rarely finish my stews in one go, and leftover-reheated stew with new carrots and leeks cannot be beat on a winter’s day. Instead of crusty bread or potatoes, have it with more vegetables: spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale, beetroot or cabbage.

 
A horrible experience with broccoli and a juicer means that I’m not terribly enthusiastic about drinking my vegetables – carrot juice is about as far as it goes, and even then why not just crunch on an actual carrot? Avocadoes and watercress never let you down, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or a midnight snack. Lettuce (gem, romaine or just plain leafy) make for great “bases”. I have it with my smoked salmon and eggs in the morning in lieu of a muffin or toast. Try it as a wrap or with your mince: instead of pasta spoon the cooked mince into little “shells” of lettuce.

 
There are some lazy nights when we come home late and just want to flop into a chair. That’s when the handful of salad leaves are so handy. Even if it’s an incredibly lazy evening and pizza is on the cards, I still throw on top any leaves we have in the fridge. You can use rocket to make it feel more authentic, but I think mine is just as fanciful with the glorious purple and green and white colours.

 

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Best way to eat more fruit

Fruit displays help you to eat more fruit.


I have a friend who shies away from buying fruit because they get so comfortable in her flat and before you know it, it’s been awhile since they were brought home and now they’re just a tad mouldier than they were last week.


I know my friend isn’t alone. Whether it’s a lack of time (bananas are so much easier to grab in a rush than kiwis), ripeness (there is a very, very fine line between ripening and… off) or just plain plain-ness (apples tend to get overlooked if you’ve got an exotic fruit salad) eating fruit without wasting isn’t as simple as you would think.


My number one super-easy tip? Display them as part of your decorations! Fruit kept in the back of the drawer in the fridge tend to get forgotten, if they’re out you can’t ignore them.


I have this lovely cake stand that has never held cupcakes, instead it’s played host to oranges, pears, bananas, kiwis, Sharon fruits, and avocadoes. Think of it as living art for your wellbeing.


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Give your eyes a break


pointspace’s June roundup | How important is sleep?

Image: Jenny Pansing/jjjj56cp via Flickr


June has been quite an exciting month on the weather front. Londoners have experienced rain, sunshine, wind, rain, stronger wind, two hot days and then more rain. It is all very confused.


1.  The wind though has been spectacular. I haven’t actually seen a small child being blown away but I’m sure there were near-misses. Besides playing havoc with perfectly coiffed hair and Marilyn Monroe-esque skirt moments, the windy conditions we’ve been experiencing can have a larger impact on our wellness than you think. Fellow acupuncturist, The Acupunc, takes a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) look at the invasion of wind and offers a soothing tea recipe.


2. The furore of New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to ban gigantic buckets of fizzy drink continues with cries of nanny-state and loss of liberty. In case you missed it, here’s my blog post about the soda ban.


3.  Do you drink tea? You should, it’s a good way to keep hydrated if water is a bit too plain for you. Everyone touts the benefits of green tea, but I would also recommend seeking out pu-erh tea. The flavour is much stronger but still clean and refreshing. Read more to see why tea is good for you.


4.  Lack of sleep can leave you tired and cranky which doesn’t do well for concentration but new research shows that lack of sleep can also lead to unhealthy food choices.


5.  And now for the catch-22: more studies show that obesity and depression are the root causes of daytime sleepiness. The common denominator seems to be that weight is definitely a factor with sleep issues, but is being overweight causing sleep disorders or does sleepiness and fatigue result in weight gain?


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Is green tea really all that good for you?


Food for thought | Mindful eating and Chinese medicine

Image: Nina Matthews Photography via Flickr


Patients often ask for nutritional advice using TCM (Chinese medicine) theory that would complement their treatments. I am always glad when a patient embraces the idea of taking their treatment outside of the treatment room, and I do believe it gives it a larger sense of purpose and responsibility.


Often what I see in my practice is yin deficiency and I often suggest they take some honey in warm water every day to help nourish their yin. Goucizi (or goji berries) also make quite a good yin tonic. It should never be taken longterm though, day in day out, as its very yin-tinkering properties also make it very damp-inducing which is a whole other kettle of fish. I recommend taking it for two weeks (steeped in a glass or two, daily) then having a rest.


If you’re kidney deficient (back pain, knee pain, frequent urination, fatigued or just running on low energy) you can try kidney beans or black beans.


Sometimes though, patients nod when I give them recommendations, but seem more interested in a list of what they can’t or shouldn’t eat. This is when I sometimes go blank because it’s not such a straightforward answer.


TCM relies on a constant flow of change, an ebb and tide to maintain homeostasis. If you’ve overindulged in a portion of salty chips, you’ll naturally feel thirsty and drink some water.


The same goes with our bodies. If you have an excess condition we aim to reduce it, if it’s a deficiency syndrome we tonify your system. Once you’ve reached the balance again, continuing the exact same treatment means we’ll tip on the scale again and you may end up with a deficiency after too much reducing method for too long.


The same goes for foodstuff. Unless it’s an acute symptom like a cough (eat less phlegm inducing food like clementines or mandarins) it’s usually best to learn what you should be eating rather than what you should be avoiding.


Avoidance only makes that thing seem more desirable. How many have failed with a fad diet because they had to cut out something? Harvard nutritionist Lilian Cheung discusses what she calls mindful eating. By not making food an adversary that you need to avoid unless you want to feel guilty and fat, you promote awareness to the things you put in your body. It’s not a matter of dieting or about giving anything up – it’s about experiencing food more intensely.


This is something TCM has known all along. Taking time to eat properly is beneficial for your whole system. Eating on the go, or eating while thinking or worrying damages the organs’ functions in TCM. I suggest sitting down to eat at a table (not your work desk), but you could also easily stand against the kitchen counter. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a formal setting, but the idea is to make your food the main focus of the moment. Munching through a bag of popcorn is a lot harder when you’re not sitting on the sofa watching TV.


On a social level though it helps promote interaction with others or gives yourself some quiet time. You don’t have to practice monastic silence at meal times; turn off the TV and have a conversation. Try it and see the difference.


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Are those reasons to drink more water true?


Hearty breakfast recipes

Heart_banana

 

It’s such common knowledge that it’s almost a cliché: having a good breakfast really does make a difference to your day.

 

We’ve all heard the excuses:

  • I don’t have time.
  • I can’t fathom eating that much in the morning.
  • I can’t face cooked food in the morning.
  • I’m not hungry.
  • I feel fine.

 

The biggest obstacle you need to overcome is that of it being morning. Trust me, if you can have an almond croissant in the morning, which let’s face it is pretty much an almond dessert, then you can have a proper breakfast.

 

And by proper breakfast I don’t mean the full English, a regular of a hangover. They can be light and delicious, and not take hours to prepare. The fact they’re cooked or warm food that you can’t eat on the go means you’re not damaging the spleen and stomach. Give these ideas a try:

 

Ham and cheese omelette

Yummy and light (go easy on the oil; it’s a hot frying pan that’s more important). Protein is the perfect start to your day and it’s much better than having sausages. Add a generous sprinkle of oregano just before you take it off the heat.

 

Smoked salmon and avocado with watercress salad and Greek yogurt

Light and simple, this is hearty and heart-friendly. If you’re feeling fanciful, add in a soft-boiled egg – you’d be amazed at the difference it makes.

 

Mix it up and experiment with the ingredients, try scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on a toasted muffin, or avocado and boiled egg with ham. Have fun, get into the rhythm and after a few days, I promise you will be hungry in the mornings.

  

Photo credit: Nina Matthews via flickr

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Pointspace’s monthly roundup | December

Geese_christmas

 

1.  The past few weeks may have seen you dashing around town trying to fit friends and office parties around your diary. Often it will involve drinks and most probably food as well. Then there’s also the cakes and pies scattered everywhere, in the workplace, at the supermarkets, sometimes in the queue when you’re lining up to pay for presents. So why is there so much more of an eating aspect in the winter?

 

2.  In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the kidney is most susceptible to the cold and injury in the winter. Amazing as it may seem, winter has just started (December 22 was the winter solstice) so here are some tips from acupuncturist Boynn McIntire on maintaining kidney health in the winter.

 

3.  A cancer diagnosis can be completely devastating and with the pounding the body takes both from the illness and the treatment, it’s not surprising that fatigue is by far the most common symptom affecting cancer patients. For many cancer-related fatigue is the most distressing factor as it drains the person relentlessly so that they are unable to enjoy simple daily activities that we take for granted. As such, acupuncture has been researched as an option to help provide relief for cancer patients.

 

4.  Are you planning on having some health resolutions for the New Year? Some of you may know that I advocate having implementing lifestyle changes in September where the days aren’t as short and we haven’t just been bombarded by all the rush of the festive season, but any positive change is better than none at all so take a look at these nutrition and fitness resolutions for 2012.

 

5. Take a look at this brilliantly relaxing video and I dare you not to have a silly giggle. 

 

Have a peaceful and happy New Year!!

 

Photo credit: zenera via flickr

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Wellness Tips for November

Autumn_in_hamburg

 

Last month I wrote about preparing for the colder months and the precautions you can take by eating warming foods. Some of you have asked about what I meant by damp.

 

Now that the days get shorter and the evenings get longer, it’s important you don’t go into hibernation mode and overindulge on comfort foods. Fast food, sweet and stodgy foods, dairy products, sugary soft drinks and alcohol can all lead to dampness and phlegm which can weaken the Spleen and cause problems such as bronchitis and sinusitis. Your body is just a like a house, and damp can cause both acute and chronic problems. Control your snacking if you know you have a weakness for biscuits and tea so you can be in the best possible shape to defend yourself against the excesses of the festive season.

 

As we get deeper into autumn, you should continue the moistening foods of September but also add some warming ones. Grains like millet, oats, rice and corn as well as beef and lamb. Carrots, cauliflower, leeks and radishes are also good, perfect for a stew!

 

If you get caught in the rain, substitue your usual cup of tea with a warming cup of chai to warm the body. If you notice shivering or the beginning of a cold, garlic, cinnamon, ginger and onions are all good for stimulating the circulation of qi.

 

The best way to protect yourself during flu season is to wash your hands. We can’t ensure everyone covers their mouths and noses when they cough or sneeze (oh how I wish we could!) but if you wash your hands regularly especially before mealtimes, that ensures there nasty germs won’t have such an effect on you.

 

If you do get ill, try to take a break and stay home if you can even if it’s just for one day. It makes it easier for your body to recuperate but also protects others from catching it.

 

Photo credit: elbfoto via flickr

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