How screens damage your eyes - and how to fix it
Blue light, eyes & antioxidants
As a book worm child, to escape my little brother I’d lock myself in the bathroom to read in peace. Now, I have the terrible adult habit of reading on my phone while on the loo - which I’m told is disgusting. Clearly, it’s time to reduce my screen time! Aside from the problem of phone addiction, constantly beaming blue light into our eyes is harmful.
So, for week 2 of Antioxidant August, I’m looking at antioxidants for your eyes.
Constantly working with UV and blue light, our eyes are especially at risk of oxidative stress (that’s the risk of damage to cells’ proteins and DNA - you can read more about oxidative stress and free radicals here).
Antioxidants help prevent damage to the retina by neutralizing free radicals. But consider your daily life; I bet you get a LOT of screen time/excessive blue light (though maybe not much UV if you work in a London office…? That doesn’t sound like a positive though!). So let’s look at some important foods and antioxidants to increase - veggies and vegans have some extra important nutrients to be aware of.
Carotenoids and a word of warning
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are carotenoids (same family of plant chemicals as Beta-Carotene and found in green veg and orange colour fruits 🍊🥦🥭🥬🥕), found in high concentrations in the retina, and they have antioxidant properties plus pigment that absorbs excess blue and UV light.
Vitamin A is an antioxidant too, and also has a function in vision - its lack causes night blindness. We can make Vitamin A/Retinal in the body from Beta-Carotene - hence the old saying that carrots help you see in the dark. Supplements tend to use beta-carotene because Vitamin A is toxic in excess. But take care if you smoke/used to smoke. Smokers tend to have lower Beta-Carotene (extra free radical load from smoking means needing more antioxidants), so it was assumed supplementing would be beneficial. But the high dose synthetic supplements used in trials actually increased smokers’ cancer risk!
It’s possibly because having low antioxidant levels like Vitamin E and Vitamin C means the body can’t deal with carcinogenic end products of metabolising Beta-Carotene. The solution is to use a complex of MANY antioxidants together, not high dose single synthetics. In Pollution Protection I don’t use synthetic Beta-Carotene because of this - instead, an algae extract provides natural Beta-Carotene plus other carotenoids like Lutein and Zeaxanthin.
Taurine - interesting for veggies
Taurine’s an amino acid that works as an antioxidant and it’s also essential for preventing retinal degeneration. Veggies and vegans have lower levels of taurine because it’s only found in animal proteins - they aren’t necessarily deficient because the body can make it from other nutrients. But that’s only happening if you have plenty of the precursor nutrients. Learn more here. You won’t usually find it in a multivitamin (sometimes in eye health supplements) but it also has the lovely function of being calming, so I take it every evening in my Night Support before bed. So if you’re vegetarian or vegan and worried about getting enough Taurine, you can take Night Support for Taurine + Magnesium.
Important for vegetarians or fish-haters
The eye has high levels of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid). During fetal development and breastfeeding, our brain and eyes are built with DHA - important to retinal health. You usually get DHA from fish in the adult diet, but luckily for veggies, you can now get algae oil supplements (algae being where fish get it from). You’ll read in vegan literature that we can convert plant omega-3 from hemp and flax into DHA and EPA (the other important omega-3 from fish) which is technically true….but you need to eat a lot of it, and some people’s conversion ability is poor to non-existent. If you want recommendations for algae or fish oils, comment below or email me - it’s super important to get good quality omega supplements because they’re easily oxidised and taking rancid oils is harmful.
Eat food rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids for the eyes, and if supplementing use a safe complex of antioxidants like in Pollution Protection Daily Multi. We need to be conscious of screen time. Toilet-reading aside, I try to minimise blue light exposure by dimming my laptop and phone as low as possible. At night or when your work isn’t colour sensitive, apply a blue light filter too. Reducing blue light later in the day helps with sleep too!
Be aware of any eye symptoms and if you experience irritation or dry eyes, using drops isn’t the only solution - increasing Vitamin A or its precursor, natural Beta-Carotene, can help.
As always, thanks so much for being here. Comment to confess if you’re a fellow toilet-reader!! I’m always here if you have any questions.