Help Dry Eyes with Better Nutrition

Tears protect your eyes from dust, infections and pollution. And therefore, those with chronic dry eye, caused by either a decrease in tear production (the prescription drug Restasis helps this) or tears that evaporate too quickly, may notice their eyes are frequently so dry they hurt, sting or feel gritty. In addition, chronic dry eye can lead to blurred vision, heightened sensitivity to light or smoke/pollution, excessive tearing, or like someone took sandpaper and rubbed it on them. There are a number of causes of chronic dry eye including Lasik surgery, thyroid disorders, and certain autoimmune diseases (including Sjogren’s syndrome, which causes drying of the mucus membranes including the eyes, mouth and sinuses). If left untreated chronic dry eye can lead to irritation, inflammation, blurred vision, increased risk of developing an eye infection, and scarring of the cornea.

How can you soothe chronic dry eyes? Follow these steps:

  • First and foremost – see an ophthalmologist.
  • Drink plenty of fluid every day.
  • Eat fatty fish at least twice per week or consider a fish oil supplement (always tell your physician about any dietary supplements you are taking). I typically recommend at least 1 gram of EPA + DHA combined (check the label to see how much EPA and DHA the product contains per serving; EPA and DHA are the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish). Two grams decreases inflammation throughout the body.
  • Consider caffeine in moderation. One study found that caffeine may help increase tear production.
  • Cut down on antihistamine use if possible. Allegra, Zyrtec and other antihistamines can increase dryness. Decongestants also increase dry eye so weigh the benefits versus side effects before using them.
  • Use eye drops for dry eyes (not those for redness).
  • Put warm compresses on your eyes for 10-15 minutes at a time.
  • Cut down on diuretics unless they are prescribed by your physician.
  • Talk to your physician about all of your medications. Certain blood pressure drugs, birth control pills and other prescription medications can increase dryness.
  • Take breaks from the computer, TV, iPad and other electronics. Starring at these for hours may further decrease tear production.

Squash Food Cues & Lose Weight

Losing weight and keeping it off for good has a lot more to do with your head then your stomach. Your brain sends out satiety cues and it also stops you from grabbing a second piece of cake when you are already stuffed. Paying attention to what the unemotional, rational part of your brain is telling you will help you win the war on weight and kick diets to the curb for good. How can you start this process of mindful eating? First, become very aware of food cues that can cause you to eat & drink more than you physically need to consume. Some of these include:

  • Number of people at your table – as the # of people you dine with increases, so does your calorie intake. Now, I’m not suggesting you dine alone but, just be more aware of this in social settings so you don’t overeat. If you are a female, throw a hot man in the mix since women tend to eat less in the company of men. Or, better yet, throw several hot men in the mix. Your girl friends and your waistline will thank you for it!
  • Marriage. We tend to take on the habits of those around us and, typically, men eat more than women so when women get hitched, they take on the eating patterns of their spouse. Could it be that the chase is over too? I have no idea. But, women, take notice of your plate -it should not contain the same amount of food as your spouse’s plate.
  • Overweight, obese or diet-obsessed friends. If you dine with people who are overweight, you tend to eat more. Not to mention, many of these people want you to eat more so they feel better about what they are consuming. Likewise, I’ve noticed a strange phenomena among women obsessed with their weight or certain aspects of their body – they don’t feel okay eating cake, French fries or other foods they deem “bad” unless you eat it with them. If you have overweight or obese friends, by all means, dine with them. Just be aware of your behavior and find some friends who also encourage you to hit the gym, go running etc.

  • The TV + your comfy couch. Surely you’ve heard this a million times – more TV often = more weight. How do you combat that yet still view your favorite programs? Put a bike, treadmill or elliptical machine in front of the TV. And add some yoga to your workout mix – yoga = greater mindfulness overall.
  • Big plates, bowls, cups etc. – the bigger the dish you are eating out of, the more you’ll pack in there and subsequently, eat.
  • Refills – get individual servings of beer, soda, juice, etc. (vs. pitchers) and don’t let the waitstaff refill that bowl of chips). When we can’t see what we’ve eaten, and our plate, bowl or cup is constantly refilled, we eat more.

It pays to be more aware of what you are doing so you can change your behavior. Because, there are tons of visual cues (like the smell of a Cinnabon when I am dashing through the airport) around us that encourage us to eat. If you can tame some of these cues, you’ll be better off in the long run.  Last, but not least, don’t underestimate the effect of diet counseling (i.e. seeing a dietitian regularly) for weight loss.