Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Our Eyes: Taking the Pressure Off

Some months ago I began experiencing pressure behind my eyes.  I do wear glasses to read, but my prescription is fairly recent, so I began to research the problem and look into ways that I could reduce the pressure through diet.   Through my research I discovered that eye pressure, or ocular hypertension, can occur without affecting vision or without damage to the optic nerve.  Also called intraocular pressure, it is considered by eye doctors to be a possible precursor to glaucoma - a condition that includes pressure, vision loss, and optic nerve damage -  if not treated appropriately.  Intraocular pressure can arise as we age, in the same manner that the risk of glaucoma can become more prevalent as we move on through the years.

If we are not suffering from a specific disease such as glaucoma, keeping eye pressure at its normal range of 10 to 22 mm/Hg is not difficult if specific foods are included in the diet. Foods that nurture our blood vessels and nerves can help to lower eye pressure and thus help to subvert the possibility of more serious conditions later on.  According to Dr. Marc Grossman, OD, over 25% of the nutrients found in healthful foods are absorbed through the blood vessels, nerves, and tissues that relate directly to our vision.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that has more presence in the eyes than anywhere else in the body.  If we don’t get enough of this vitamin, our vision is directly affected, weakening and inviting problems such as pressure and deterioration.  Eating citrus fruits like oranges, nectarines, lemons, limes, grapefruits are great choices as they are chock full of C.  Strawberries, raspberries, peaches, kiwi, mangos, guava, and lychees also help to give the eyes a huge anti-oxidant boost.  Veggies such as broccoli, kale, green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and red peppers are excellent, especially when eaten raw or slightly steamed so as not to damage the vitamin content.

A, B, and Zinc
These three vitamins work in harmony together to reduce eye pressure as one enhances the other’s ability to do its part.  Vitamin A is abundant in dried apricots, mangos, cantaloupe, carrots, and sweet potatoes as well as spinach, mozzarella cheese, egg yolks, milk, and liver.  Vitamin B is found in bananas, avocados, Brazil nuts, potatoes, turkey, tuna fish, and liver.  Zinc is found in wheat germ, bran, pecans, pine nuts, shellfish, fish, and eggs.

Lutein is another essential nutrient for regulating intraocular pressure. Lutein is found in parsley, dill, carrots, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, mustard and collard greens, potatoes, and tomatoes.  Apples, plums, and berries are good fruit choices for getting your daily dose of lutein.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Rich in bioflavenoids and antioxidants that help to ward off the specter of eye pressure and disease, omega 3 fatty acids help to enrich the nerve cells located in the retina.  Eating plenty of flaxseeds, cod liver oil, soybeans, walnuts, raw tofu, and fish can help you get the dietary requirement of omega 3 that is so necessary for eye health.

Bilberry is an herb that boasts a high quantity of flavonoid anthocyanosides, which are antioxidants that enhance vascular tissues.  During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots reported that after consuming quantities of bilberry, their night vision had improved radically. 

Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba has been used for centuries in the natural treatment of glaucoma because of its ability to improve blood flow to the eyes.  A powerful antioxidant, it holds a number of essential benefits for not only vision, but for other parts of the body, including brain function.  Ginkgo biloba can be found in health food stores in the form of capsules, tinctures, or tea.

Note:  It is always best to consult with your healthcare provider before embarking on a remedial protocol.


Nutritional Wellness:  Natural Eye Care and Nutrition by Marc Grossman, OD
 The Eye Digest: Bilberry and Ginkgo Biloba
 E Medicine Health: Ocular Hypertension
 Nutritional Wellness
Natural Eye Care
Natural News:
The World’s Healthiest Foods

Friday, January 21, 2011


Though the Argentines don’t necessarily consider the Sierras proper mountains (when compared with the ever-imposing Andes), to me the Sierras emanate an enormous power implicit in these stoic forces of nature.  Here in the Traslasierra about 190 km outside the city of Cordoba in the province of the same name, the particular energy the Sierras emanate is palpable, perhaps from their mineral content, by the fact that they inhabit a micro-climate, or by the deep indigenous history that gives them human context.

My friend Helen and I sit at night in awe, hypnotized by the plethora of stars that make up the southern hemisphere.  We think we are seeing every single one and that they are literally falling into our laps.  The Milky Way has never been as pronounced, and we are determined to discover exactly which constellations are before us.  Over by the horizon are the twinkling, celestial-seeming lights of a distant village, creating an additional magic to the night sky.  The early morning and early evening brings a deafening sound of crickets, making it hard to focus on anything else – which to me is fine as I am keen on discovering more keys to getting out of mind and more into sensation and feeling.

Days are a total obliteration of thought as the deep summer sun runs its rays over our bodies, making reading possible only in the shade of the hammock.  A steady dazzle of bird and insect sounds is everywhere… another kind of traffic noise, but oh so easy to absorb.

Staying at our friend Jose’s hand-built home, all rustic stone and wood with well attended flowers and trees all around, we are way up high above the pueblos below.  This is my second visit to the region, but a new experience, staying so far away from civilization.  We rely on Jose to take us up and down the mountain in his jeep. 

We have our favorite haunts:  a tiny little place off the main square, frequented by locals for delicious and inexpensive pizza or pasta, a lovely shop  for browsing hand made pottery, wooden bowls and furniture, woven items, and soaps, and the local jeweler with his inventions in silver and semi-precious stones.  In a nearby pueblo down the road, there is our favorite cafĂ© where we can have a blend of herbal teas from the region and a basketful of tostadas with homemade dulce de leche.  Here there is Internet, which calls to me as much as I try and stay away.  It is not easy to disconnect, though this is the true theme of the voyage. 

In the mountains, I have made a commitment to implementing the rituals that make for more permanent habits, regardless of locale.  I will take these rituals as I take my food: for their cleansing, energizing properties; for their ability to dissolve the pressures of the mind; for their ability to re-caibrate the body and spirit. 

To disconnect does not mean to go on idle, to be lazy, to tune out.  For me, disconnecting means taking time away from routine in order to recharge.  This means a daily ritual of breathing exercises along with meditation.  Here in the Sierras, I can find my spot under mountains and sky and take my time in harmony with the rest of nature to create my grounding for the day. 

At home, in the middle of a busy city, I do the same.  With the vision of big nature in my mind’s eye, I  imagine that I am still in the Sierra’s…  with the magnetism of the mountains holding me tight as I melt into my best self.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Clove Power: A tasty and aromatic anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and anesthetic!

Cloves have that wonderful aroma so reminiscent of apple pie baking in the oven, deliciously spicy grog, or aromatic dried oranges studded with clove nails. But cloves also have amazingly powerful remedial uses due to their anti-bacterial, antiseptic, anesthetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Inserting a clove in the mouth to reduce toothache or in the ear to relieve earache, making an infusion to assuage skin ailments or respiratory difficulties, or applying a poultice of clove oil to reduce infection are just some of the ways cloves can be used to relieve aches and pains.

The moniker “clove” originates from the word “clou,” which is French for nail, and of course describes the shape of this multi-faceted spice. Scientifically, cloves are known as Caryophyllus Aromaticus or Syzygium Aromaticum. Cloves originate in warm, exotic climes such as Tanzania, Sumatra, Indonesia, Madagascar, Zanzibar, the Molucca Islands, and South America.  They have been used as far back as the Han dynasty in China where they freshened the breath of courtesans. In ancient Egypt they were stung on necklaces, and much later in 4th Century Europe they were introduced by Arab traders and used to flavor teas and culinary dishes. In Tibet, they have been a staple throughout the ages to fortify the immune system.

Cloves come from an evergreen tree with leathery leaves and buds that form a hood to protect their stamens. The buds are responsible for up to 20% of the spice’s volatile oils, with 2% remaining in the leaves and 5% in the stems. Clove oil contains a substance called eugenol, which is both antiseptic and analgesic, which means it helps reduce infection and swelling. Cloves also boast a good supply of phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and vitamins A and C.  Its high calcium and iron content helps to keep bones strong.

Placing clove oil on achy joints and muscles helps to increase circulation, directing nutrients to zones that need particular attention.  Clove oil warms the area as it penetrates the skin, helping to reduce stiffness and swelling.

Including cloves in your recipes is an excellent way to get clove power, either by using it in powdered form, or grinding the spice with an electric grinder or a mortar and pestle. Whole cloves can also be boiled for use a tea or taken in capsule form. Clove oil is easy to find in health food stores and can be applied directly to the skin after diluting it in a bit of coconut, olive, or vitamin E oil to avoid possible irritation to the skin.

Note: Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before starting on a clove protocol, especially if you are taking medications.