Where eyes are concerned, Traditional Chinese Medicine primarily focuses on two main channels, the Foot Jue & Shao Yin, or the channels that correlate the the liver and the kidneys.
It's said that the Liver Channel opens up to the eyes, especially the whites of the eyes. This is the channel that's first affected by stress. This is why strain, fatigue and overwork often result in red, itchy, and easily irritated eyes. An imbalance in this channel can result in a ringing of the ears (often high pitched), blood shot eyes, floaters, dizziness, headaches at the top of the head or a dull fuzzy feeling that's hard to pinpoint (especially when the eyes or vision is affected).
The Kidney Channel is not only associated with prenatal Qi (our genetic makeup), but also the waning of vitality as we age. Our circulation lessens (a "Qi Deficiency"), which means tissue isn't being nourished and moistened as well as it once was. This creates a dryness that TCM calls "Yin Deficiency." The Kidney Channel opens to the ears, is responsible for the bones, bone marrow and the brain. When a patient comes in complaining of back or knee pain, diminished hearing and poor vision. this channel is the go to channel.
Chinese Medicine practitioners have been debating since ancient times whether vitality from the Kidney Channel once lost can ever be restored. Most say no, but we can better maintain what's there by encouraging circulation and supporting the Yin aspects of the body.
Other channels to consider are Foot Tai Yin and Yang Ming, or those of the stomach and digestive tract channels. These channels aren't directly associated with the eye, but are classically linked to healthy muscle tissue and movement. The stomach channel also has points that are in close proximity to the eye which are often used to improve their function and eyesight.
Utilizing these channels means that we cannot ignore diet. Some important things to consider are:
- Increase foods with Vitamins A, C & E. (For Vitamin A, think yellow & orange: eggs, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and butter. For Vitamin C, think fruit! Dark red and purple fruits, like berries, have the added benefit of also being great antioxidants. For Vitamin E, think nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds.)
- Eat more foods with Lutein And Zeaxanthin (translated into English, this means eat more dark green, orange and yellow colors like leafy greens, carrots, yellow bell peppers).
- One word, beta-carotene, or is that two words? Does this seem like a lot? It shouldn't, because if you start making a list of foods, you'll see that many fit multiple categories (like dark leafy greens, and yellow & orange colored veggies). This is because the human body turns beta-carotene into retinol which is a precursor to Vitamin A. See, it's easier than you think!
- Fish can be tricky, as our oceans are polluted with excess mercury, but Omega 3s are essential for good eyesight. (A guideline to follow for safe fish consumption can be found here.)
- Zinc, and essential trace element, is not only good for eyesight, but the immune system in general and can treat things like ADHD and infertility. (However, if you're not going to get your zinc from oysters or beef, eat yogurt. Do not get it from anything that's "fortified," especially breakfast cereal.)
On a side note, a patient of mine requested facial rejuvenation treatments (to diminish wrinkles, laugh lines, bags, etc.), and to do this, I use points on the body that increase circulation & lift, improve vitality and support the Yin. Then, on the face, I use points that are in the same proximity as the aesthetic issue that we're trying to resolve. Because of this, I use quite a few points that surround the eyes.
After a few treatments, my patient said, "I think I can see better."
Yes, well, the treatment to improve sight would have included many of these same points.