Q1. I suffer from chronic dry eye and blepharitis. I control the outbreaks with over-the-counter washes, wipes and applications of heat when it’s painful. Is there a natural treatment I could use instead of steroids and antibiotic drops?
A. How frustrating for you. Dry and burning eyes, with additional symptoms of swelling, itching, crusting, and sensitivity to light is difficult to manage, particularly when it can seem like you are getting on top of symptoms only to have them return again.
Blepharitis is usually the result of a low-grade infection, but can also be triggered by the onset of menopause, or acne, or even dandruff. Anterior blepharitis affects the margin of the eyelid and eyelashes, whereas posterior blepharitis is an issue with the oil glands of the inner eyelid.
Vitamins A and D, both fat-soluble vitamins, are beneficial in treating dry eye issues.
Vitamin A is particularly important in healing mucous membranes and can be obtained through a healthy wholefoods diet high in fresh dark leafy greens, apricots, asparagus, broccoli, melons, carrots, squash, sweet potato, pumpkin, dulse, garlic, papaya, peaches, watercress, and coloured capsicum/peppers. If you prefer supplementation, you will need around 10,000 IU daily.
Vitamin D can be found in butter, raw milk, sweet potatoes, oily fish (sardines, salmon, herring and mackerel), oats, cold-pressed vegetable oils, eggs, and of course sunlight exposure. It helps with eye lubrication and also to deal with the ongoing infection as it supports immune health.
You can make your own herbal eyewash using eyebright and goldenseal. Use four parts eyebright to one part goldenseal and steep a teaspoon of the herbal blend in a cup of boiling water for 8-10 minutes, filter, and then cool the remaining liquid.
Eyebright is a herb commonly used to support general eye health, while goldenseal is used to help treat and prevent infection. When making your own herbal eye infusion, it is crucial to filter it thoroughly to avoid getting any tiny pieces of plant material in your eyes and causing further irritation.
Finally, if you have the time to keep track of foods you eat and note whether or not your symptoms flare up, it could well be that you find that there is an underlying sensitivity to a certain food or food group. This helps some individuals keep on top of their symptoms and avoid outbreaks if the condition is in fact linked with a particular food item or items.
Q2 Over the last few months I've been getting blisters on my tongue. I keep my mouth clean and use a mouth wash. I would appreciate your advice.
A. I have no doubt that this problem will be making it very uncomfortable for you to chew and swallow food. The first thing I would recommend is to check whether or not your oral hygiene products contain sodium laurel or sodium laureth sulphate, also listed as SLS or SLES. This ingredient is found in many personal care products as a foaming agent and can trigger blisters and ulcers in the mouth.
Fortunately, there are many kinds of toothpaste, shampoos, body washes and so on formulated without this harsh ingredient. Mouth wash, depending on the ingredients may also be doing more harm than good. Instead, try making your own salt rinse by dissolving a ½-1 teaspoon of salt in 250ml of warm water. This may sting a little, but is wonderful for healing any damage and preventing infection in the mouth and throat. Swish and spit this solution as needed throughout the day.
Raspberry leaf tea, (Rubus idaeus), is wonderfully nutritious – which is why women use it during the last six weeks of pregnancy. The leaves provide a highly bioavailable form of calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and E. Drinking 2-3 cups of this tea daily will help to heal lesions in the mouth. Use 1 teaspoon of dried herb per cup of near-boiling water, and steep for 3-5 minutes.