In today’s interview I get to speak with optometrist Dr. Travis Zigler about what we can do to maintain good eye health.
Travis is very passionate about making eye care available for people all over the world and ending preventable blindness.
In todays interview we get a chance to talk about the main vision problems affecting people today and learn about the steps anyone can take to try to mitigate these problems later in life.
If you know someone who is concerned about the toll that staring at the screen all day is taking on their eyes or someone who is predisposed to eye conditions such as macular degeneration, and would like to learn some simple steps to take to safeguard their eye health, this interview is for them.
I enjoyed this interview as I am keen to learn more about what I can do to protect my eyes from damaging effects we are exposed to in our day-to-day life. I already love using my Blue Light Blocking glasses and Iris software and after speaking with Travis I have a better understanding about how the steps I take now can play a significant role down the line in my vision and positively affect my general wellbeing.
Special thanks to Travis for joining me on the show. Enjoy the episode!
Show Notes with Timestamp Links
Highlights of what we talk about during the interview:
Click on one of the timestamp links in the brackets to jump to that point in the interview audio.
[00:20] – Introducing today’s guest, Dr. Travis Zigler who is a qualified optometrist who graduated from the University of Ohio with Magna Cum Laude and specialises in “difficult to fit” contact lenses. Furthermore, he is a fellow of the Scleral Lens Society and a founder of Eye Love, which is an eye wellness company with a mission to end preventable blindness.
[00:48] – 80% of vision problems are avoidable. 700 million people are blind due to lack of glasses, and it is Eye Love’s mission to conquer this starting in Jamaica first and then bringing the program to the rest of the world.
[01:53] – After the age of 40 most people will need to wear glasses. Travis explains this is due to the natural process of aging. The lens, which sits just behind the coloured part of our eyes, loses some of its flexibility necessary for reading and focusing on things up close.
[04:54] – The question science is looking to answer at the moment is: how do we keep the lens flexible for as long as possible? There are some studies with dogs that are using eye drops to keep the lens bendable and prevent cataracts, but not much has been published on this subject as of yet. Glasses and lens companies might not be so keen on having the need for their product eradicated.
[06:43] – High amount of sun and UV exposure seems to cause cataracts to develop much sooner, but there are other factors, as well. As with most things concerning our bodies, the healthier you are overall the better your eyes are going to be.
[08:45] – Our diet influences the health of our eyes, but what’s more, the eyes are the windows to everything that is going on. Travis recommends getting a dilated eye exam annually. Looking at the blood vessels and the optic nerve at the back of your eye means numerous conditions can be detected. This includes: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and in some cases even brain tumours. Travis’ number one dietary recommendation to keep eyes healthy: leafy green vegetables!
[10:04] – People often supplement with lutein (found naturally in spinach and kale). Is this a worthwhile thing to do? Travis explains that supplements are just that. Supplements. They should not replace a healthy diet. Focus on diet first and then supplement in addition to that. He recommends lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin. Based on a study by the National Institute of Health in the US, Eye Love has created a supplement with these three ingredients called Eye Love’s Ocular Health Supplement which is available on Amazon.
[13:33] – Another big, commonly misdiagnosed problem is dry eye and blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid). Travis has a lot of information that can help people with these issues on his website. Artificial tears are commonly used to treat the symptoms, but this does not solve the underlying problem; which seems to be inflammation of the body. To fix the cause of the root problem, Travis looks at diet, exercise and the amount of water you drink. Red, inflamed eyelids, as well as scratchy, itchy, dry, watery eyes are some of the symptoms to look out for.
[19:00] – We discuss food allergies. Food intolerances can cause inflammation causing various symptoms including skin eczema or dandruff for example. Travis has a book about this called: Rethinking Dry Eye Treatment: Lifestyle changes to control dry eye and he explains the “Dry Eye” in the title could be replaced with any disease. Taking a food sensitivity test can help us pin down exactly what we are allergic to. Avoiding these foods, along with a healthy diet, we can reverse diseases such as psoriasis, eczema or Crohn’s.
[21:52] – How do we take care of our eye health in the modern world? Blue light exposure through screens is very prevalent nowadays. We talked about the effects of blue light on sleep and importance of circadian rhythms in previous episodes with Daniel Georgiev and Elyse van Spyk, among others. Travis himself challenges listeners to try turning all blue light emitting devices off by 7pm for seven days. He also adds an optometry perspective of looking at blue light in terms of macular degeneration; studies have shown blue light increases the prevalence of macular degeneration. Using blue light blocking eyeglasses and software such as Iris Tech (as well as eating spinach daily!) could help mitigate some of the damage.
[31:52] – What is the 20,20,20 rule? For every 20 min of screen work people should take 20 seconds to gaze at something 20 feet away or further to relax the eyes. Are the See Clearly Method exercises a good idea then? Travis explains that he was taught to say no to that idea in his optometry training but after eight years of experience he realised western medicine is only a couple of hundred years old and while he has not done enough research on the topic he wonders why people swear by it. So, while the western medicine says focus exercises don’t work, he is interested to explore this subject more before committing either way.
[35:07] – Vision therapy teaches patients how to relax and focus their eyes using a course of exercises so that their eyes can focus better and work together. It is interesting too, that kids with learning disabilities or ADHD sometimes just have an eye movement problem. Teaching them how to move their eyes better can alleviate the problem they are having.
[37:04] – Hydration is very important and its one of the first steps for patients with dry eye. Travis has an email series that deals with dry eye and here he talks about the importance of hydration some more. Go to dryeyecommunity.com to sign up! Hydration is important for health in general – studies show 75-80% of people are dehydrated.
[38:50] – Travis explains what eye floaters are. They are most visible on sunny days and are very common. Floaters are nothing to worry about. If you are seeing a large increase (20-30 more than you normally see) or if they are different colours (red and brown) than go get them seen. Travis also explains why getting these lasered out from the eye is not worth the risk.
[42:51] – We talk about one of Travis’ favourite topics: macular degeneration. Blue light is one of the causes, but the number one cause is age. Other significant causes include smoking and having a family history. Preventative measures include UV and blue light protection, and diet.
[45:15] – There are two different types of macular degeneration: wet and dry (which progresses slower). Travis explains there is treatment for wet, but it is irreversible and the most severe form.
[48:24] – Travis shares some of the things to watch out for that might indicate macular degeneration, including wavy blinds or other grid patterns. The best things he can recommend for avoiding these problems is to get an eye exam every year, as most of these things don’t happen overnight and if caught early, steps can be taken to prevent permanent vision loss.
[49:45] – Gary talks about a company called THOR laser and photobiomodulation – applying low level laser therapy (LLLT) to the body to help treat certain conditions. The CEO of THOR is also one of the founders of another company called LumiThera, which used photobiomodulation (PBM) to treat age-related macular degeneration.
[52:04] – We talk about sungazing, a practice that involves gazing at the sun while it’s at its lowest energy point while it’s setting. Some people have had great success using this method to improve their vision. Travis explains that what is essentially happening here is that people are creating peripheral defocus. This can decrease the amount of nearsightedness. The key thing to remember is if the sky is blue the sun is still at high energy and we should not look at it at this point.
BioHackers Lab Tip: Listen to Jake Steiner explain how to resolve myopia naturally.
[57:17] – The easiest way to find out more or contact Travis (or his wife who is also an optometrist) is by getting on Facebook and looking for the Dry Eye Syndrome Support Community. There is daily interaction and a Facebook live every Sunday at 5pm where you can ask questions. Also, visit their company Eye Love’s website where you can find blue blockers, sunglasses and anything dry eye related.