We’ve all had that occasional sick feeling of glancing into the mirror and finding we look like someone stuck a cushion under each eye! Often, eye bags are an alarming sign of a late night spent out on the town, but what if that’s not the case? What if you never stay out late or drink alcohol? What if you’re young and seemingly healthy, but one day there they are, staring out at you from the mirror for no apparent reason? This is when you want some commonsense facts that can help you better understand this condition.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the causes of puffy eyes and why they could be a warning that something is very wrong. We’ll also explore how to diminish them as much as possible.
Before we look at some commonsense facts, let’s briefly discuss:
We rarely think about ligaments or about their function within the human body, let alone in the eye. The reality is that the human body is a bevy of ligaments, and we need to be aware of them when we’re in pursuit of a youthful look and better quality of life. A ligament is a sheet or band of tough fibrous tissue that connects two bones or holds an organ of the body in place. In some of my past notes regarding eye health, I found an interesting comment I thought worth sharing while we’re on the subject of ligaments and eyes:
“With the aging process, the ligaments underneath your eyes that hold back fatty tissue begin to weaken, and the tissue can fall forward to form under eye bags,” notes Ryan Nakamura, OD, a VSP doctor at Natomas Optometry in Sacramento, CA.
Also, if you’re interested, here’s a brief overview of the eye and eye ligaments.
We know the human body is made up mostly of water, and we often blame excess water for weight gain or assume that the puffy pouches under our eyes are from just a bit of harmless fluid. However, it’s not normal for people to gain weight or retain water in any part of the body to the point that it looks like a swelling.
When you retain water, the body’s alert systems may be trying to tell you something is very wrong. If necessary, you should see your medical doctor to determine the cause. Fluid retention may also be an indication that you have an imbalance of electrolytes and minerals like sodium, phosphorus, or magnesium. This condition, in fact, is the result of an imbalance not only of water but also of the important electrolytes that our body needs. (See below for some water retention solutions.)
At some point in time, we must accept that Mother Nature herself may be a big reason for our under eye bags, despite all the efforts we may employ to keep ourselves looking young. Heredity and genetics may also play a role. If you have morning puffiness but aren’t in the aging category, it may be that other issues such as sinus infections, allergies, or hormonal problems are the cause. According to Chinese medicine, when the kidney qi starts to weaken, dark circles or pouches appear under the eyes.
Let’s now go to some of those commonsense facts.
Whole System Support
Keep in mind that eye bags are usually a symptom of some imbalance in the body. If the symptom lingers rather than happens only on occasion, I’d recommend getting some form of whole system support like acupuncture or chiropractic. Relieving the nervous system of imbalances and weaknesses will go a long way to clearing up stubborn symptoms of all kinds.
Nourishing the Ligaments
You’ll notice that when you search for “ligament repair” online, you’ll inevitably find that, for the most part, vitamin C is the only thing universally recommended as the most important substance for repairing ligament strength and health. You’ll probably find a list of vitamin C rich foods and/or recommended vitamin C supplements—which are actually synthetic (ascorbic acid) and not the whole food vitamin C complex.
Vitamin C isn’t entirely bad advice, but it’s far from the whole story. Allow me to correct the record and give you a solid answer for both repairing and maintaining strong, healthy ligaments. These recommendations will not only benefit your eye ligaments but all the ligaments throughout your body, helping to reduce wrinkling and minimize other age- or injury-related effects of weakened ligaments.
Let’s start with the understanding that collagen—that almost miraculous glue-like protein that holds our body together—makes up the bulk of our tendons and ligaments. Real collagen, not creams or gels that can do nothing to genuinely improve your inner-body collagen levels, makes your tissues strong, while the protein elastin in ligaments provides some elasticity. Protein from your diet provides amino acids from which your body builds collagen and elastin to help keep your tendons and ligaments strong.
So the question is, how do we help our body make a form of super collagen? Well, lucky for you I’ve documented it all in my blog post “Help! My Body Is Getting Flabby.” I include a discussion of foods, recipes, and supplements that can pave the way for helping your body make this wonderful substance that so many of us are lacking at least to some degree.
Note: Keep in mind one very important caveat as you read my blog post—it’s essential that you have good hydrochloric acid (HCL) content in your stomach because this is the primary substance that will immediately assist in the breakdown of the protein. Without the initial breakdown of any protein you eat, you are already missing the major component to making quality collagen—amino acids.
There is one other particular whole food supplement I don’t include in that blog post, but it’s specifically recommended by my friend Joseph Antell for ligament health: Standard Process Ligaplex I.
General Eye Bag Solutions
1. Fluid retention solutions: After you’ve determined you don’t have an ongoing or serious medical problem, remember these five recommendations. They’re good basics that will help you combat water retention:
- Be sure you’re using a high-quality sea salt rather than regular table salt. Sodium and potassium are important to fluid balance. So eat your salt!
- Dehydration causes water retention, so drink plenty of high-quality water. Spring water is best.
- Get adequate exercise.
- Avoid alcohol and coffee.
- Look for natural diuretics.
2. Tea bags: Applying frozen or chilled green tea bags is one of the few easy and inexpensive remedies that can actually get rid of bags under eyes. Most people apply them directly to the eye bags for 10–15 minutes on a daily basis. Green tea works best because it contains a natural anti-inflammatory called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). As with a cold compress, this remedy will only get rid of bags under your eyes for a short period, but the relief will make a difference over time, slowing down the development of more eye bags.
3. Neti pot: Try a neti pot. Use this gizmo (it looks like a small teapot) to pour salt water into one nostril, and then let it drain out the other. It sounds weird but, used regularly, it helps flush out mucus and irritating debris from pollen and other pollutants that build up in the sinuses. This practice is very helpful for allergies, colds, and post-nasal drip.
4. Sleep: Regular sleep loss can result in eye bags. Think about it: your liver and kidneys don’t get to detoxify properly, your adrenals don’t have time to recover, and so many other processes that happen only during sleep can’t complete their cycles. Take care of the little things that help you get to sleep and stay asleep. If your pillow or mattress need changing, change them. Or if you need to adjust your sleep position, adjust it. And read my article “Insomnia Relief! Help from a Former Insomniac.”
5. Wash your face: Remove your makeup before going to bed. Makeup can irritate your eyes and cause a case of morning-after puffiness.
6. Booze in moderation: Avoid alcohol! Why? Booze can pull the water out of your skin. Once you weaken the delicate area around your eyes, it’s more likely to sink into a pouch.
7. Don’t smoke: Smoking can dry and weaken the skin on your face. In Chinese medicine the lungs are intimately related to the skin. Say no to smokes, and save yourself from wrinkled, droopy eyes.
Above all, SIMPLIFY! Arrange your life to include a real day of rest, lessen your stress, and learn to sleep well. See my many other blog posts at Tips from the Traditional Cook to find ways to do all three.
Photos from iStock/rob_lan (at top) and Catalin205 (inset)
Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.