629: Dr. Sam Berne on Vital Vision: Your Eyesight Might Just Be a Symptom and How to Protect Vision As You Age

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Dr. Sam Berne on Vital Vision: Your Eyesight Might Just be a Symptom and How to Protect Vision As You Age
Wellness Mama » Episode » 629: Dr. Sam Berne on Vital Vision: Your Eyesight Might Just Be a Symptom and How to Protect Vision As You Age
The Wellness Mama Podcast
The Wellness Mama Podcast
629: Dr. Sam Berne on Vital Vision: Your Eyesight Might Just Be a Symptom and How to Protect Vision As You Age
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Today’s episode is all about eye health. I’m talking with Dr. Sam Berne, a repeat podcast guest, and holistic optometrist. Dr. Sam has been an innovator in the field of optometry and holistic health for over 30 years. His protocols take a proactive approach and he treats the body as an integrated system. He’s an author, teacher, and healer, and he’s created a powerful assortment of eye health and wellness products.

Most of us are familiar with the typical eye exam, but it doesn’t really tell us how our vision is. Dr. Sam discusses how we can improve our vision without strong glasses or surgery. He goes into detail on how this works with both children and adults. We cover what nutrients can help improve eye health, and which exercises are a key component to better vision. Dr. Sam also talks about other therapies that are easy and affordable, like morning sunlight, red light, and more.

If you’re struggling with any vision problems, or simply want to keep your good vision as you age, then this is a great episode to listen to! It’s especially great for parents who are looking to improve or protect their children’s vision in a holistic way. We go really deep into practical eye health tips today, and I hope you’ll join me and Dr. Sam and listen in!

Episode Highlights With Dr. Sam Berne

  • How he did dolphin assisted therapy for trauma patients in the past
  • Why reading the eye chart is not vision, it’s eyesight which is just a skillset
  • A vision problem is more than in the eyeball
  • Why he doesn’t recommend dilating eyedrops for children in eye exams
  • How children can improve their vision without strong glasses or surgery
  • The type of exams he recommends for children of all ages
  • How vision ties to movement and vestibular function
  • What the primitive survival reflex is and how it relates to vision in children and what primitive reflex training is
  • An eyesight problem is a symptom of a vision problem. If you improve the vision, the eyesight can get better
  • The rise of myopia because we are all on screens and what to do about it
  • Nutrition and supplements that are generally beneficial for the eyes: Vitamin A, Zinc, Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, Astaxanthin, Omega-3s
  • Why refined sugar is bad for the eyes!
  • How red light can benefit the eyes (and mitochondria in the whole body)
  • Tip: How backward movement opens up peripheral vision and stimulates the brain
  • The eyes and the brain make up 2% of body weight and use up 25% of resources and have a very high nutritional need
  • How brain health is so important for vision as we age
  • Ways to support eyesight with nutrition as we age (diet, glutathione, vitamin C, etc.)
  • How dental health relates to eye health
  • Head trauma and inflammation can affect the eyes as we age
  • How wearing lenses can reduce vision as we age and eye exercises to help
  • What to know about blue light and sunglasses
  • The connection between trauma and vision
  • How he uses castor oil on the eyes on the eyelid to keep eyes moist through the night
  • What is different if you’ve had eye surgery
  • The essential oils he uses around the face to support the eyes

Resources We Mention

More From Wellness Mama

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Katie: Hello, and welcome to the Wellness Mama Podcast. I’m Katie, from wellnessmama.com. And this podcast is all about vital vision and how your eyesight might just be a symptom, and how to protect your vision at any age, and especially as we age. And I’m here with Dr. Sam Berne, who is a repeat guest. He has been an innovator in the field of optometry and holistic health for over 30 years. And his protocols take a proactive rather than reactive approach to health and wellness. He understands and treats the body as an integrated system, rather than a collection of independent organs, in order to identify and address the root cause of disease, including eye problems. He is an author, a teacher, and a healer, who has created a powerful assortment of eye health and wellness products. I will link to all of them in the show notes. And we get to go deep on a lot of these topics today.
We talk about why reading the eye chart is not your vision, that’s just eyesight, which is a skill set. Why vision problem is more than just in the eyeball. Why he doesn’t actually recommend the dilating eye drops for children and eye exams, and what to do instead. How we can improve vision without strong glasses or surgery. And the specific things he recommends for children at different ages. How vision ties to vestibular function, what the primitive survival reflex is and what very primitive reflex training is. We talk about the rise of myopia, because we are all on screen so much and what to do about it. We talk about nutrition and supplements for eye health. Why refined sugar is so bad for the eyes. How color therapy and red light can benefit the eyes. He gives a tip on backward movements that open up peripheral vision and stimulate the brain. He explains how the eyes and the brain make up 2% of body weight and 25% of resources in the body. So they have a very high nutritional need. He talks about why brain health is so important for vision as we age. How dental health relates to eye health. How trauma and inflammation can affect our eyes as we age. Why wearing corrective lenses can actually reduce vision as we age, and exercises to help instead. And so much more.
Very fact packed episode. You have any kind of eye related issue, highly recommend listening to this one. He has an absolute wealth of knowledge. And without further ado, let’s join Dr. Berne. Dr. Sam Berne, welcome.
Dr. Sam: Thank you. Nice to be back on your show.
Katie: It’s always a pleasure to chat with you and to learn from you. And this is a topic I feel like is not talked about enough, even in the health world. And so I’m really excited to get to learn from you once again today. And we’re gonna get to talk about all things vision and go deep on your new book, which is called “Vital Vision.” But before we jump in, I have a note from your bio that you led dolphin-assisted therapy retreats in the past. And I would just love to hear a little bit more about that, because I live in an area with dolphins, and a few times I’ve gotten close-ish to them. But I would love to hear about what that entailed.
Dr. Sam: Well, this goes back to 2006, and I’d just finished my training for cranial sacral therapy, and also had done a lot of research on trauma. So in 2007, I found a place in Bimini, Bahamas, that led wild dolphin swims. It was a retreat place. So I said I’ll take 20 of my trauma patients to this retreat. And it blew me away, because when we interacted with the wild dolphins every day, we were doing cranial sacral with them in the water while the dolphins were swimming around. And these were wild dolphins, this is the bottlenose dolphins in Bimini in Bahamas. And the energy that they emanated was just so amazing. And people had incredible healings, healing their traumas, and just, you know, a lot of openings.
So every year, I would take people first to the Bahamas, and then in 2010, I went back to Hawaii, because that’s one of my homes. And on the Big Island, I actually for 10 years did research on how the dolphins impacted us. And my last retreat was 2020, right before COVID. And so they’ve been very close to my heart. And we’ve had amazing experiences with dolphins, and people, you know, just loving what’s happening. And one of my dreams is actually…I work with autistic kids, is to bring children there someday, because I think they would just totally light up exploring the dolphin energies.
Katie: That is incredible. And what a cool experience to have and to help people through. And an area that you are certainly a world expert in is the area of holistic eye care. And like I said, I’m really excited to learn more from you about this today, especially as I get older, it’s something that’s top of mind for me and just also for my kids at various ages. To start off really, really broad, I know we’ve gotten to go deep on this in our past episode. But can you walk us through what makes holistic eye care a little bit different than maybe standard eye care people may have experienced?
Dr. Sam: Well, it starts with the exam, because when you go for an eye exam, most exams involve reading the distance eye chart, and checking for eye health. Well, reading the distance eye chart is not vision, it’s your eyesight. So vision is a skill set. That’s how the eyes, and the brain, and the body work together. And if you look at children’s vision, there’s a developmental process that they go through. And things like gestation, birth, and bonding, those imprints actually affect vision development. We know that the eyes originate from the brain. So, every part of the eye is brain tissue.
So you can improve vision at any age. And I love working with elders because, you know, they receive a diagnosis like they’re gonna go blind, they’ve got cataracts, macular degeneration. And there are so many things that you can do, and the research backs it up, that you can actually improve your vision at any age.
Katie: That is such a fascinating concept to me. And I feel like it’s not what a lot of people are told. And I would love to understand a little bit more, you called eyesight a skill that is not the entirety of what vision is. But yet kids are tested on that, usually around kindergarten age, I think, and often given a diagnosis based on that eyesight test then. Should we be looking at that differently, especially with kids? And if they have an issue that shows up in a vision exam, is there something that should be done differently?
Dr. Sam: Well, you know, I always say that a vision problem is more than in the eyeball. And especially in children, you have to look at the whole person. And that’s why we take a very detailed history. And we want to find out, you know, what was the birth experience like? Did the child crawl? Did they, you know, integrate their primitive survival reflexes? That’s a subject we can get into. So I’ve worked a lot with OTs over the years. And for every parent that goes for an eye exam, you know, and the doctor uses those eyedrops that paralyze the focusing muscle, that’s the worst thing you can do for kids, because then you’re gonna get a false positive. You’re gonna get a prescription that’s way too strong and distorting. You know, and I get so many emails from parents, “Oh, I went for an eye exam. My doctor said if I don’t have my child wear these glasses full time, they could go blind.: Or then there’s the crossed eye situation and surgery, and they feel pressured, like they need to go get the surgery. Or they have a lazy eye, and they’re told they should wear the patch eight hours a day.
All of that stuff is 16th century medicine. I mean, it is not a holistic perspective. And with children, the physical eye therapy works incredibly well for helping them improve their learning, their coordination. So, if I were a parent, I would be looking for a holistic eye doctor, where we’re testing visual skills, we’re testing development, we’re testing nutrition, we’re looking at that, traumas. And so when you add all that up together, you don’t have to go down that rabbit hole of just saying, oh, you know, the kid’s got these prescriptions, or their eyes are only going to get worse. I’ve had over 10,000 success stories with parents and children. And it’s one of my biggest drums that I beat. And so glad to do it on this platform. So, thank you for asking that.
Katie: Well, I feel like that is so important and not talked about nearly enough. I know this was, to use pun intended, eye opening for me when I started learning this from you, because that’s kind of done. It’s just a matter of sort of a system with kids when they hit school age, they have to have an eye exam, and then they’re told all these things. And then it’s a whole cascade. And it seems like very rarely are parents told all these other factors or that those things can improve. So what kind of eye exams do you do when a child comes in, or do you recommend for, you know, baby, toddler, elementary school aged child?
Dr. Sam: Well, first of all, I want to see what their movements are like. So I’m looking at things like their cross-patterning movements, hopping, skipping. Are they able to jump rope? Can they skip backwards, is an example? Are they using their vision guiding their body through space? You know, vision is really about a spatial decision that we make based on how well we’re able to control our body. I also check the vestibular system, the inner ear, because vision and vestibular go hand in hand as it relates to our balance and our orientation in space.
And then I test something called the primitive survival reflexes. OTs know about this. These are early motor patterns that start occurring in utero. And the purpose of these reflexes is they help the newborn come out of the birth canal, and they’re able to adjust to new stimuli. So one of the most famous reflexes is the Moro reflex. And there’s a very strong correlation when those reflexes don’t integrate and children developing vision problems.
So we do a lot of primitive reflex integration in school aged children, and their visual system gets better, their tracking, their focusing, their depth perception, their peripheral vision. It’s very powerful work because we’re really addressing the brain and the brainstem. That’s where those primitive reflexes originate. And once those become integrated, then the child can move more into the cerebellum and finally into the prefrontal cortex. A lot of kids are diagnosed with things called executive brain disorder, something like that. A lot of times it’s a developmental problem, that’s a sensory motor obstacle. And those primitive reflexes are the linchpin that then helps children develop their motor skills as they move forward in age.
Katie: And I find this so fascinating, and I feel like with the rise of more functional and holistic medicine in other areas, the two areas that surprises me that are not moving faster are holistic eye care and holistic dentistry. Because I feel like for whatever reason, these are two areas that many people just assume sort of work in isolation. And don’t consider, to your point, that the eyes are just part of the whole system that is the body. And they’re obviously connected to the brain. And there’s so much more that comes into play than just the eyeball itself when we’re talking about vision. And I feel like understanding that opens up a whole different way of thinking about how we see. And so for parents who are listening, who maybe their kids have gotten some of these diagnoses from an eye doctor in the past, I’d love to just understand a little bit more about, does this mean that eyesight can improve naturally with time, with different therapies, with some of these things you’re talking about, without necessarily the need for surgery, or glasses, or more intensive interventions with young kids?
Dr. Sam: So an eyesight problem is a symptom of a vision problem. And so if you improve the vision, the eyesight is going to get better. Now, when you start wearing glasses to correct eyesight, what you’re doing is treating a symptom. And so the symptom drives the problem further in, and you’re not going to improve the eyesight. Let me give you an example. There’s an epidemic going on right now with myopia, because we’re all on our screens. So it’s a visual confinement. And the problem starts up close where there’s visual stress in the muscles, and so then there’s a blurriness in the distance. So if you get a nearsighted lens, to correct the blurriness in the distance, it’s going to reinforce the problem up close. If you want to do a screening device, I taught this to school nurses, give a child a book and ask them to read it and watch their observation. So if they close one eye, if they bring the book close, if they’re squinting, that is a better test than the distance acuity. Because that’s going to tell you there’s a vision problem at near. And if you do physical vision therapy, you’re going to correct the problem. And then you won’t need the glasses for distance.
Katie: That’s so fascinating. And I have definitely read some stuff about how we’re seeing a rise in certain eye issues, because we’re all hunched over looking at our screens all the time. And that makes sense. But I guess, maybe a little bit of an extreme analogy here that it makes me think of is, if we had a problem moving another part of our body, like be it a problem getting into a squat, instead of working on mobility, and working on range of motion, and working on strength, we would just change our whole environment so that we never actually had to get into that movement pattern at all, which would further atrophy the body’s ability to ever do that movement. But I guess people don’t naturally think of that with the eye in the same way. Can you elaborate a little bit more on some of these therapies that can be really helpful? And maybe differentiate if some are helpful more so in children are some that are helpful more so if we know it’s like a screen related overuse issue.
Dr. Sam: Okay, well, in children, what I do is I assess a child’s visual performance versus their chronological age. So let’s say we have a seven-year-old who’s struggling to learn to read, well, you could do eye exercises to improve the tracking. However, if you go back and you look at, well, there was a problem with the birth, there was birth trauma, or the child never creeped and crawled. And you test the primitive reflexes in a child, the physical therapy would start off by doing these gross motor patterns that look a little bit like yoga, they’re not yoga, but they look a little bit. Where it’s helping a child integrate their body coordination with their eyes. And then as a child progresses in their, you know, sensory motor development around vision, then we would work with the specific muscles, the fine motor. So then we would work with tracking, we could work with, like, a swinging ball, where they’re hitting the ball, and they have to say some letters or words. Or we have them look at some three-dimensional pictures. Or we do some visual memory. There’s a whole series of parquetry blocks that I use that help kids coordinate their auditory, with their visual, with their proprioception, but they have to do problem solving spatially.
So there’s a lot of different exercises that you could do, but you have to look at where is the child at performance wise, and then that’s where you start plugging him in the physical therapy. Now, with adults, it’s a little different. Because with adults, a lot of times there’s visual stress, there’s oxidative stress in the retina, there’s inflammation, you know, there may be some other things. So you can use nutritional or dietary things that work really well. And then there’s some physical vision therapy exercises that can strengthen and improve a person’s visual skills. And, you know, we can go into more depth there. There’s things like color therapy. I’m very excited about some new research that’s come out on that we could talk about. Anyway, there’s a lot that you can do as a physical therapy eye doctor to improve people’s functional vision.
Katie: And I know we’ll get questions because you mentioned nutrition. Are there any general guiding principles of nutritional or supplemental interventions that are generally considered beneficial for the eyes?
Dr. Sam: Well, I think rainbow diet, so the antioxidants that we find in vegetables and fruits. Obviously there are some things like, you know, vitamin A, zinc is very important for vitamin A. We’ve got things like bilberry and the amino acid, taurine. And then we’ve got the carotenoids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin, they’re really important. And healthy fats and oils. The omega-3s have been shown to be super helpful for things like dry eye, eye-brain health, reducing inflammation, things like uveitis or iritis. What I like to do is I like to test the body, some lab test, which gives me a roadmap, and then I’m not guessing. And then at that point, I’m giving either nutritional recommendations and/or supplements that can definitely improve your visual system. One more thing I want to say is, sugar is a really negative agent for our eyes on so many levels. But it can cause cataracts. It can cause macular degeneration. There’s so many negative things that happen with sugar. And it affects our retinas circulation, and that’s why people with diabetes, a lot of times, have hemorrhaging because of the glucose levels not being processed properly.
Katie: Oh, wow. Yeah, I keep seeing more and more research. And I’m glad to see more consumer availability of ways to test glucose at home. Because it seems like the more research we do, the more we just point toward not having good insulin and glucose regulation, causes problems throughout the whole body. And just for clarity, I want to make sure we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think it’s, you know, refined sugar, we can always agree, not beneficial or needed by the body in any way. But I feel like sometimes people go to the other extreme and say, well, then I’m never going to eat fruit, or starchy vegetables, or any of those things. But you just highlighted brightly colored fruits and vegetables can be really, really important. So I’m assuming you’re not saying throw away the berries, and the beets, and anything that might have starch in it, we just need to avoid sugar, right?
Dr. Sam: Yeah, it’s the processed sugars. Or you could look at the glycemic index chart to see what’s there. But berries are super awesome for night vision and retina health, strawberries, blueberries, you know, raspberries. So I’m not throwing everything out, it’s just the processed sugar is what I’m concerned about. But, you know, for some fruits, go for it. They’re really good for you.
Katie: Awesome. And I know anecdotally, adding lots of those and things like lycopene from tomatoes, and astaxanthin, and omega-3s, also has been phenomenal for my skin, and for my sun tolerance, and for my hair. So it’s many benefits. There are many, many reasons to include those. You also mentioned color therapy, and this is a new concept for me. So I would love for you to walk us through what it is and how it’s being used.
Dr. Sam: Well, there was a study done by the Jeffrey’s Lab in the University College of London. And what they found was, they actually took subjects between the ages of 40 and 70, who had retinal degeneration. And they looked at red light, 670 nanometers, few minutes every day in the morning for 12 weeks. And they found a 22% increase in eyesight in visual acuity, and a reduction in drusen in the retina by looking at this red light. So red light is so helpful for the body because what it’s doing is it’s stimulating the mitochondria. And the mitochondria produce ATP. And as we age, our mitochondria don’t work as well. So what this red light did, especially in that older age range, it regenerated the mitochondria, and it improved your retina health. So that’s one way to use color therapy.
There’s another form of color therapy where you can use different colors. And people look at those and they stimulate the photoreceptors in the retina, which can help open up the peripheral vision. And because part of the visual pathways are non-visual, the light goes in and it can affect your endocrine system, your nervous system. I’ve been doing that kind of color therapy for over 30 years. And it’s a very exciting tool as a nonverbal way to help people expand and improve their vision.
Katie: This whole thing is so fascinating to me. I know that you’ve also worked with children with various spectrum disorders. And I would love to hear more about this because I think this is often not a topic people associate with vision and eye health. And I love the way you explain this. So can you walk us through that a little bit?
Dr. Sam: Katie, I wish I could invite you and the listeners to a place I work. It’s an amazing place called Kidpower Therapy Associates. It’s in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’ve been consulting there for three decades. So the kids that I work with there are in wheelchairs, they’re are partially blind, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autistic, Asperger’s, ADHD. And the kind of eye exam I do with them is, we’re on the floor, and we’re doing all kinds of balance things, I work with prisms, we work vestibularly. And what happens every time is a light bulb goes off in those kids, where they connect their eyes to their body. It’s like the first time in their life where actually their eyes turn on. And so through the physical therapy, the vestibular stimulation, using kinds of yolk prisms that change the spatial awareness and the peripheral vision, these kids are doing incredibly well.
And so when I work with spectrum disorder, I am trying to figure out a way, how can I enter their visual system, and in doing that, stimulating it, and that turns it on. And then once that happens, they start fixating, they start looking, they start recognizing, they start moving, their balance is better. This is what vision is. It’s not reading an eye chart in a dark room at 20 feet. And that’s what most of these kids have been getting. So they shut down and they’ve got really thick glasses. I take them off, and I go, “Okay, now let’s start, you know, exploring.” So it’s amazing to see what happens when you expand the visual exam in this way. Even explaining it doesn’t really do it justice.
Katie: But hearing that explanation, I can only imagine how much more fun that is for the kids as well. Because I know my kids, when they’ve had to do the five-year-old eye exam to check the box for school related stuff. It makes them nervous, the whole environment is stressful, they don’t like it. That sounds like the kid would feel like they’re playing and be much more engaged and willing to work with you. And just to make sure I’m understanding on a general sense. So if a child has had an eye exam, and maybe been told, like, your child has 20-40 vision or 20-60 vision, and so therefore your child needs to wear glasses, you’re saying there’s other things parents can research and look into with a holistic eye doctor, rather than jumping straight into glasses, or certainly anything more drastic than that? Or is it still a good idea to use the vision correction in the meantime?
Dr. Sam: Well, depends on the circumstances. I mean, if the board is really blurry, and they need something, that’s possible. Depends the kind of school they go to. A lot of parents now are homeschooling, as you know. And they’re rejecting this idea that, oh… You know, what’s even worse is when the child is 20-20 with their eyesight, but there’s a vision problem. And so they kind of go, “I know there’s a vision problem, but he sees 20-20.” I get that a lot as well.
But I would encourage parents to seek out, to ask, you know, go to my website, all my information is free. Everything is free. I’ve done hundreds of video blogs, podcasts, it’s all accessing… You can even ask me questions. And I don’t charge for that. So, you know, I can help you figure out what’s the best course of action. And it’s much better than just being told, “Hey, wear these glasses full time.”
Katie: And it seems like from the parenting side, I know I was inspired after our first interview to just put things in my kids’ way that led to good cross body movements and vestibular-based movements. So we have, I’ve talked about this before, things like rings in their rooms they can hang upside down, we have swings, we have gymnastic tracks where they’re upside down, and bouncing, and moving. And they bike around all the time. And also, we talked about the importance of, you know, like, not looking at a screen all the time. So we don’t have screen time limits per se, but we always make sure we’re interspersing outdoor movement, natural light, and activity with anytime we’re spending on a screen for school, or for work, or whatever it may be. And I feel like those things alone, not just help kids not have like stress and tension in their head, and potentially vision issues, but also just help them feel happier and sleep better. But it sounds like your work also is another check in the box for get morning sunlight, get outside time, look at things in a distance, not just screens, move your body in a variety of ways that trigger your vestibular function and cross body movements. Is there anything else you would add to that list as just general, daily, great practices for parents to do with their kids?
Dr. Sam: Well, teach your children to motor backwards in an obstacle course. So, hopping backwards, skipping backwards. Going backwards, when we start developing our back body, it opens up our peripheral vision that stimulates the back part of our brain, which is our visual cortex. And it also stimulates the whole brain. Riding bikes, do an obstacle course, but make sure you’re going slowly because going fast or going one speed, your momentum is keeping you balancing. But if you start to go slowly, then you’ve got to develop better vestibular proprioceptive visual control. Visually guided and directed movements are really helpful. Whether you’re skiing, you’re snowboarding, you’re skating, you know, those kinds of things. And then there is really, you know, pretty ironclad research that spending two hours a day outside actually reduces your risk of developing myopia. And looking in the distance, that’s another one. So don’t just stare at your screen. But that natural sunlight is so important for circadian rhythm, but it’s also great for your vision. And the research validates that. So, those would be some of, you know, the starting points that I would recommend for parents.
Katie: I love that. I feel like kids would have a naturally fun time with that, and I’d be the one adjusting as the parent, to feeling like, oh, gosh, I’m walking backwards. But I will say even another reason to do it, from just a joint health perspective, this was told to me by a physical therapist is, if you walk backwards, even on a treadmill where you don’t have it on, but you’re pushing and walking backwards, that actually helps your knee strength and your tendons as well, because we do so much forward movement. So this is another way to habit stack and get multiple benefits for your whole body out of one activity, which is awesome. And bonus points if we do it outside and get that natural sunlight as well.
And we’ve talked about kids, and I feel like that’s an important topic, because that’s where the whole eye test starts. But like you mentioned, we’re seeing a rise in certain problems because of so much screen use. And also, we’re often told that eyesight just naturally declines with age. And I know you address this in a very detailed way in your new book called “Vital Vision.” But I would love to go deep on some of these topics now. Maybe start off by explaining to us what was the impetus for writing this book?
Dr. Sam: Well, I’ve written other books, but because of my social media expansion, what we decided to do is we looked at the questions we were getting from our followers, and we took the transcripts and we decided to then make it into a book. And so, the book is really designed to answer the most popular questions that people had on my Facebook Live, my podcast, and so on. And so that’s the basis of the book. And the number one question that people asked was, what do I do with my eye floaters? Number two question was, how do I reverse cataracts naturally? Number three was myopia. And astigmatism went with that. And then macular degeneration. And so, that’s the impetus of the book. And it’s really fun to be able to create value for, you know, your listener or your follower. This is what they want to hear. So that’s why I wrote the book.
Katie: Well, on a personal level, it’s a topic I’m excited to keep learning on. Because now that I feel like I’m getting older, although I would like to say I’m getting younger, because I’m getting stronger as I get older. It is top of mind for me that I would love to protect my vision. I’ve never needed any kind of eyesight help. I don’t want to as I get older. So let’s go into this. What are some of the ways that we can proactively protect our vision as we age and maybe buck that idea that our eyesight is just naturally going to get worse as we get older?
Dr. Sam: Well, the eyes and the brain make up 2% of the body weight and use 25% of the food intake. And the University of Rochester has found that 50% of vision is in the brain. So, addressing your brain health is important. You know, most eye exams are just looking at the eyeballs. So, exploring brain health, exploring your nutrition, whether it’s detoxification, head trauma. You know, what do you eat? And to recognize foods. I used to have patients that would come in with cataracts. And I would just counsel them, you know, get off of sugar, processed sugar, eat more healthily. I mean, I didn’t even talk about things like glutathione and vitamin C, which are essential for reversing cataracts. And people’s eyes would get better just by doing some general counseling on diet and new nutrition. So I think it starts there, doing a self-analysis on, how do you eat? What are you eating? What’s your toxic load? What’s your dental health? Like you mentioned, biological dentistry, dental health and eye health go hand in hand. Head traumas, unresolved head traumas can affect the eyes. Inflammation creates oxidative stress in the eyes.
So the thing is, is that, you can work at that level, and then being very careful about what kind of lens prescription you’re told to wear. Because if you start wearing magnification lenses after age 40, your muscles weaken and you lose the flexibility. Or if you’re nearsighted, start wearing a reduced prescription part of the day or go without your lenses part of the day. That’s a way for you to start improving your vision. And there are some great eye exercises. I actually have a 90-day eye clarity eye exercise program for all the big eye problems. And if you did those exercises every day, you know, 10, 15 minutes, split it up over the day, you would improve your vision because you’re accessing that neuroplasticity. Remember, the eyes originate from the brain. It’s the only part of the tissue that’s outside the cranial vault. And so it’s a way you can impact the brain. And systemically, because the eyes are so related to us metabolically and energetically through acupuncture, and so on, you can reverse and reduce vision problems by starting to take a more holistic approach to the connection of your eyes, to your brain and body.
Katie: That makes sense. And like I said, it’s a little mind blowing to me that people don’t necessarily just think of the eyes that way, as being so connected to everything else, even though other areas of medicine are starting to really hone in on how the whole body is connected. And we look at root cause approaches, and we’re not just looking at hormones in a vacuum or thyroid in a vacuum anymore. We’re looking at root causes. It makes complete sense when you explain this, that the eyes would also be connected to everything as well. I think that’s an amazing statistic, you said, that bodyweight, the eyes and the brain only make up 2%, but resources, it’s 20%. That’s incredible.
Dr. Sam: Twenty-five percent. The eyes have a very high nutritional need. I mean, I’ve seen some research where they say the retina has the highest need, and the macula has the highest need of the retina. But in any case, it is a very energy driven part of our body. I think that’s why that red light works so well, because it’s all about the mitochondria. If you can increase mitochondria health, then the ATP gets better. The reactive oxygen species, that’s the bad stuff that starts to occur when your eyes get oxidative stress, that goes down. So it’s a no brainer that if you start applying the same things you do with other holistic therapies, you’re gonna improve your vision. And the profession is really locked in the medical model, and that’s part of the schools. But I do see crevices and cracks, especially in the younger doctors that are wanting to learn what I’m talking about. So, it’s moving in that direction.
Katie: Well, that’s exciting. I’m hopeful to see that too. It seems like also that is happening in dentistry, with more of the younger dentists being interested in the holistic practices, and willing to learn and open their mind to that. And that’s really… I didn’t know that about the retina having such a high nutrient demand, but it makes sense. And that’s one shift I’ve made in the last couple of years. You know, there’s so much trending right now about thinking about macros or calories. And I’ve encouraged people to look at nutrient density, for the volume of food you’re eating and the calories you’re eating. And if given a choice, choose the food that might have the same macros, but has way higher nutrient density, because that benefits so many aspects of the body, including our mitochondria on a body wide perspective. I would love to hear any protocols you have for red light therapy that are specifically helpful for the eyes, because I’ve talked about red light therapy and used it for years, but I’ve never used it specific to helping my vision. So, are there any things to be aware of or do’s or don’ts when it comes to that?
Dr. Sam: Well, it’s interesting, when I finished reading the research, there was a company in the UK that sold these glasses that were supposedly red light, but I couldn’t get them. You know, they were hard to get. So I went back to my lab, and we did a lot of research and development. And I actually made these red tinted glasses at the 670 nanometers that I now offer patients. And the protocol is very simple. It’s five minutes in the morning. So you need to do the red light exposure no more than three hours after you’ve, you know, gotten up from sleep. And five minutes… And I like to do five days a week. And you do it in the morning. And it’s that simple. And you’ll see, within a month or two, that your eyesight starts to get more robust, it’s clear, you know.
Now, with some people, like with macular degeneration, they’re writing me and saying, “Geez, I don’t need these injections anymore. My eyesight is improving or my visual field is getting better.” So glaucoma, and drusen is another issue. So you can look through the red lens, but you don’t need a bright light source. So you can be a dim light source, you don’t have to look directly in the sun. But as long as you, you know, receive that light… And you don’t want to do it while you’re reading or exercising. It’s better if you’re just sitting and receiving the frequency. But it’s that simple. And it works really well. And unlike some of these light boxes, which have been really bright, it’s too bright for people. But this, you get to regulate the brightness, but you’re getting that frequency right into the eye tissue, which is what is needed.
Katie: For people who do have red light panels, is there any danger to the eyes from sitting not right against them, but within range of them and having eyes open? Is that still beneficial, or do they need to have a more, like, the glasses specific thing?
Dr. Sam: Oh, it’s still beneficial, but you need to sit a little further away. I think you need to talk to your manufacturer to find out what their protocol is. But my suggestion would be, sit 20 to 24 inches away, start with the eyes closed, because the eyelids are like window blinds, they do let some of the light in, just not all at once. And so that would be a way that you could use the light box, get the benefits of the light into the eyes, but sit far enough away and do it with eyes closed. And you only need to do, like, five minutes, remember, do it in the morning, and I think you’d be good to go there.
Katie: That makes sense. I’m making notes here as well.

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Are there any other, like, kind of minimum effective dose or protocols when it comes to light, especially natural light, that are specific to the eye? So for instance, I’ve recommended for years that people get, like, a minimum of sort of 10 minutes of morning light exposure outside, not through a window, doesn’t have to be bright light, you’re not looking at the sun, but just getting light in your eyes. And also a few minutes of midday sun, again, not looking at the sun, but just getting the light exposure to your skin and your eyes. Do you know are there any effective minimal doses if people are trying to make sure that they’re just being protective of their eyes when it comes to natural light?
Dr. Sam: Well, again, there’s some really good research papers that are showing that getting 2 to 10 minutes of morning sunlight improves your mood, so your dopamine levels, your alertness, and your memory. It also improves your vision and eyesight as well. But getting that morning light is so important for your circadian rhythms. Another thing I want to bring in is the fear that we have against blue light. And we talk about the damaging effects of artificial blue light emitted from the screens. Well, guess what, the sun produces blue light that we need to balance our circadian rhythms. So that’s another advantage to getting out into that morning or midday sun. We need that blue light as a way to balance our circadian rhythms. So not all blue light is bad for you, but you’ve got it, between 2- and 10-minutes morning sun is really great for your health and your vision.
Katie: I’m so glad you brought that up about blue light. And that’s an important reminder, is that, again, another area not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Blue light, from my understanding of the research, is not helpful and can be detrimental from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. especially, and I would say a buffer on either side of that. But during the day when it’s naturally bright outside, blue light is a natural thing the body would be experiencing. We don’t need to avoid blue light all day, it’s kind of the dose and the timing makes the poison. And so it’s actually a good thing, depending on the time. And this brings me to another point that I am really curious your take on, which is, sunglasses. Because I find so many people habitually wear sunglasses all the time, especially if they’re in the sun. And I know from my own research, there’s some interesting research on if we wear sunglasses and we block certain light exposure to the eyes, it kind of blunts our body’s ability to make melanin, because that light triggers the melanin pathways in the body. So I know that there’s a little bit of a skin implication there. But I know often people are told to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes. So I would love to know your take on this. And what do we need to know about sunglasses and keeping our eyes healthy?
Dr. Sam: So with sunglasses, it’s all about moderation. That if you’re out there and you’re experiencing glare or brightness… We have a natural reflex that if it’s too bright, our eyes start blinking. That might be a signal that you could then put the sunglasses on. But you want to look for a sun lens… I like to do either a neutral brown or a neutral gray tint, something that doesn’t distort the color. Because if you wear a color that’s distorting, you’re going to get that imbalance of color into your eyes. But you should be going without sunglasses, maybe early in the morning or late in the day, you don’t need to look directly at the sun, you can wear a hat. But the sunglass industry, you know, it’s really perpetuated a lot by fear. You’re gonna get cataracts. You’re gonna get macular degeneration. And there’s a little bit of truth in that, for sure. But I think, again, you’ve got to use your judgement to say, “Okay, I do need this very important nutrient into my body.” So pick the times during the day when you can handle it, and it’s going to, you know, be beneficial to you. And then pick a sun lens that doesn’t distort the color and you’re good to go. Okay?
And again, for some people, they may need to wear sunglasses a little more, they’re fair skin, or maybe, you know, again, there are other health reasons. But you still should be getting that good hit exposure of sunlight. Even if it’s cloudy out, get the sun. And if you live in a climate that’s, you know, where you don’t get a lot of sun, then get a light box and treat yourself with that during the day, especially in the winter months.
Katie: Yeah, I don’t know if people can see the brightness if they’re watching on the video, but I have a light box, even though I have a window in my office, because the window does block a lot of the natural light coming in, even though we still see the light. So because I have to be inside on podcast days, I have that bright light box on my desk, which also seems to just help me stay alert and focused.
And my understanding is, also when it comes to morning sunlight, it’s better not to view that even through glasses or a window. Is that your understanding as well? So if possible, even if you wear glasses, take them off for just a couple minutes while you’re outside in the morning.
Dr. Sam: Yes, the more you have between your eyes and the environment, the less light you’re going to get in. So, definitely take your corrective lenses off, your sun lenses off. And when you take your corrective lenses off, notice what you start thinking, notice what comes up for you emotionally. Those are probably the issues that you were having when you got your first corrective lens prescription as a child. And if you start relaxing into the blur, your eyesight will actually get clearer instead of fighting it or being afraid of it. So that’s another little wrinkle we add in this whole equation of improving your vision.
Katie: And if we talk about protecting vision as we age, I would guess there are a number of people listening who have had some form of surgery on their eyes to correct any particular problem. I’m curious if these recommendations change for those people, if they need to avoid certain things, or if these recommendations can still be beneficial for supporting eye health even if someone’s already had surgery.
Dr. Sam: Well, the recommendations are important even for people with surgery. I think the thing with surgery is, you’re dealing with possible scar tissue, and also you need to keep your eyes hydrated and oxygenated with healthy, natural eyedrops. You know, one of the controversial things that I use is castor oil on the eyes. And I developed an organic castor oil eyedrop that works incredibly well in the evening. You just need a little bit on your eyelid, just a little bit, and it’ll keep your eyes moist through the night. Studies have shown that castor oil eyedrops reduce this condition called meibomian gland dysfunction. And this is an inflammation of the eyelids that causes dry eye. So using the castor oil at night, and then of course my famous MSM eyedrops during the day. MSM is a sulfur molecule that actually hydrates and reduces inflammation, and it’s a collagen creator. And it’s organic, and it’s a great eyedrop to use during the day. Okay, those are great things to use in addition.
And scar tissue, I get that question a lot about the eyes. There’s actually a digestive proteolytic enzyme, which you probably know, called serrapeptase. And there have been some small studies done on serrapeptase might actually help get rid of some of the scar tissue in the eyes. Now, this could take many months, but there are ways that you can start to look at improving collagen health in the eyes. And MSM eyedrops and castor oil are ways that you could possibly do that.
Katie: That’s great to know. I’ll make sure we link to all of those things so people can find them. I know you have so many courses and products. I’ll make sure all those links for you guys listening are in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm, so you can find those all there, especially if you’re on the go while you’re listening, hopefully walking maybe backwards outside. I know you’ve also talked about aromatherapy and how this can potentially benefit the eyes. And I would love to hear more about this because I am a fan of having essential oil diffusers in my house often. And I often just have different scents. But if there are some that are especially supportive for the eyes, I would love to learn about them.
Dr. Sam: Well, aromatherapy is one of my loves. I am an aromatherapist. And again, it’s kind of controversial because in certain courses that I teach, we actually apply the essential oils right to the body. And of course, with the classical aromatherapy, they say never, never do that. Obviously, I’m really training people very skillfully to learn how to, you know, use essential oils. I think the first thing is, you’ve got to use a high-quality essential oil. So that’s number one. And I’m sure you’ve got sources, if you want sources for me, that’s fine. I like to do something called the eye protocol, where I use three essential oils around the face. The first is called sweet fennel, the second is called carrot seed, and the third is frankincense. And so you can either use a carrier oil, you know. What I like to do is start with a test patch. So I’ll use my wrist here and I’ll put the oil here and see if there’s any irritation. If there is, I’m either going to put it on the soles of my feet, or I’m going to put it in a carrier oil.
But you put the drops here, here, kind of away from the eyes, and down here. So sweet fennel, carrot seed, and frankincense. So you’re layering the essential oils. And basically what happens is, you start to get this expansion and circulation where your peripheral vision gets better, your night vision gets better. If you’ve got certain eye conditions, the oils will wick in from the back and come into the eyes. But you have to monitor it because if it’s too intense, and you start getting burning, of course, you can use coconut oil to get rid of it. Or you can just put those oils on the soles of your feet, that’d be another one. Or you could defuse them as well.
Also, I get into, like, heavy metal detoxification. So there’s certain essential oils I use in a protocol, would be laurel leaf, which is great for the lymph, patchouli, which is another one that’s great for heavy metal detox, and maybe a fir, like, a cedarwood atlas, or a fir essential oil. So either I can do those on the soles of the feet, or, you know, on the abdomen. And that particular protocol, I would do it with kids, like, twice a day, and I would see a reduction in the heavy metals when I would do a hair mineral analysis after a couple of months.
Kids love the essential oils anyway. So, you know, you could put them there or just use one or two. Again, aromatherapy, there’s an aspect where you want to learn what essential oils to use. And then there’s an intuitive aspect, I think, because it’s plant based. You know, I get a feeling this is what we need or that’s what we need. And the last thing I want to say about essential oils is there are mist essential oils like hydrosols. And I use these sometimes for dry eye. Like, helichrysum is a good one, neroli is another one, although that’s got the citrus, so that might be an issue for certain people. But rose is another one. So you can spray it, with your eyes closed, on the eyelids. And that has the signature of the essential oil, but it’s much more gentle. It’s kind of like diffusing it, but you’re putting it right around the eye tissue, with the eyes closed. So, as you know, essential oils are very versatile. You need to learn how to use them. But once you do, they’re one of my go-tos when I travel, if I have digestive issues, I’ll do a little basil or a fennel. I’ve used them in so many different cases and I have so many success stories. But yeah, they’re a big part of my healing protocols.
Katie: I love that. I’m excited to experiment with that. And I’d love to talk a little bit more about the physical therapies you mentioned, because I feel like right now, we’re seeing trends of people using various types of scalp massage, for instance, with rosemary oil to help their hair. We’re seeing lots of, like, facial massage to help with wrinkles and with lymphatic drainage. I’ve started experimenting with that. And I’ve noticed it also seems to help me sleep really well if I do a little bit of, like, neck, scalp, and facial massage before bed. And I know that there’s a lot of this that you talk about specific to eye health. So what are some of the physical methods people can use to help benefit their eyes?
Dr. Sam: Are you talking about physical exercises? Or are you talking about using the essential oils in conjunction?
Katie: Well, maybe just about a… I know you mentioned cranial sacral is one. But are there any things… Like, I know sometimes eye issues, from our first episode, can be related to tension in various parts of the body. Are there sort of, like, release massages or techniques that can be helpful in releasing that tension to help then the eyes?
Dr. Sam: Okay. Again, this is a very famous one right now that I’ve been doing for six years. It’s called the palm hum. So palming is a Bates Method exercise. Great exercise. You rub your hands together, cup your hands over your eyes, eyes are closed. But what I found in my semantic training is that, when I add sound to my palming, my hands are like tuning forks, and the sound is going to go into the tissue here. And sound is one of the best ways to penetrate compressed tissue. Sound also will help expand your breathing, your inhalation and exhalation. So the exercise is called the palm hum. So on an exhale, you’re inhaling through the nose, on the exhale, keep your mouth closed. And you make a humming sound like this, a low, pretty loud, robust sound. So I’m feeling the vibration here. And you do, like, 10 or 12 of those. And when you’re done, your eyesight is going to be clear, your breathing is going to be better. And there’s research that shows that when you do that, it improves the ingredient, nitric oxide, in the blood.
So I know you and I know about nitric oxide. That ingredient is now being shown to help in dilating the blood vessels. I’ve created an optic nerve formula with nitric oxide that helps with glaucoma. But here you’re doing it manually with the palming and the humming. So I would say, if a person could do one thing, do the palm hum, like, three times a day. We love getting the kids involved in doing it. And if we get a whole classroom doing it, it’s incredible. And, you know, it just calms the whole energy down in the school. It’s amazing. The teachers are, like, “Wow, this is pretty cool.” So, that would be my one, if, you know, somebody wants to do something like that.
Katie: Awesome. And I know you mentioned you have so many resources available on your website. So, definitely encourage all of you listening to check that out, and to experiment with these. I always try to say in every episode, that at the end of the day, we are each our own primary health care provider. And it’s our decisions, and choices, and actions during any given day, that compound and lead up to our health over time. And so I love that you put this power in the hands of people to actually be able to see changes for themselves, and that you help directly with more intensive problems or people who may have specific issues. So definitely, I know that you have so many resources on your website, we’ll link to those. When does your book come out? And where is it available?
Dr. Sam: February 28th, is when it comes out. And right now, we’re just releasing it through my website, drsamberne.com. There’s a pre-sale campaign we’re doing. We’re also doing some book events. So, yeah, just go to my website and you’ll find it. And we’ll have an e-book, and then eventually the audio book as well.
Katie: Wonderful. That link will be in the show notes as well. And speaking of books, I am curious if there is a book or number of books that have profoundly impacted you personally? And if so, what they are and why.
Dr. Sam: Well, you know, I was thinking about this, I was talking to my wife last night, and probably the book that really has impacted me, I’ve read it in the last six months, is…it’s an old book, it’s called “Man’s Search for Meaning.” And Viktor Frankl who was a psychiatrist, who was in the concentration camps. And after he got out, he wrote this amazing book, which, to me, the inspiration is that, you know, you get to choose what your attitudes are and what your thinking is, no matter what the circumstances are. And we can complain about this or that. But, you know, we do have the choice to choose how we think, what our attitudes are. And that’s a big inspiration for me, if I’m having a hard day, or a hard patient, or whatever. So, I would say that’s my most influential book, as of late.
Katie: I love that book as well. I wholeheartedly second your recommendation. And lastly, any parting advice for the listeners today that could be related to vision and eye health, or could be entirely unrelated?
Dr. Sam: Well, when your doctor says that you’ve got a certain condition, and there’s nothing you can do, or, you know, you start feeling bullied into, uh-oh, if I don’t do this, I could lose my eyesight. Step back and contact me, contact us. And we are problem solvers. We offer… And again, this is free. So we offer different perspectives, different protocols. It’ll get you to think out of the box. So slow down before you say yes to a certain procedure, or a certain drug, especially with parents. I have counseled so many parents over the years. “You know, we have kids and the doctor says, if you don’t do this, this could happen.” Contact me because in the vision world, there are so many things that you can do proactively to help children. It’s one of my deepest passions. And working with OTs and PTs over the years, that we work with kids like this. Parents, there are other options. So, you know, use me as a resource, and you don’t have to live out your diagnosis.
Katie: Yeah, I love that. That’s so important. And I am a big fan of the work you’re doing. I am so grateful for all the resources you have on your site. I’ve used some and used some with my kids, and I plan to use more in the future. And I’m also grateful for your time here today. It’s always a joy to get to learn from you. Thank you for being here.
Dr. Sam: Thank you. And thank you. I wish you all the best in the great work you’re doing as well.
Katie: Thank you. And thanks as always to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did. And I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the Wellness Mama Podcast.
If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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This episode is sponsored by Zero Acre Farms… an innovative and healthy alternative to seed oils. You probably know that seed oils are a HUGE problem. They have been linked to widespread health and environmental issues yet they’re in everything we eat. This is because seed oils are cheap and are found in most restaurants and packaged foods. They are high in inflammatory linoleic acid and Omega 6 fatty acids. But Zero Acre is here to change that. Their Cultured Oil is an all-purpose cooking oil, with over 90% heart healthy and heat stable monounsaturated fat, meaning it has more monounsaturated fat than even olive and avocado oils. And up to 10x less omega-6 fats than olive and avocado oils.

It has a high smoke point (485F) and clean neutral taste making it perfect for everything from cooking and baking to salad dressings. It is a one-to-one replacement for all liquid oils and is great for frying, roasting, sauteing, stir-frying, baking, dressing, drizzling, and baking. I love the neutral taste and have been using it in baking, salad dressings, and homemade mayo. Since it’s made by fermentation, Cultured Oil has a 10x smaller environmental footprint than vegetable oils. It uses 85% less land than canola oil and requires 99% less water than olive oil. It is Gluten-free, vegan, free of any glyphosate residue, allergen-friendly, and Whole30 approved. Zero Acre is offering our listeners FREE SHIPPING on your first order. Go to wellnessmama.com/go/zeroacre or use code WELLNESSMAMA at checkout to claim this deal.

This episode is brought to you by BON CHARGE… a holistic wellness brand with a huge range of evidence-based products to optimize your life in every way. Founded on science and inspired by nature, all BON CHARGE products adopt ancestral ways of living in our modern-day world. From blue light glasses to red light therapy, to EMF management and circadian friendly lighting, BON CHARGE products help you naturally address the issues of our modern-day way of life effortlessly and with maximum impact.

My favorite products from BON CHARGE are their Anti-radiation and EMF Protection products…. And their lighting solutions. I use their laptop mat when working on my computer to protect my body from the EMFs from my computer, and their blanket is great for curling up and watching a movie or using when traveling. I’m also a big fan of their lighting. Junk lighting has been a problem for a long time, and I hadn’t found a great solution until now. They have red light bulbs that have zero blue and green light, designed and tested not to disrupt melatonin production, as well as full spectrum bulbs that have settings for morning, afternoon and evening. The daytime settings mimic the full spectrum light from the sun and the evening setting mimics a campfire to help promote restful sleep. At my house, I love using their full spectrum bulbs in ceiling lighting, which is also the angle we get light from the sun, and using the red light bulbs in lamps, as some evidence shows red light is experienced from eye level or below in nature. Now, I can just switch from overhead light to lamps at sunset and help my family be calm and relaxed before bed. They are also energy saving and low/no EMF! Check them out at boncharge.com/wellnessmama and use coupon code wellnessmama to save 20%.

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

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