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What Causes Your Eyelids to Sag?

eyelids, undereye bags, puffiness, eyes, aging, cosmetic surgery, eye liftNumerous theories have been proposed seeking to explain what causes the baggy lower eyelids that come with aging. Now, researchers have determined that fat expansion in the eye socket is the primary culprit.

The study is the first to examine the anatomy of multiple subjects to determine what happens to the lower eyelid with age. It is also the first face-aging study that uses high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The study looked at MRIs of 40 subjects (17 males and 23 females) between the ages of 12 and 80. The findings showed that the lower eyelid tissue increased with age, and that the largest contributor to this size increase was fat increase.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Nearly 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2007, according to the latest statistics collected by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Cosmetic surgical procedures (including eyelid surgery, which was the third most popular type of cosmetic surgery) increased 8 percent between 2006 and 2007. 

Blepharoplasty eyelid surgery lifts the sagging tissues underneath your eye that make you look tired and sad, into more youthful proportions. 

What REALLY Causes Under-Eye Bags? 

It's a pity that our culture is so into the quick fix, because it is very rare when the rigid application of basic natural therapies is insufficient to eliminate the need for these types of surgical interventions.

Typically, bags under your eyes are related to a number of causes such as

  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Fatigue
  • Not enough sleep
  • Over exercising
  • Fluid retention
  • Toxic loads
  • Smoking
  • Allergies

But one of the most important ones is oxidative stress – the result of eating a largely unhealthy diet of processed foods – which causes an accumulation of free radicals, or cell damaging substances, in your body. Naturally, this type of cellular damage is most visible on your face, in the form of wrinkles, bags, droopy eyelids and loss of skin elasticity and glow.

Diets high in sugar increase free radicals and oxidative stress, and leads to signs of premature aging, and according to a recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation on May 16, 2008, people with metabolic syndrome suffer greater levels of oxidative stress than those who are not pre-diabetic.

As I’ve reported before, almost 26 percent of U.S. adults over the age of 20 are pre-diabetics, and more than 35 percent of seniors, 60 and older have pre-diabetes. And that’s in addition to the 8 percent that have already crossed the line and are diabetics. Obese people also have much higher levels of oxidative stress.

Believe me, there’s more to great skin and a youthful face than your genes at work.

The way to decrease the speed at which signs of your real age show up, is by consuming large amounts of whole, unprocessed, healthy raw foods that are loaded with antioxidants. If you’re still young, you will be less likely to develop them in the first place if you take a proactive, healthy approach now.

One of the reasons I started vegetable juicing is that I would see 75-year-old women in my practice who looked like they were 40 years old with virtually no facial wrinkles. Most of them were doing large amounts of juicing and led healthy lifestyles. This impressed me quite a bit -- so much so that I started daily vegetable juicing myself.

Juicing for a Fresh Face

I believe at least one-third of all the food you eat should be raw, as cooking and processing can destroy essential micronutrients. Juicing is therefore one of the healthiest choices you make  for your body, so if you don't already own a juicer, getting one might be one of the wisest investments you could make.

There are three main reasons why you will want to consider incorporating vegetable juicing:

  1. Juicing helps you absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables. This is important because most of us have impaired digestion as a result of making less-than-optimal food choices over many years. This limits your body's ability to absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables. Juicing will help to "pre-digest" them for you, so you will receive the maximum amount.
  2. Juicing allows you to consume an optimal amount of vegetables in an efficient manner. If you are a carb type, you should eat one pound of raw vegetables per 50 pounds of body weight per day. Some people may find eating that many vegetables difficult, but it can be easily accomplished with a quick glass of vegetable juice.
  3. You can add a wider variety of vegetables in your diet. Many people eat the same vegetable salads every day. This violates the principle of regular food rotation and increases your chance of developing an allergy to a certain food. But with juicing, you can juice a wide variety of vegetables that you may not normally enjoy eating whole.

You will want to fine-tune your vegetable selections based on your nutritional type, and if at all possible, aim to buy organic, locally-grown vegetables that are in season. If no organic vegetables are available, carefully wash your foods, and remove peels and cores, to minimize your exposure to pesticides and other chemicals, which can also increase oxidative stress.

Science also corroborates the wisdom of eating a nutrient dense diet for skin rejuvenation. A 2001 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded that the fountain of youth might be as close as your kitchen.

In this international study of eating patterns and skin aging, investigators found that both dark- and fair-skinned people who ate plenty of wholesome foods, and passed on sugary confections, were less prone to wrinkling.

This anti-wrinkle effect of a nutritious diet was consistent from sun-drenched Australia to sun-deprived Sweden.

Some of the skin-smoothing foods included:

  • green leafy vegetables
  • beans
  • olive oil
  • nuts

The researchers found that even when they factored in age and smoking -- which is linked to premature skin aging -- diet still played a role in wrinkling of skin. Overall, people who ate more of the foods that are universally recommended for good health had smoother skin.

Certain foods offered skin protection due to their high levels of antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E. The skin, they noted, is a "major target of oxidative stress."

Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil may offer protection through the same mechanism. Fatty acids are present in your skin, and monounsaturated fats resist oxidative damage.

Other Common Sense Tips and Tricks

As I mentioned above, under-eye puffiness can also result from fluid retention, which ironically can be exacerbated by dehydration, so making sure you’re drinking enough water every day might help reduce that swollen look. 

You can also try the old potato trick, which seems to work better than cucumbers. Potatoes contain catecholase, which is actually used in some cosmetics as a skin lightener. Placing a half-moon slice of potato underneath each eye for about 20 minutes while you’re resting can help reduce the swelling and brighten dark under-eye circles.

Another key to maintaining a youthful appearance and brighter, clearer skin is regular exercise, though not in excess, as excessive exercise can also cause wrinkles.

Last, but certainly not least, a good night's sleep and properly addressing emotional stresses are essential keys to maintaining or regaining your optimum physical appearance. One of the best ways to address emotional challenges, which can also lead to insomnia, is with psychological acupressure techniques like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

+ Sources and References