Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD
"What causes my eye to twitch?"
Annie S, Scottsdale, AZ
With many things causing everyone's eyes to twitch right now, it could just be stress.
This may be a sign we need to turn off the news and focus on stress management. Mineral deficiency in women is also commonly to blame.
I will review the most common cause of eye twitching that I find and what works best to treat it by first adjusting your diet and nutrition.
Most muscles twitch due to calcium and magnesium deficiency, especially the eye muscles.
Although our eyes might twitch a bit when we are annoyed, stressed, or tired... a twitchy eye is typically the initial warning sign of calcium deficiency.
Human Physiology 101: Calcium helps our muscles contract and when deficient the muscles begin to spasm in “tetany." Magnesium helps our muscles relax. Deficiency in one mineral, another, or both can cause this annoying eye problem.
Excellent sources of calcium are yogurt, kefir, almond milk, raw nuts, nettles and leafy greens. If you do not drink milk, eat cheese or yogurt please check your calcium intake numbers because most of my patients that are Vegan are deficient in calcium unless drinking 3 glasses of fortified nut milk per day.
The good news if you are Vegan, is that most of the new dairy-free options are wisely fortified with calcium. I plan my calcium rich foods as snacks and parts of my main meals 3-4 times daily.
If you are unable to achieve this with diet, I would recommend a calcium supplement.
Magnesium is found in green vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. A cal/mag supplement of 500mg cal/250mg mag can easily be taken if you are worried you are not reaching the 1000mg of necessary calcium each day. I recommend taking this at bedtime as it will also help for insomnia in women.
Do not take more than 500 mg of calcium at a time as the body can not utilize more than that and it may cause digestive upset such as constipation. We once were giving women very high doses of supplemental calcium back in the 90's. The Osteoporosis doctor I worked for prescribed women 1200mg-1500mg each day. We have now found this may cause premature hardening of the arteries or "athlerosclerosis" from calcium deposits into the arteries that causes High Blood Pressure.
Therefore I now recommend that women count their daily consumption and supplement until it reaches 1000mg between diet and supplements. Please do not assume you are getting enough calcium from your diet without first putting everything you eat into a nutrient tracking app.
Perimenopausal and Menopausal women need 1000mg of calcium daily between food and supplement sources. I don’t think calcium carbonate (found in over the counter antacids) is the best form of calcium for those with osteoporosis as it is not as readily absorbable as calcium citrate or calcium hydroxyappetite.
Calcium carbonate from Tums and inexpensive calcium supplements actually neutralizes the stomach acid and need stomach acid to digest minerals. If you are on a medication for acid reflux such as Prevacid, Ranitidine, Omeprazole, Tums, etc this may be contributing to your inability to properly absorb minerals. Tums are therefore a HORRIBLE source of calcium that I find horrifying for women to take as a Biochemist and Naturoapthic Doctor!
The calcium carbonate form of calcium in Tums does not absorb well, is not good for building bone, and has a high risk of getting kidney stones associated with it. So please invest in your bones to prevent painful fractures later in life, and buy a decent bottle of calcium citrate and magnesium citrate. Please throw your Tums in the garbage where they belong.
If you have heartburn or acid reflux you really just need a Food Allergy Sensitivity Test to determine the trigger foods upsetting your digestion. Inflammation from Irritable Bowel Syndrome in the digestive track can also cause poor mineral absorption.
Adequate vitamin D levels are also imperative for calcium absorption.
If you get painful leg cramps or “Charlie Horses” at night be sure that you are not dehydrated and that you are consuming electrolytes such as potassium and sodium to replete deficiencies after exercise. Take your cal/mag a few hours before bed. Sports drinks, emergen-C, and natural sea salt are excellent sources of these minerals.
To make a natural electrolyte replacement beverage simply dilute your favorite juice by about 25-50% (be sure it doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup) and add a big pinch of sea salt to about every twenty ounces or so. Most sports drinks are full of unnecessary high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors and colors.
If you still continue to get cramps or muscle twitches on a mineral rich diet you should ask your Naturopathic Doctor to run labs to determine the cause. While the most common cause I find is a vitamin or nutrient deficiency, there is always the rare possibility it is something more serious such as a thyroid eye condition like Hashimoto's, Grave's disease, Sjogren's or another autoimmune disease that can affect the eye. Sometimes hormone imbalance in women such as Testosterone deficiency can also adversely impact the eyes. If correcting nutrition basics does not fix your twitching eye then you need to pop over to my appointment page and BOOK A VISIT.
~Dr. Nicole Sundene
Dr. Sundene is a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is a Female Hormone Expert in Women's Health and Bioidentical Hormones. She specializes in Holistic Women's Health for Menopause, Thyroid, Hashimotos, PMS, Perimenopause, Autoimmune, Postpartum Depression, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Anxiety, Food Allergies, Digestion, Dermatology , Acne, Psoriasis, Eczema and Adrenal Hormonal Conditions. In 1999 she began working for a Hormone Doctor prior to starting Naturopathic Medical School. With over 23 years of experience in both Prescription and Natural women's health and hormones, she presents to women the best integrated health solutions for their Chronic Disease. She has been an Herbalist for over 28 years and enjoys teaching women how to use herbs to balance their hormones, nutrition and optimize their health. Dr. Sundene relies on blood testing for her hormone metrics. The hormone testing is covered per the patient's insurance plan and conducted at certain points in the woman's menstrual cycle. To learn more about Hormone Testing for Women Visit: Bioidentical Hormones. Follow Dr. Sundene on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more tips on Women's Health, Female Hormones, and Naturopathy!