by Lynn Hinderliter CN, LDN

The health of our bodies stands on a tripod of diet, exercise and nutrition, and the four most common vision problems: Glaucoma, Cataracts, Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy can and do respond to maximizing these aspects of our overall health. Eye Health

Poor Diet can have a strong negative effect on our eyesight, just as a good diet can be a positive influence:

  • People who are overweight are predisposed to cataracts , so healthy eating for weight control is an important factor in avoiding them. Eye Health
  • Diabetics because of their blood sugar problems are more susceptible to cataracts as well as retinopathy. It is essential to control blood sugar levels to maintain eye health. Eye Health
  • Scientists from the Center on Aging at Tufts University obtained dietary information from 4,099 non-diabetic participants ages 55-80 years (56 percent women) in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). A total of 8,125 eligible eyes at baseline were classified into 1 of 5 AMD groups according to the size and extent of pathological growths known as drusen, the presence of atrophy, and neovascular changes.Compared with subjects who consumed lower glycemic-index foods, subjects who consumed foods with the highest glycemic index had a significantly higher risk of developing drusen-related damage associated with AMD. Consuming foods with a high-glycemic index also appeared to increase the severity of AMD. For subjects who consumed more high-glycemic foods than the average person their age, there was a 49 percent increase in the risk of advanced AMD.The study authors concluded that “20% of prevalent cases of AMD would have been eliminated if the AREDS participants consumed diets with a dietary glycemic index below the median.” They went on to state that “a reduction in the dietary glycemic index, a modifiable risk factor, may provide a means of diminishing the risk of AMD.” Eye Health
  •  There appears to be a connection between Glaucoma and lactose intolerance (Lancet 1978)  as some people, due to genetic factors, have a problem with galactose: unfortunately, the procedure to determine whether this applies is costly and complicated: I would ask myself whether any close family members developed cataracts, and if so, avoid high intakes of dairy products.  I would also check to see whether my blood type is O, as this connection (Blood type O/dairy intolerance) occurs too often to be ignored. Eye Health
  • Actual deficiencies of certain nutrients, among them B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), and zinc have been investigated as contributing to vision problems, zinc deficiencies being common in patients with Macular Degeneration. Eye Health
  • Not protecting your eyes against harmful UV rays can cause eye problems.  Why do we need sunglasses?  http://www.preventblindness.org/eye_problems/sunFAQ.html  Eye Health

Dr. Jonathan Wright in his book Guide to Healing with Nutrition (currently, alas, out of print) cites the case of a patient with this problem who improved dramatically after having her stomach acid checked and corrected (it was so low she was not absorbing her minerals or protein) and adding Zinc Picolinate, selenium, vitamin E and Taurine. Because absorption was such a problem, he administered the minerals both intravenously and orally, and his patient who originally tested 20/100 and 20/80, improved to 20/40 and 20/30. At age 75, that’s not bad! Eye Health

Antioxidants are an important factor in every aspect of natural eye health as are the procyanidins in fruits. I do a lot of close work with beads and needlepoint, and would be devastated if anything were to go wrong with my eyesight.  For years I have supported it in every way I can!  I already use Jarrow’s Vision Optimizer, and recently, I began adding Garden of Life’s Fruits of Life to my morning shake to take advantage of all the concentrated fruits and Ellagic acid it contains, together with a spoonful of Blueberry Extract. Eye Health

Blueberries have been studied for many qualities, and the most positive results have come in areas where antioxidants are important, such as cancer protection, cardiovascular health, vision and brain function. Blueberries scored better than 40 other fruits and vegetables tested in ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) activity Eye Health

I highly recommend a book by ophthalmologist Dr. Abel,  who after 25 years in traditional practice became aware of the link between nutrition and eye health
( and between eye health and our general health), dedicating several years of research to identifying alternative approaches to vision problems.  See The Eye Care Revolution in RESOURCES. He also worked with Carlson Labs to formulate a supplement which embodies his recommendations.

Some specific information for the major eye problems: Eye Health

Diabetic retinopathy: Eye Health

  •  the approaches that are helpful for this problem are controlling oxygenation, blood sugar,  cholesterol levels and  circulation. Eye Health
  • High on the list of essentials, therefore, is Alpha Lipoic Acid (It is noted for its ability to both lower cholesterol, and regulate blood sugar levels. In Europe, ALA has been used for 30 years as a medically approved treatment for problems connected with diabetes) Eye Health
  • Vitamin C with bioflavonoids (particularly Quercetin) to address leakage from damaged capillaries. Eye Health
  • Other antioxidants, particularly A, E and Glutathione, are extremely important and helpful. Eye Health

Information about naturally controlling blood sugar

Glaucoma  Eye Health

  • Glaucoma can  be aggravated by other allergies, not just dairy: it would be wise to determine whether you have food intolerances.
  • Caffeine is definitely an aggravating factor in some people. (Ann. Ophthalmology 1964). Eye Health
  • The pressure in the eyes of those affected is raised by stress, and therefore stress control measures can be very helpful, as can herbs that may help lower blood pressure generally.   Eye Health
  • Those of us who are using Glucosamine Sulfate for achy joints may be interested to know that some research (McCarty, Med Hypoth 51:483-483, 1998) on the role of GS in the production of hyaluronic acid suggests that it might be helpful for people suffering from open-angle Glaucoma . While there have not yet been any clinically acceptable studies done  on this connection, experiments have shown hyaluronic acid to be deficient in glaucoma sufferers. Eye Health
  • Glaucoma appears to be helped by B12, which leads to the probability that faulty absorption of nutrients plays a significant part in its development. Eye Health
  • Essential Fatty Acids  have been found to be deficient in people with this eye problem. This would tie in with the importance of DHA in vision for children.  Eye Health
  • Bilberry  has been shown in many studies to be beneficial for almost every kind of eye problem, and is especially relevant in Glaucoma because of its helpfulness in restoring night vision and its protective effect on capillaries. Eye Health
  • A randomized study was conducted in Rome (Parisi et al, Opthalm. 1999, 106:1126-34) to evaluate the effect of a substance called CDP-Choline on open-angle glaucoma. The results were impressive, and the researchers concluded that there as a definite potential for use of CDP-Choline in treatment. No side effects were experienced. Eye Health
  • In Europe, Vitamin C is routinely used to address glaucoma, because of its importance in collagen formation. Eye Health
  • Omega 3 fatty acids, for their positive effect on inflammation.  Eskimos have very low rates of Glaucoma – http://archopht.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/105/4/482 Eye Health
  • A “significant improvement in visual fields indices” has been achieved using Ginkgo Biloba extract – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=12578781&dopt=Abstract
  • And here’s a hint – don’t wear a tightly knotted tie during an eye exam:  it may lead to a false diagnosis of Glaucoma!
  • Corollary to that, wearing ties tightly too often may contribute to Glaucoma Eye Health

Cataracts Eye Health

  •  A 1989 study of Bilberry found that 80 to 160 mg of an extract with a standardized anthocyanidin content taken 3 times a day with vitamin E, stopped progression of cataract formation in 97% of 50 patients. Eye Health
  • * A 1994 report in JAMA details work done with not only beta-carotene, but other carotenoids, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin. These fat soluble antioxidants were associated with lowering risks for cataracts by up to 57%! The highest sources of these nutrients are dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and collards – in fact, a Nurse’s Health Study reported that eating spinach correlated better with protection from cataracts than any other factor – it showed that people who eat spinach 5 or more times per week, had half the risk of forming cataracts of those who rarely or never eat spinach! Pop-eye must have had sharp eyes as well as big muscles! Eye Health
  •  A German study in 1980, found that a standardized Ginkgo Biloba extract brought about mild improvement in 46 patients: this was considered significant, because of the advanced stage of the disease in these cases. Eye Health
  • The Nurses’ Health Study found that those who had taken Vitamin C at ANY dosage for more than 10 years had 77% less occurrence of cataracts. Eye Health
  • Melatonin, bilberry and folic acid are mentioned in this study as helping both cataracts and glaucoma.  http://intapp.medscape.com/px/medlineapp/getdoc?ord=1&searchid=3&have_local_holdings_file=1&local_journals_only=0&searchstring=bilberry+cataracts

Age Related Macular Degeneration Eye Health

  •  Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a typical result of the aging process: age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in people over age 65. The exact cause of AMD is not yet known, although the protective role of nutrition against the condition is being researched at major universities and other institutions. Prevent Blindness America estimates that AMD may affect 13 million individuals in this country. Eye Health
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin are important antioxidants used by the body for a number of physiological functions.  Zeaxanthin has been shown to be present in the center of the macula. Lutein and zeaxanthin are usually found together in leafy green vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, spinach and mustard greens. Eye Health
    One of the primary functions of lutein and zeaxanthin is to provide protection against oxidative and free radical damage. These yellow-colored carotenoids are found in high concentrations within the macula lutea (the yellow spot in the center of the retina) and in smaller amounts throughout the retina and the eye lens. These stores appear to diminish with age if not regularly replenished through dietary means.
  • A 1994 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that a daily Lutein intake of 6 mg led to a 43 % lower risk of developing AMD.  (Lynn: that’s 600 mcg:  a certain mass market multi which proudly boasts it contains Lutein contains – wait for it! – 4mcg!!)
    Scientists believe that lutein and zeaxanthin contribute to the density of macular pigment — the component of the eye which typically absorbs and filters out 40 to 60% of damaging near-ultraviolet blue light (near-UV blue light) which strikes the retina. The denser the pigment, the more the inner retina is protected from light-induced damage. Lutein/zeaxanthin also helps limit blue light damage to the inner retina by inhibiting lipid peroxidation and by neutralizing free radicals. Eye Health
  • Study on Lutein’s effects on Macular Degeneration. Eye Health
  • Zinc has been shown in many studies to be helpful for AMD, but finding the optimal amount is proving difficult:  too little does no good, and too much does harm. Absorption is of paramount important:  zinc is one of the minerals that people with absorption problems have particular difficulty with. I prefer, rather than to suggest high levels of Zinc, to suggest an absorbable capsule using monomethionine or picolinate as the carrier.  Remember to balance Zinc with Copper. Eye Health
  • Selenium is a trace mineral to which, in my opinion, far too little attention is paid.  It is part of the pathway of  the anti-oxidant Glutathione, and is itself an anti-oxidant with a protective effect against UV light. Eye Health

The evidence of protection is so strong, and the potential for harm so minimal, that I would recommend  looking out a formula containing some or all of these, and adding it to your regimen. Eye Health

A natural therapy is also showing promise for treatment of eye problems due to hemorrhage and thrombi in the blood vessels to the eye:  Natto-K, an enzyme derived from a well-known Japanese food, has in some patients in Tokyo cleared such cases up in 10 days. Eye Health

Certainly we have now have the basis of a program to address eye problems naturally, one which will do no harm,
and has a high probability of success: Eye Health

  1. Make sure your weight is in normal range by exercise and diet. Eye Health
  2. Limit caffeine, Eye Health
  3. If you smoke – stop. Eye Health
  4. Identify food allergies and avoid the culprits. Eye Health
  5. Also, if you  have any reason to suspect milk intolerance, avoid dairy foods. Eye Health
  6. Work to replace the specific nutrients mentioned. Eye Health

Dr. Cichoke, the Dean of Enzyme Therapy, suggests using proteolytic enzymes to fight the pain, swelling and inflammation associated with glaucoma: he also finds them useful for cataracts.  For more information on this, I refer you to his book The Complete Book of Enzyme Therapy.  Enzyme Therapy is, to my mind, one of the most promising areas of research at the moment, and using the proper enzymes can address and help almost any condition of ill-health,  as well as supporting optimum health. Eye Health

Did you have major intestinal surgery EVER?   Even as long as 25 or 30 years ago?If so, it will be worth checking with your Doctor to see whether your absorption of Vitamin A has been impaired.Researchers published these findings in the British Journal of Ophthalmology in 2006:.The researchers base their report on three patients with increasingly poor eyesight or night blindness, who attended a specialist eye clinic within the space of a year. None of the patients had a family or personal history of eye problems.All three patients, who were all over the age of 65, had had extensive intestinal surgery between 20 and 35 years earlier.The operations included intestinal bypass, surgical removal of diseased tissue as a result of inflammatory bowel disease, and gallbladder removal.All the patients were diagnosed with vitamin A deficiency, and this was in spite of them having taken vitamin supplements. Eye Health

Find the recommended supplements here

An excellent website –  The Aging Eye Times – http://www.agingeye.net/

Research on CDP Choline  and Glaucoma  – http://www.cdpcholine.com/cdpcholine-5.htm

The American Macular Degeneration Foundations’ article on AMD & Nutrition – http://www.macular.org/nutrition/

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