One of the sayings in the Little Red Riding Hood story, was “All the better to see you with”. Our eyes have a profound effect in our lives, and when our vision changes, our life also changes. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD/AMD), Cataracts and Glaucoma, can affect life in many ways. Depending on which of the above conditions are present, the risk of tripping, falling, (and possibly hitting your head or breaking a hip), loss of the ability to drive, watch TV, read, write, participate in active sports, cook, and in general, loss of independence. This can affect your job, your mobility (physical or by car), leisure activities, and home life. Emotionally it is frustrating, resulting in increased anger, loss of control or depression, and in many cases a change in your relationships with your family and friends. Simple enjoyments once taken for granted are hindered.
The causes for eye changes are blurry, depending on the sources. While conventional medicine determines there is no real cure, practitioners in alternative medicine focus on prevention, halting its progression, and in some cases reversing the condition.
Much study has been done on nutrition and eye health. Most acknowledge that eye diseases are multifactorial processes, but present compelling evidence that diet probably has as much, if not more to do with ARMD, cataracts and glaucoma than does aging. The causes vary between each of the three conditions, yet the causes for one, typically mimic the other: Weakness of the vascular walls, blood vessel narrowing, cellular damage, excessive cellular breakdown due to nutritional deficiencies or toxic compounds, chemical exposures, processed, chemicalized foods, artificial lighting, and many medications have all been implicated.
Harmful foods such as trans fatty acids (hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils, margarine, fried foods), caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, black tea, and chocolate, and the lactose and/or galactose from pasteurized milk can also contribute.
And then there are the missing nutrients. Deficiencies of key nutrients such Vitamin A complex, Vitamin B complex (especially folic acid, riboflavin, thiamine pantothenic acid, choline, inositol), Vitamin C complex, Vitamin D, Vitamin E complex, and a quality form of calcium (not calcium carbonate). Minerals such as zinc, selenium, copper, various amino acids, live enzymes and numerous combinations of nutrients are needed for proper eye health. Other essentials are proper digestion and especially healthy calcium metabolism.
These results shouldn’t be too surprising, as most had grandparents who emphasized certain eating habits “for your eyes”, and it turned out they were quite accurate. “Eat your carrots”, “eat plenty of green vegetables”, “eat fish”, were amongst the most common.
Not surprising also, is the fact that multivitamins and synthetic vitamins are of little value. Research has shown that the nutrient complexes, in their exquisite intricacies, cannot be duplicated in a lab, and appear to have little protective value – especially Vitamins A, B, C and E. These vitamins are complexes which include lycopene, lutein, many carotenoids (not just beta-carotene), zeaxanthin, glutathione reductase, selenium and other micro-nutrients that need to be in their natural carrier form (real food). Studies have shown that isolated or synthetic versions of these nutrients have produced conflicting or disappointing results. The answer? Get them from your foods, or whole food supplements that contain all fractions of the nutrients needed.
With these eye diseases increasing dramatically over the past decade, taking a preventive approach is wise. And if it is already presenting itself, eating wisely can help stave off progression.
© 2015 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.