Millions of Americans have lost some or all of their sight to cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and other eye diseases. Medications and surgical procedures can help, but the results are rarely optimal.
Fact: Up to 80% of all diseases can be prevented with natural approaches-and there is evidence that nutritional treatments can halt or even reverse underlying vision problems.
Sun exposure is one of the main causes of vi-sion loss. Everyone should wear sunglasses that block the sun's damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Other measures to combat vision kiss include eating certain foods and taking supplements. The antioxidants described below (lutein, zeaxanthin and the recommended vitamin supplements) help prevent and treat most eye conditions. The other remedies described can help specific problems. You can take all the supplements listed here (avail-able at health-food stores), but it is always wise to consult with your physician before taking any supplement.
Spinach, kale and other leafy greens contain an antioxidant called lutein, which reduces dam-age caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Smoking and exposure to UV light are two common sources of free radicals. Decreas-ing damage from free radicals can reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Recommended: One to two servings of leafy greens daily, or supplement with 15 mg of lutein daily usually have my patients take a daily supplement that combines lutein (15 mg) with zeaxanthin (3 mg), another antioxidant. A study of 876 older adults found that those with the highest levels of these antioxidants were less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration.
Vitamins C & E
Individually these vitamins are among the most potent antioxidants. Taken together, they're very effective at preventing vision loss. Vitamin E blocks free radicals in the fatty parts of cells, such as in the macula of the eye, while vitamin C fortifies the watery portions in the cornea and retina.
For optimal protection, I recommend to my patients supplements of vitamins C and E, along with zinc and beta-carotene. Patients who take this combination daily can reduce their risk of vision loss. In patients who have age-related macular degeneration, these supplements can slow the disease's progression.
Recommended: Daily supplements with 400 Its of mixed natural vitamin E (a mixture of tocopherols and tocopherols), 500 mg of vitamin C, 80 mg of zinc and 15 mg of beta-carotene.
The herb ginkgo biloba blocks free radicals and dilates blood vessels, increasing circulation to the optic nerve. There is some evidence that it can improve peripheral vision in patients with glaucoma.
Recommended: 120 mg of ginkgo daily. Choose an extract that is standardized to 24% flavone glycosides.
Caution: Do not take a supplement with gink-go if you are taking a prescription blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin).
This naturally occurring molecule is corn-posed of two amino acids.
A recent study found that N-acetyl carnosine (NAC) eyedrops improved visual acuity and glare sensitivity in patients with cataracts. During the two-year study, 90% of the eyes treated with NAC had significant improvements in vision.
Recommended: Patients with cataracts should ask their doctors about using topical NAC drops.
About half of the retina consists of docosahexacnoic acid (DHA), a component in fish oil that provides the main structural support in cell membranes. DHA causes a significant drop in intraocular pressure—important for patients with glaucoma. Another component in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), has anti-inflammatory effects and is thought to play an important role in maintaining visual acuity.
Recommended: Eat fish twice a week. Avoid fish high in mercury, including shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and large tuna, such as albacore, yellow-fin, bigeye and bluefin. Or take a fish-oil formula daily that includes 600 mg of EPA and 400 mg of DHA. Check with your doctor if you are on a blood thinner, such as warfarin.
Magnesium And Chromium
Each of these minerals dilates blood vessels in the eye and reduces pressure from glaucoma. Chromium is particularly important for patients with diabetes, a common cause of vision loss. Chromium supplements help maintain an op-timal blood-sugar balance and reduce the risk of glaucoma.
Recommended: Take 250 mg of magnesium (citrate or chelate) and 200 mcg of chromium (polynicotinate or picolinate) twice daily.
Cells in the retina have an extremely high rate of metabolism. They require high levels of nutrients (along with blood and oxygen) for optimal function and to repair normal damage. Older adults often get insufficient nutrients, in part because levels of stomach acid decline with age and impair normal digestion.
Supplements that contain betaine hydrochloride mimic the hydrochloric acid normally produced by the stomach and can improve the digestion/absorption of eye-protecting nutrients, which are particularly helpful in the prevention and treatment of macular degeneration.
Recommended: One or two capsules of betaine hydrochloride with each meal.
Also helpful: One or two capsules of a full-spectrum plant-based enzyme (such as Longevity Science Total Gest) during or at the end of meals.
Caution: Patients who have active ulcers should not take digestive enzymes.