Mind/Body medicine is based on the fact that our health and well-being depend on all the individual parts to work together effectively. So it should come as no surprise that healthy eyesight is also dependent upon our total well-being, which is affected by our genetic makeup, the food we eat, our work environment and exposure to airborne toxins, as well as our general belief systems about ourselves and the world we live in.
Each of us is unique and literally takes the world in through our senses, primarily through our vision. Many believe the way we take in the world is, to some degree, a reflection of who we are and which symptoms we might manifest. The integrative approach evaluates the person’s lifestyle, habits, diet, exercise routine, and stress management, along with the family history, in determining a therapeutic approach. It attempts to bring in the patient as an active partner in the program to improve or maintain eye health. Specific habits have been identified in studies to be very damaging to eye health, including smoking, excessive alcohol, coffee, excess sugar and refined foods, and hydrogenated oils (like margarines).
Nutrition and nutritional supplementation could play a key role in helping to prevent vision loss and keeping our bodies strong. More and more peer review studies are identifying specific nutrients, by eye disease, that are lacking in patients with diseases such as the following:
Vitamin C – in parts of Europe and Asia, vitamin C is considered part of routine treatment for glaucoma. It lowers eye pressure through a combination of decreasing fluid production and improving the outflow of aqueous humor. It also improves collagen metabolism which may be one of the underlying reasons for the development of glaucoma. Nutritional sources include citrus fruits, red peppers and tomatoes. (If nutritional supplementation is desired, Dr. Grossman recommends 3000 mg per day.)
Omega 3 fatty acids – these may help reduce the chronic inflammatory processes that is found in many patients with glaucoma. Fish and unrefined fish oils are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that Eskimos, who have a high intake of Omega 3, have a very low incidence of open-angle glaucoma. Some studies on animals further indicate that fish oil can reduce fluid pressure within the eyes. The best sources are the flesh of cold water fish (example; salmon, mackerel, cod) as well as black currant seed oil, and flax seed oil. Consider eating fish three times a week. If nutritional supplementation is desired, Dr. Grossman recommends 1,500 mg per day of one of more of the oils mentioned.
Ginkgo biloba – may increase the circulation of blood to the eyes. It has been shown in some cases to help lower intraocular pressure in the eyes. There is no natural food source. It is directly derived from the ginkgo tree. If nutritional supplementation is desired, Dr. Grossman recommends 120 mg per day, unless you are taking blood thinner medication then the dosage must be reduced to 40 mg per day. Check with your health care professional.
Magnesium – is a mineral that relaxes smooth muscles, which regulates the outflow of aqueous humor from the inner eye. Natural sources include most nuts, seeds, vegetables, seafood and soy products. If nutritional supplementation is desired, Dr. Grossman recommends 500 mg per day. Magnesium should be taken with calcium in a 2:1 ratio (calcium to magnesium).
Lutein/zeaxanthin – these two carotenoids have been shown to be low in people with macular degeneration. . Increasing intake of them either by foods or by supplements has been found to prevent and even improve macular degeneration in many cases. Natural sources are green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale and collard greens. If nutritional supplementation is desired, Dr. Grossman recommends 6 mg per day, optimally in a sublingual (under the tongue) form. It should be taken with a little bit of fat, such as vitamin E, to increase absorption.
Bilberry – strengthens the structural integrity of blood vessels throughout the body and promotes healthy circulation, particularly to the small capillaries that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the eyes. Bilberry also helps prevent free radical damage to the delicate structures within the eye. Natural sources are blueberries and huckleberries. If nutritional supplementation is desired, Dr. Grossman recommends 240 mg per day.
Taurine – this amino acid is important for the regeneration of worn out tissues of the retina. It helps protect the eyes from ultraviolet radiation. Natural sources include eggs, meats and fish. If nutritional supplementation is desired, Dr. Grossman recommends 1,000 mg per day.
Zinc – the macular can degenerate when zinc is deficient. It is found naturally in meats, oysters, and whole grains. If nutritional supplementation is desired, Dr. Grossman recommends 30 mg per day.
Vitamin C – the normal healthy lens of the eye contains a higher level of vitamin C that any other organ of the body except the adrenal glands. Studies have shown a decreased level of vitamin C in the aqueous humor as well as in the overall body when cataracts are forming. Vitamin C has also been shown to control sugar imbalances that often play a role in cataract formation. Natural sources include citrus fruits, red peppers and tomatoes. If nutritional supplementation is desired, Dr. Grossman recommends 3,000 mg per day.
Glutathione – could be very effective in preventing cataract formation, and is crucial in possibly altering free radical damage. Some studies have shown that many lenses with cataracts contain approximately 1/5th the amount of glutathione as compared to normal lenses. Glutathione is produced by the body and is composed of three amino acids: cysteine, glycine and glutamic acid. All the following nutrients could help increase glutathione levels: N-Acetyl Cysteine, Alpha Lipoic Acid, vitamin C, selenium, vitamin E, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, zinc, and other nutrients. Natural sources include eggs, broccoli, avocados, garlic, onions and cauliflower. If nutritional supplementation is desired, Dr. Grossman recommends 500 mg of N-Acetyl Cysteine, 100-200 mg of Alpha Lipoic Acid, 1,500 mg of vitamin C, 200 mg of selenium, 400 I.U.s of vitamin E, 50 mg of B2 and B6, 30 mg of zinc.
However, nothing replaces a positive, healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, daily meditations or walks in nature and a healthy diet. The rapid pace of our lives often interferes with us taking the time to really take care of ourselves. Caring for ourselves helps to keep our bodies healthy, and maximizes the mind/body’s inherent healing potential.
Marc Grossman, Doctor of Optometry and New York State Licensed Acupuncturist is author of several books, including Natural Eye Care – Your Guide to Healthy Vision. Since 1980 Dr. Marc Grossman has helped many people maintain healthy vision and even improve eyesight. He is best described as a Holistic Eye Doctor, dedicated to helping people with such conditions ranging from myopia and dry eyes to potentially vision threatening diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma. His combined multi-disciplinary approach using nutrition, eye exercises, lifestyle changes and Chinese Medicine provides him with a wide array of tools and approaches to tackle difficult eye problems. Dr. Grossman founded the Rye Learning Center in 1980, a multidisciplinary center for learning problems, in 1996 co-founded Integral Health Associates in New Paltz, New York, and in 1999 co-founded Natural Eye Care, Inc. For more information go to www.naturaleyecare.com or call 845-255-3728.