Eyesight is one of life's most precious gifts — the sense that opens us to appreciate and navigate the beautiful world. So to help prevent your vision from declining — to help avoid symptoms like eyesight becoming cloudy, dim, narrow or worst of all vanishing — you want to take steps to optimize eye function.
Three common problems that can steal sight are cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration — each of which affects a different part of the eye.
Cataracts are a problem with the inner lens of the eye, which helps us focus. The lens is filled with clear, liquid-containing proteins. If these proteins start to lose their structural integrity (a process called denaturing), they become cloudy, which blurs vision.
Glaucoma is a problem with the vitreous humor, the pool of fluid inside your eye. The fluid constantly flows in and out of the eye, refreshing and nourishing cells. But if that flows slows down, pressure (intraocular pressure, or IOC) can build up. This can damage the optic nerve, the cable-like bundle of nerve fibers that sends sight-creating electrical impulses to the brain. This damage is called glaucoma, and it leads to gradual narrowing of the visual field that can end in blindness.
Macular Degeneration is a problem with the retina, the lining of cells at the back of the eye that first translates light into electrical signals and then funnels those signals to the optic nerve. In the center of the retina is the macula, the retinal cells that are responsible for your ability to focus on detail. As you age, the arteries that supply the retina and macula with oxygen can harden, gradually destroying the cells of the macula, a problem called age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). Symptoms range from blurry, darkened vision in early-stage AMRD to the loss of all central vision in advanced AMRD.
Optimize your optics! Those are the most common eye problems. But like most problems in life, there are also simple, natural options available that can help. Yes, some easy steps we can all take to help prevent, control and even help reverse these conditions.
Four Ways to Optimize the Lens
1. Cut back on sugar. A high-sugar diet speeds up denaturing, while low-sugar diets protect the lens. An easy way to cut back or eliminate sugar is to use natural, non-sugar sweeteners like stevia (Body Ecology or Sweet Leaf) or stevia combined with erythritol (Truvia and PureVia). You can also use saccharine (Sweet'N Low), which has a long record of safety. I don't recommend aspartame, because some people experience severe reactions to it.
2. Maximize lens-protecting nutrients. These include zinc, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and vitamin C, all of which you can find in optimal levels in the Energy Revitalization System multivitamin powder.
3. Take the herb bilberry (80 to 160 mg 3x daily of a standardized 25% extract; it's easy to find in health food stores). It strengthens the eye. In a study published in Advances in Gerontology, Russian researchers found that bilberry extracts "completely prevented" lens problems in animals bred to develop them.
4. Use Can-C drops. These drops are rich in the antioxidant N-acetylcarnosine and improved lens problems in the same Russian research. You can buy them at www.naturaleyecare.com, the website of Marc Grossman, OD, LAc, a naturally-oriented optometrist. To prevent lens problems, he recommends 1-2 drops in each eye, 1-2 time daily. To treat lens problems, he suggests 2 drops in the affected eye, 2 times daily.
Six Ways to Optimize the Vitreous Humor
Problems with pressure levels inside the eye often require medical care. But natural methods can help.
1. Take vitamin C. Several studies show vitamin C can decrease eye pressure. If you have problems with pressure, take 500 to 2,000 mg daily.
2. Take other nutrients and food extracts. Several other nutrients can strengthen the eye and help control eye pressure. These include:
- Mixed bioflavonoids (500 to 1,000 mg daily)
- Magnesium (200 mg daily)
- Chromium (100 to 250 micrograms daily)
- Bilberry, 25% extract (80 mg, 3 times daily)
- Fish oil (1,000 mg daily, or eat 3 to 4 servings a week of fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel or sardines)
3. Avoid caffeine. It's bad for those with elevated eye pressure.
4. Consider taking ginkgo biloba. Researchers found that 40 mg of ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) 3 times daily helped improve vision in people with high eye pressure.
5. Support your adrenal glands. Nourishing and regenerating weary adrenal glands can help control eye pressure.
6. Check for thyroid problems. These can be an unrecognized hormonal cause of eye pressure.
Five Ways to Optimize Your Macula
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Research shows that folks who eat 3 or more servings a day are 36% less likely to develop macular problems. Colorful antioxidant-rich berries (blueberries, strawberries and blackberries) are best.
2. Eat eggs. Eggs supply plenty of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that act like internal sunglasses, protecting the cells of the macula. And make sure you eat the yolks; that's where the nutrients live. Other foods rich in these two nutrients include dark green and yellow vegetables, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, corn, green beans, green peas, kale, mustard greens, parsley, pumpkin, spinach, squash and yams. (For recent research on its eye-optimizing power, see this recently published article at NCBI.)
3. Eat fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, lake trout, albacore tuna) or take fish oil. They're rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which protect the macula. For fish oil, I favor the brand Vectomega, from Europharma. It's so absorbable, one pill a day is all you need.
4. Cut back on sugar and white flour. People who eat a diet with lots of refined carbohydrates have a higher risk for macular problems.
5. Take an eye-optimizing supplement. I recommend OcuDyne II from NutriCology. I also recommend the Energy Revitalization System, which delivers other nutrients that optimize macular function, like zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and B complex.
6. Shield your eyes from the sun. UV rays from the sun can damage the macula. If you're out on a very bright day, or on the water (reflected sunlight is very bright), or live at high altitudes (where sunlight is brighter) you should wear your shades.
Common eye problems in CFS/FMS includes blurred vision, and dry eyes and mouth. For more on this, see my blog post Vision Problems in CFS and Fibromyalgia.
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.