Eye Health

In light of this national week… this post is all about eye health- specifically glaucoma.

When you ask people which of the senses would they not be able to do without- sight is usually at the top of the list. Glaucoma is no minor matter- it is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. The sad thing is that there is a lot to do to prevent this debilitating condition & other degenerative eye conditions such as Macula Degeneration. So I have dedicated an entire post to ‘Eye Health’

FACTS

  • Glaucoma is basically increased pressure in the eye- which damages the optic nerve- leading to progressive, irreversible vision loss. Imagine the corners of your vision become gradually blurry- closing in until eventually all vision is lost. Unfortunately 1 eye usually compensates for the other so people don’t usually seek help until it is too late.
  • Around 1 in 8 over 80 will get it, however it can also affect much younger people. Half remain undiagnosed. Diabetes, High blood pressure and certain medications can also increase the risk.
  • It has a strong familial link too- so if any of your relatives have glaucoma you should take extra precautions.

General Eye Health…

Get your Eyes Tested Regularly – especially if you notice any visual changes. Remember it can be prevented but not reversed if the damage has already occurred. Visual problems can also point to problems elsewhere in the body.

Manage your Blood Pressure. Glaucoma is strongly linked to consistently high blood pressure. Diet is especially effective at managing blood pressure- and free of side effects!. As an idea did you know that basic foods can be very effective in managing blood pressure: beetroot/beetroot juice, celery, berries being just some examples… And common herbal teas such as Hibiscus and Hawthorne berries/flowers/leaves. I’ll be posting more about this in future posts. Get your blood pressure checked regularly or invest in a blood pressure monitor. Let your doctor know if you would like to try to control it using diet- then you can do so under supervision.

Keep your Blood Sugar Levels Stable. Why? Over time high blood sugar levels can increase your risk of glaucoma, macula degeneration and retinopathy (even if you don’t have full blown diabetes). Again diet is the best way to manage blood sugar levels! Moderate your carb intake and follow Low GL diet principles. Certain herbs/supplements may also help, including cinnamon, psyllium husks, alpha lipoid acid, Bitter Melon, Gymnema. Always seek advice if you have any blood sugar irregularities and wish to try supplements- don’t take them at the same time as conventional drugs without consulting with your doctor.

Eat a High Antioxidant Diet – lots of colour. Aim to eat a rainbow each day is a nice analogy! The more colour the more diverse the range of antioxidants-purple, red, orange, green.. Or a wholefoods antioxidant supplement including things like wheatgrass and green tea. The brand Pukka do some lovely antioxidant wholefood blends- here in the UK.

Eat your Greens (mums are always right) and Yellow Veg! These contain Lutein and Zeaxanthin- antioxidants which are strongly protective over macula degeneration- another leading cause of blindness. Found in dark green veg (spinach, kale, chard), yellow veg (squash, yellow peppers– you can roast the squash seeds too as a snack) and egg yolks. Eat more of these foods or consider taking an eye health formula with 20mg of lutein and 2mg of zeaxanthin. Think baked squash, spinach salads (or add to smoothies- surprisingly good with coconut milk and banana) or even start making your own kale chips (delicious as a wholesome snack- just bake with coconut oil and seasoning on very low (no more 100 degrees C until crisp- don’t take long). Calendula Flowers are also one of the best natural sources (in fact many pricey supplements are simple extracts of calendula!) You can have calendula as tea or even sprinkle the petals onto salads (one of the edible flowers- and so easy to grow in pots!)

Eat Carrots! Yes this folk remedy does help protect the eyes. Will they give you night vision? Erm probably not! But carrots and other orange veg do contain beta carotene– an orange pigment which is helps to protect our peepers. (these orange veg are best cooked with a drizzle of olive oils or butter is best as you need fat with your meals to absorb carotenes- think sauteed carrots, baked pumpkin (and seeds), squash, sweet potatoes..) Beta carotene also has another benefit- it is converted into vitamin A in the body (vitamin A deficiency is one of the world’s leading causes of blindness). However in some people (esp if you have diabetes or thyroid issues) this conversion process is not very efficient so you need to get vitamin A from animal food sources: the following contain vitamin A: Cod Liver Oil (quality is important here), Eggs, Liver and High Fat Dairy (from grass fed dairy cattle-ideally organic) so no low fat diets please!

Berries: protect the small blood vessels in the eyes thanks to substances called anthocyanins– special antioxidants found in blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, elderberries especially… but all berries in general contain them. This is why world war 2 pilots were encouraged to eat bilberry jam, shis popular folk remedy really does have some basis!!! Scientific research now is proving the value of anthocyanins in eye health (you will see many supplements on the market contain them). Personally I prefer eating them rather than taking a pill, though I would go for fresh berries or berry teas rather than too much jam… to keep sugar intake down.

Oily Fish and Nuts/Seeds rich in Omega 3 Fats: Oily fish is the best source of DHA – a fatty acid essential for eye health. Oily fish is the best source (quality important- see the Marine Stewardship Council) especially Wild Alaskan Red Salmon. Nuts/seeds rich in omega 3s include: walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds (don’t worry they contain none of the psychoactives-though that may disappoint you!) Vegans may need to take supplemental DHA (from algae) as the omega 3s in plant foods are not as usable as those from fish. Nuts and seeds however are good to eat on a regular basis thanks to the antioxidants (vitamin E) and minerals which they also contain.

Preventative Medicine!

Note that this is for general information purposes only and does not replace standard medical diagnosis or a professional consultation. Always seek professional advice if you have any health condition and would like to manage it yourself.

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