Holistic Medicine and Vitamins

Alternative solutions to common eye problems

Patients want choices. This section includes some suggested alternative solutions to common eye problems.

For instance, many patients want to know what they can do to further decrease bruising following surgery. While the amount of bruising is highly dependent on the technique and the meticulousness of the surgeon, other factors do come into play.

To avoid the potential for increased bleeding, patients who will be undergoing cosmetic eyelid surgery are instructed to avoid taking aspirin or any over-the-counter products containing aspirin for two weeks before surgery. Cigarette smoking, vitamin E, and certain spices in Szechwan food are also known to increase the potential for bleeding and are to be avoided before surgery.

In our practice, a special combination of pre-operative vitamins, bioflavonoids, antioxidants, and holistic medications is recommended for all patients undergoing incisional surgical procedures.

Prevent and Reverse Common Vision Problems*

According to a Harvard study, the number of visits to alternative care practitioners now exceeds the total number of visits to traditional mainstream physicians. The growth of this type of care is clearly driven by patients demand, many of whom are frustrated by lack of success in chronic diseases or who want to become more proactive about the health and interested in preventative medicine.

The increasingly middle-aged and health-conscious Baby Boomers – especially those affected by the loss of a parent’s or grandparent’s vision – are looking for prophylactic options. Many major ophthalmology teaching institutions are also conducting controlled prospective clinical studies to evaluate the role of nutrition in macular degeneration and cataract.

We know that light, focused through the cornea and crystalline lens, creates photic stress and a high metabolic demand on the retina. But what many of us might not consider, and what Chinese and Indian physicians have known for years, is that the liver plays a significant role in providing the retina with much-needed nutrients, especially as a person ages.

The liver stores fat-soluble vitamins, metabolizes vitamin B and manufactures and stores glutathione, a major antioxidant that helps keep the crystalline lens healthy. Many studies show that people with high vitamin C or carotenoid and tocopherol (vitamin E) levels are at less risk of cataract development and, to some extent, macular degeneration.

Any patient can benefit by consuming less than or equal to 10,000 IU of vitamin A and 1,000 IU of vitamin D each day. Toxicity is not in issue at these levels.

Research in heart disease has shown folic acid, vitamin E and vitamin C help minimize arteriosclerosis and other conditions contributing to heart disease. Cancer research has shown that selenium, a co-factor for vitamin E, and glutathione and other trace minerals which are cofactors for cellular enzymes are important.

Many of the good eye vitamins and general vitamins include lutein and zinc, two important protectors. Bioflavonoids, which give fruits color, help minimize the effects of ultraviolet radiation exposure on the eye. They also assist vitamin C in building strong capillaries and Collagen.

That’s why you’re seeing so much recent excitement over the inclusion of lutein in supplements. Use of this additional ingredient follows research by Dr. Joanna Sedden, M.D., and her associates, who found that green leafy vegetables helped prevent macular degeneration.

Two recent studies also show that patients with high lutein levels experienced a 19% to 22% reduction in cataract incidence.

But diet and supplements are only part of a successful approach in this area. Patients should also modify their lifestyles to stop smoking, start exercising, practice deep breathing and manage stress better.

Improving Vitamin And Nutrition Intake And Lifestyle Management Will Make You Healthier And Possibly Even Reduce Your Dependence On Medications.

Some General Suggestions:

  • Researchers have found that exercise, such as walking 40 minutes a day, lowers intraocular pressure 16% to 20% and increases life span as well.
  • Besides helping you avoid lung disease, discontinuing smoking reduces your risk of developing such health problems as cataract and macular degeneration
  • Avoiding obesity improves your overall health and the health of your liver and other organs, which are integral to the function of the eye. You shouldn’t eat saturated fats and transfats contained in cookies, crackers, cheese and other processed foods that have a long shelf life. You should also avoid consuming artificial sweeteners, which are neurotoxic (harmful to nerves) and contribute to dry eyes.
  • Magnesium (500 mg tablets) at bedtime is a vasodilator for patients with circulatory problems, normal tension glaucoma and macular degeneration. This supplement is believed to improve micro-perfusion (blood flow) of the brain and eye and won’t compete for absorption when taken at bedtime or on an empty stomach.
  • A glass of red wine once a night protects the macula and can help the elderly sleep better. (Remember that the retina gets a chance to rebuild in the dark at night, when the body also can relax.)
  • Take vitamins in capsule form. Evidence suggests that powder in capsules has more bioavailability, plus capsules are easier to digest.
  • Create lists to keep track of what medications and supplements you’re taking. Mark on calendars when you initiate your nutritional and lifestyle changes (the exact dates), so that you can look back several months later to see if you see and feel better.

Disease-Specific Nutritional Advice
To Avoid Cataract:

Drinking six glasses of water helps irrigate the crystalline lens, which has no blood supply. Increased fluid can help provide nutrition and also help with the removal of toxins, two tasks handled by the aqueous humor (fluid inside the eye).

Vitamin C (1,000 mg to 2,000 mg daily) and 600 mg of glutathione boosters (derived from onion, garlic, eggs, avocado) per day help minimize ultraviolet light toxicity. (Astronauts take 3,000 mg while in space.) Among glutathione boosters: N-acetylcysteine, alpha lipoic acid and Methanylolsulfanylmethane (MSM). Also wear sunglasses, exercise and take an eye health multivitamin.

To Avoid Glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye):

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) improves circulation and may have some effect on the trabecular meshwork (the drainage area in the eye). It’s also part of the cell membrane of every retinal receptor. I recommend 200 mg to 500 mg of DHA daily and magnesium at bedtime. New studies indicate ginkgo biloba improves blood flow to the eye, if not contraindicated.

For Patients With Glaucoma And Macular Degeneration:

Stress reduction and periodic deep breathing. Because 90% of macular degeneration patients have the dry, slowly progressive form, they can slow progression of the disease by reducing their bright light load (UV-protective eyewear, broad-brimmed hats, wrap-around sunglasses) and building the nutrient structures in the retinas. Lutein; vitamins A,C and E; magnesium; zinc and taurine help.

For dry eye patients:

Evaluate systemic medications for possible causes. Drinking six glasses of water and using a bedroom humidifier will help. I recommend artificial tears and DHA (always taken with a fat-soluble vitamin and a meal) and placement of punctum plugs to decrease tear outflow, if needed.

Also, regular preventative medical eye examinations, play a large role in disease prevention and successful disease management. Most medical problems are much more easily treated if discovered early. This is particularly true for glaucoma, which has no symptoms but can result in irreversible loss of vision if not discovered early with a routine eye pressure evaluation, and some forms of treatable macular degeneration which can be effectively treated with a laser.

*Information taken from an article by Robert Abel, Jr., M.D. in Ophthalmology Management , Feb 2000 and used with permission.
Dr. Able is a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology and co-founded the alternative medicine curriculum at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He has also written The Eye Care Revolution: Prevent and Reverse Common Vision Problems.