How to Give Your Eyes Enough Nutrition

poor nutrition burger fries sodaHave you ever heard that your eyes need plenty of nutrition? It’s true, and research backs this up. But did you know that the Standard American Diet The Standard American Diet tends to be very low in some eye-essential nutrients? The eyes are the second most physiologically active part of our body (#1 is the brain). At Natural Eye Care, we believe the eyes require approximately 25% of the nutrients we take into our body, if we eat a healthy diet. Even though most Americans consume enough calories, we may still have poor nutrition for the eyes. No wonder Macular Degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, optic nerve atrophy and Diabetic Retinopathy affect so many adults! You can start eating right at any age to help preserve your vision.

This article examines each part of the eye, related diseases, causes of these diseases, and risk factors.1 Research has shown that certain nutrients support each specific part of the eye. You will notice that the lists of foods high in eye-supporting nutrients are repetitive. For example, broccoli appears six times! The Mediterranean Diet encompasses almost all of these foods in healthy proportions.

Connective Tissue

The body’s connective tissue holds the organs and other body parts in place. Problems with the eye’s connective tissues can lead to vision loss. Common eye conditions resulting from connective tissue damage include vitreous tears/detachments, retinal tears/detachment and macular hole. Rare diseases of the connective tissues that may damage vision include Marfan Syndrome and Sjogren’s Syndrome. Some have clear genetic causes, while others do not.

Risk factors for vitreous tears/detachments and retinal detachment are often age-related (usually over 45), head trauma, age-related shrinkage of the vitreous (gel-like substance in the eyeball), and cumulative damage to from other eye conditions (such as diabetic retinopathy, macular edema, and retinal tears). Nearsightedness is another risk factor. Tthe more nearsighted, the greater the risk. People with flashes, sudden floaters, or vision loss should consult a doctor immediately.

Risk factors for developing macular holes are unknown, except for age (50+). However, half of Stage I patients recover fully without intervention. Natural Eye Care recommends specific nutrients in case of early-stage macular holes not requiring surgery, in addition to complying with the doctor’s orders.

Connective tissue is made from protein. The eye’s health reflects the health of the entire body. Therefore, good nutrition that supports connective tissue may have an impact on vision health. Your nutritional intake should include antioxidants, especially bioflavonoids, essential fatty acids, Glycosaminoglycans, hyaluronic acid, MSM, vitamin C, silica, and glucosamine sulfate. Good food sources for building connective tissue are:

  • broccoli
  • cucumber
  • salmon
  • spinach
  • walnuts

Cornea

Located at the very front of the eye, the cornea shields the delicate eye interior and helps focus light. Conditions of the cornea include Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy and Keratoconus.

Fuchs’ is an inherited condition in which waste products are not removed properly. This leads to pain and severe vision loss in seniors. Keratoconus or “bulging cornea” may be caused by free radical damage, magnesium deficiency, or genetics.

Even a genetic predisposition to a disease does not guarantee the symptoms will manifest. Lifestyle factors including nutrition can impact the development of disease. Sunlight, essential fatty acids and antioxidants including bioflavonoids and carotenoids can help. Foods that support the cornea include:

  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • eggs
  • fish, especially salmon
  • sweet potatoes
  • walnuts

Lens

The lens focuses light on the retina. The best-known lens condition is cataracts, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Half of all Americans will have at least one cataract by age 80. Lens replacement surgery is the go-to treatment if needed.

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens that usually occurs in seniors. Cumulative, lifetime exposure to UV light from the sun can contribute to cataract development. Other possible causes include lifestyle choices including smoking, poor diet, and alcohol. These habits inhibit essential nutrition from getting to the eyes. Diseases such as diabetes increase cataracts risk as well.

Wearing proper sunglasses could help mitigate cataracts risk in young people. For many seniors, the damage from the sun is done. However, wearing good sunglasses can help protect the retina and lens from further damage. Quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol is advised. Increase your intake of lens-friendly nutrients like antioxidants, n-acetyl-carnosine, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Also, include these foods that support lens health:

  • bilberry
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • spinach
  • sweet potatoes

Macula

The macula is a small, yellowish dot on the retina. It is responsible for our sharpest vision. Macular Degeneration is a serious eye condition that affects as many as 11 million Americans, mostly seniors2. Loss of central vision affects driving, reading, watching TV, recognizing faces, and cooking. Macular Edema is swelling of the macula, causing blurring.

Oxidative stress likely plays an important role in Age-Related Macular Degeneration. The retina is especially vulnerable to free radical damage. Blue light from the sun and electronics causes free radical damage. Eye diseases, eye conditions, certain medications, radiation, eye trauma, and eye surgeries can result in macular edema.

Smoking is a significant cause of free radical damage in the body. Eat foods rich in essential fatty acids, amino acids, bioflavonoids, carotenoids, acetyl-l-carnitine, CoQ10 and vitamin D. The macula is yellowish because it is the highest concentration of lutein in the body. Lutein is in yellow foods such as sweet corn; it is also in dark leafy green vegetables. A lutein supplement can be made from marigold flowers.

These foods are good for the macula:

Optic Nerve

The optic nerve sends signals from the retina to the brain. Any breakdown in the optic nerve causes vision loss. Common diseases that damage the optic nerve are glaucoma, optic neuritis, and optic nerve atrophy.

Called, the “silent thief,” glaucoma starts by quietly and gradually removing peripheral vision. The spongy trabecular meshwork between the lens and iris gets “clogged,” preventing fluid from draining sufficiently. Oxidative stress on the trabecular meshwork may be behind some cases of glaucoma. Other potential risk factors include low thyroid, genetics, poor blood flow, trauma, drug side-effects, heavy computer use and many others. Optic neuritis is painful inflammation of the optic nerve, which may be a sign of an autoimmune disorder or an infection. Optic nerve atrophy occurs when the myelin sheath around the optic nerve has been compromised. It has many potential causes, and the prognosis is generally not positive. However, lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements can be helpful.

Nutrients shown to help the optic nerve include taurine, bioflavonoids, N-acetly-carnosine, essential fatty acids, gingko biloba, magnesium, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and vitamin E. These foods support the optic nerve:

  • bilberry
  • broccoli
  • eggplant
  • grape seed extract
  • salmon
  • walnuts

Photoreceptors

Our rod and cone cells turn light into electrical signals. These signals travel from the optic nerve for interpretation in the brain. In cone-rod dystrophy, the genetic material needed for making eye proteins are damaged, resulting in vision loss. Retinitis Pigmentosa patients have a genetic mutation that usually starts damaging vision in youth. Night blindness is a malfunction of the rods, and it may have a genetic or nutritional cause.

Genetics is not destiny. Environment can also have an impact on outcome. A healthy lifestyle, good nutrition, and targeted supplementation can mitigate some eye disease symptoms.

Photoreceptors require bioflavonoids, carotenoids, essential fatty acids, vitamin c, vitamin A, vitamin E, and alpha lipoic acid. Food rich in these nutrients include:

  • carrots
  • eggs
  • salmon
  • spinach
  • sweet potatoes
  • walnuts

Retina

The retina contains the cells that turn light into electrical signals. At the center is the macula (see “Macula” above). Poor blood sugar control from diabetes causes retinal damage called Diabetic Retinopathy.

Type I Diabetics must work with their doctors to tightly control blood sugar. Risk factors for Type II Diabetes include excess weight, lack of exercise, and poor diet. Therefore, prevent the onset of Type II Diabetes by making lifestyle changes and taking medication as needed. If Type II Diabetes sets in, control your blood sugar, make lifestyle changes and lose weight if recommended by your doctor.

The retina needs essential fatty acids, bioflavonoids, amino acids, Acetyl-L-carnitine, CoQ10, vitamin A and vitamin D. Good foods for the retina include:

  • asparagus
  • carrots
  • eggs
  • kale
  • seafood
  • spinach
  • sweet potatoes

Vitreous

The gel-like liquid in the whites of the eyes is called the “vitreous humour.” With aging, the vitreous becomes more liquid, straining the connective tissues and causing vitreous tears and detachments. Eye floaters are tiny globs of protein in the vitreous humour that cast a shadow on the retina. Floaters become more numerous with age.

Ageing is inevitable, but damage from vitreous deterioration is not. Be sure to consume essential fatty acids, bioflavonoids, amino acids, Hyaluronic acid, Glucosamine sulfate, silica, vitamin C. Foods that support the vitreous humor include:

  • broccoli
  • cucumber
  • eggs
  • salmon
  • salmon
  • soy
  • spinach
  • tempe
  • walnuts

Conclusion

good nutrition mediterranean diet salad Every month, more peer-reviewed research is published that links nutrition to vision health. The eyes are one of the most nutrient-hungry parts of the body. At Natural Eye Care, we suggest following the Mediterranean Diet and our modified Vision Diet. Try out some of the recipes in our e-book, “Visionary Cooking: Food for the Eyes“. Exercising for just one hour per day could significantly impact on your health. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake. However, supplementation and homeopathy may be necessary for some individuals. Do everything you can to preserve the precious gift of sight.

nutrients Up Next: See our infographic on Nutrition for the Eyes.

  1.  http://www.naturaleyecare.com/blog/food-for-your-eyes-infographic/
  2. https://www.brightfocus.org/macular/article/age-related-macular-facts-figures