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Nutritional Tips for Optimal Eye Health
by Jolie Martin Root, L.N.

People are worried about losing their sight. As a remedy, ophthalmologists routinely prescribe surgery over antioxidant nutrients to preserve sight. Due to the numerous laser and surgical advances in the treatment of eye disorders, such as retinal diseases, glaucoma, and cataracts, most eye doctors overlook nutrition as a practical and successful solution to eye disease. Proper supplementation and dietary changes can be a natural, viable, and economical approach to preventing problems with and maintaining your precious vision!

You probably know that Omega-3 oils protect your heart, but did you know that they are crucial for sharp vision? Omega-3 oils found in such foods as cold-water fish help regulate eye pressure, blood vessel elasticity, blood thinning, and eye moisture, plus reduce eye spasms and sun sensitivity. Omega-3 fats are also essential for strength, function, and nerve conduction in the retina. Because they help reduce cholesterol, blood flows more smoothly through the tiny blood vessels of the eye, enabling key nutrients to reach the retina more easily.

To ensure that you are getting enough of these important Omega-3 oils, I suggest at least two meals of wild Alaskan salmon each week. Also take a supplement of either cod liver or Omega-3 fish oils. These provide docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is one of the most important Omega-3s to support vision. Though flax is very good oil, it doesn't provide DHA, thus simply cannot afford you the same beneficial effects for your eyes as fish oil.

Another detriment to our vision is macular degeneration. It is the leading cause of blindness in our aging population and is divided into two types: wet and dry. Wet macular degeneration, the less common, involves the creation of new unwanted blood vessels, which begin to progress to the center of the retina. This condition is the result of a blockage of oxygen to the retina. It can progress in a matter of days. Dry macular degeneration progresses more slowly and may be the result of vascular disease, damage from ultraviolet rays, and low levels of antioxidants in the body. The disease is defined as a progressive deterioration of the macula, the central area of the retina. Most often occurring in people in their 70s, it robs its victims of central vision, making reading impossible.

Risk factors for macular degeneration include blue eyes (blue-eyed people are 20 times more at risk), excessive sun exposure, drusen or age spots in the retina, smoking (which increases risk by two-and-ahalf times), as well as a poor and high-fat diet.

A key component of optimal eye health is a sufficient level of certain fat-soluble antioxidants such as lutein. Lutein, a cousin of beta carotene and a great nutritional preventive, can be attained by eating spinach, kale, collard, mustard, and turnip greens. Six milligrams (mg) of lutein a day is the equivalent of one-half cup of cooked greens and can reduce your risk of this age-related retinal disease by 43 percent. Now, scientists are experimenting with higher doses of lutein, 30 mg a day, to see if damage to the macula can be reversed. Early results are promising.

Other fat-soluble antioxidants important for your eyes, include vitamin A and beta carotene (25,000 IU—but don't take more than 5,000 IU if you are pregnant) and natural sources of vitamin E (400 IU) daily. Blood thinners like heparin protect the macula. Natural blood thinners are cayenne pepper, garlic, fish oils, and vitamin E. A daily dose of zinc (30 mg) protects the eye from UV rays by raising melanin, a protective pigment in the retina.

Vision problems need not be a result of old age. Beat the odds by giving your eyesight the support it deserves with a good nutritional program.

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