See Clearly Into the Future
Julian Whitaker, MD
New developments in the treatment of degenerative eye diseases are of special interest to me, for I have watched a close family member slowly lose his sight. Vision is the sense we tend to treasure the most and one that often fails us as we grow older. The lenses become less elastic, making small print harder to read, and lifelong vision problems worsen. The incidence of diabetic retinopathy and other disorders of the retina increases. Lenses cloud over as cataracts form, and central vision may disappear as macular degeneration progresses.
Although many of these conditions can be successfully treated with surgery, laser or corrective lenses, diseases of the retina such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are less amenable to conventional care. Age-related macular degeneration is the number one cause of legal blindness among Americans over age 50. This condition involves deterioration of the macula, a small focal area inside the eye that conveys visual messages to the optic nerve. While laser treatment may offer some help for the small percentage of patients with the wet form of the disease, most of those who suffer with macular degeneration are condemned to a life of increasing darkness.
Well, I’m here to tell you there is hope for macular degeneration and other vision disorders. The retina has a remarkable ability to repair itself, but only if it is given the proper conditions in which to do so.
Protect Your Vision by Eating Right…
Perhaps the most underrated aspect of vision protection and enhancement is nutrition. Scientific studies in recent years have confirmed what folk wisdom has long held true: certain foods help you see better.
One of them is leafy green vegetables. Lutein and zeaxanthin, which are abundant in dark, spinach, kale and collard greens, filter blue light as it enters the eye and absorb damaging radiation. Another protective food is eggs. Egg yolks are one of the most concentrated sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. (Don’t worry about eggs raising your risk of heart disease. Contrary to popular perception, eating an egg a day does not increase risk.)
And believe it or not, wine also exerts a positive effect on the eyes. Although wine is best known for enhancing heart health, a study of more than 3,000 adults suggests that moderate consumption of wine also may reduce the rate of macular degeneration.
…And Taking Targeted Supplements
As I’ve said time and time again, the best way to ensure adequate nutrient intake is through nutritional supplementation. Start with antioxidants. Free-radical damage is clearly a factor in vision loss. The photoreceptors in the eyes are rich in fats, making them highly susceptible to oxidative damage from radiation.
Also include bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). This European cousin of the blueberry contains anthocyanosides, phytonutrients that stabilize blood vessels and collagen and neutralize free radicals in the retina. Other vision-enhancing nutrients include zinc, Ginkgo biloba, and taurine.
Intensive Therapies for Existing Disease
You may be thinking that these recommendations are well and good for prevention, but what about people with more advanced diseases?
We see patients with various stages of degenerative eye disease at the Whitaker Wellness Institute every week. We start them on the nutritional program described above, and that alone stops the progression in some patients. If it doesn’t, we pull out our “big guns”: intravenous therapies and hyperbaric oxygen.
IV Nutrients Improve Vision
The first intensive therapy we offer is what we call a macular degeneration drip (though it benefits other eye disorders as well). Slowly administered intravenously, this allows a much more concentrated dose of nutrients than can be taken orally and ensures that they are absorbed and delivered to the targeted tissues. It is often used in conjunction with IV chelation therapy, which by improving overall circulation further enhances nutrient delivery.
We have had a lot of success with this protocol. Patients with macular degeneration respond particularly well, often maintaining and even improving visual acuity. Vic, who suffers with diabetic retinopathy and macular involvement, credits nutritional and IV therapies with a dramatic slowing in the progression of his disease, and his ophthalmologist concurs.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to the Rescue
Another intensive therapy for vision problems is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Research suggests that one factor in degenerative eye disorders is hypoxia, or inadequate oxygenation of the photoreceptor cells and other tissues in the eyes. Medicine’s most efficient method of transporting oxygen to cells throughout the body is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. When 100 percent oxygen is inhaled at two to three times normal atmospheric pressure, it dissolves in all the body fluids, rather than attaching only to the hemoglobin in red blood cells. This results in a massive infusion of oxygen even to areas deprived of adequate blood flow.
We have seen remarkable and sometimes unexpected results with this therapy. Stephanie, who was being treated to promote healing of a severely infected ulcer on her foot, paid a visit to the ophthalmologist monitoring her glaucoma soon after completing her course of 30 hyperbaric oxygen treatments. He informed her that her eye pressures were completely normal and she was to discontinue her prescription eye drops. Improvements have also been noted in macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, retina nerve detachment and corneal disorders.
- To talk to a Patient Service Representative about receiving IV Therapies and hyperbaric oxygen treatments for vision problems at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253 or click here.
- Head, KA. Natural therapies for ocular disorders, part one: diseases of the retina. Alter Med Rev. 1999 Oct;4(5):342-59.
- Seddon, JM et al. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. JAMA. 1994 Nov 9;272(18):1413-20.
- Obisesan, TO et al. Moderate wine consumption is associated with decreased odds of developing age-related macular degeneration in NHANES-1. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1998 Jan;46(1): 1-7.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2006. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.