Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States and worldwide. Because they develop gradually, and because most of us tend to associate some vision disturbances with "normal" aging, most cases go undetected until it is too late to stop the damage. This is a shame because when cataracts are caught in their early stages, it is possible to halt or even reverse their progression. If your eyes are healthy, you can also take steps that may help prevent cataracts altogether.
Cataracts are cloudy or opaque spots that develop on the usually translucent lens of the eye. When these spots first appear, you may not notice any difference in your vision.
Over a period of years, however, the cataract spreads across the lens. You may notice that it's harder to make out details or that colors look different. Night driving becomes more challenging. If you've been farsighted for most of your life, a cataract may actually improve your vision for a short while. As the cataract continues to grow, it will become more difficult to see medium-sized and larger objects. In the worst-case scenario, cataracts can leave a person completely blind. In fact, 40,000 Americans go blind every year as a result of cataracts.
Most cases fall under the category that doctors call "senile cataracts." These are lens spots that commonly accompany old age, although they are by no means an inevitable part of growing older. We now know that senile cataracts are caused by damage from free radicals, the unbalanced, destructive molecules that destroy cells in the body. While the production of free radicals does naturally increase somewhat with aging, most of these dangerous agents are caused by lifestyle choices. Excess sun exposure, poor diet, and smoking are all primary causes of free radicals. Changing these habits can prevent and sometimes stop cataracts, as can taking steps to supply your body with antioxidants, the substances that fight free radicals.
In some instances, cataracts are inherited or caused by a preexisting disorder. Cataracts that begin in youth or middle age are extremely rare and are usually related to an inherited condition. In addition, people with diabetes and Down's syndrome have a higher risk of developing cataracts than the rest of the population does.
The poor digestive function can be at the root of cataracts. Low stomach acid can lead to malabsorption of nutrients from foods and can create more free radicals. In addition, toxic metals such as cadmium, mercury, and others accelerate free radical damage of the lens. Elevated blood sugar levels, as is seen with diabetes, is a major risk factor for developing cataracts.
If at any stage of your life you experience vision changes, it's important to consult a doctor or an optometrist as soon as possible. For any eye disorders, an early diagnosis can mean effective treatment. Nutritional therapy is important in the prevention and the treatment of cataracts.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; the level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
Prescription for Natural Cures by James F. Balch and Mark Stengler
Super Prescription #1 Multivitamin – High Potency – LifeSource Products - See All of our Multivitamin Products. This provides a base of nutrients that will neutralize free radicals.
Super Prescription # 2 Vitamin C - LifeSource Products - See All of our Vitamin C Products. Vitamin C is one of the main antioxidants that protect the eye lens. Take 1,000 mg two to three times daily.
Super Prescription #3 Gentian root (Gentiana lutea) or betaine HCL
Gentian root and other bitter herbs improve stomach acid and overall digestive function. Take 250 mg or 0.5 to 1.0 m with meals. Betaine HCL increases stomach acid levels for improved absorption. Take 1 to 2 capsules with meals.
Super Prescription #4 Bilberry (Vaccimium myrtillus) - LifeSource Product Take 160 mg two to three times daily of a 25 percent anthocyanosides extract. Phytochemicals in bilberry protect the lens from free radical damage.
Super Prescription #5 Vitamin B - LifeSource Products – See All of our Vitamin B Products. Take 50 mg of a B Complex daily. Vitamins B2 and B3 have been shown to have a protective effect against cataracts.
Super Prescription # 6 Vitamin E - LifeSource Product This potent antioxidant protects against free radical damage. Take 400 IU of a vitamin E complex with tocotrienols and tocopherols.
Super Prescription #7 Vitamin A – Beta Carotene - LifeSource Product Take 25,000 IU one to two times daily. It provides lutein, zeaxanthin, beta carotene, and other carotenoids that protect the lens. Must be Beta Carotene.
Symptoms are painless and usually progress in the following order:
- Blurring of details
- Temporary improvement of farsightedness
- Changes in color perception
- Difficulty driving at night
- The blurring of larger objects
- Darkening of vision
- Exposure to ultraviolet or infrared light
- Poor diet, especially one low in antioxidants
- Poor digestion
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Mineral deficiencies
- Injury to the eye
- Long-term use of steroids
- Down's syndrome
- Pharmaceutical medications
A diet to prevent or reverse cataracts can require some dedication at first. Once you've established healthful eating habits, however, you'll not only improve your eye health, you'll reduce your risk of developing almost every other disease we commonly associate with aging.
Build your diet around deeply colored fruits and vegetables, which are the best-known sources of antioxidants, the substances that fight free radical damage. Of the antioxidants, the carotenoids are most important for eye problems. Good sources of carotenoids are dark-green leafy vegetables, bell peppers, yellow squash, carrots, tomatoes, celery, oranges, red grapes, mangoes, and melons.
Consume spinach and kale, as these foods are high in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids have been reported to lower the risk of developing cataracts.
Egg yolks are also rich in carotenoids.
Vitamin C and bioflavonoids work in combination to fight free radical damage. In addition, they improve the tissues and the capillaries of the eye. Good sources of bioflavonoids include berries, cherries, tomatoes, and plums; for vitamin C, eat plenty of citrus fruits.
Foods to Avoid
Banish from your diet all fried foods, as well as those that contain saturated, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated fats or oils. Refined and processed foods, including white flour, are also out of the question. All of these foods are high in free radicals, the atoms that destroy your body's cells-and your eyesight.
Alcohol puts a heavy burden on the liver and impairs its ability to detoxify your blood, so avoid it.
Some eye doctors have noted a link between cataracts and an inability to digest milk sugars properly. While no one has proven a connection between dairy and eye disorders, it seems prudent for people with cataracts to eliminate milk products from their diet.
As we age, our organs of detoxification lose some of their potency. Support your body's ability to purge itself of free radicals by undertaking a three-day juice fast once a month.
Heavy metal poisoning may cause or contribute to cataracts by preventing antioxidants from doing their job. Consider getting a hair or urine analysis to find out if you have metal poisoning; if you do, be sure to fast regularly, and be sure to look into chelation therapy.
- Smoking is a leading cause of free radical damage and a factor in almost every disease we associate with "natural" aging. If you smoke, stop. And if you don't smoke, you still need to make a conscious effort to avoid secondhand smoke.
- Wear sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Try to avoid excursions that take place in the glare of the full sun.
- Consider the use of intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy. This provides a more aggressive treatment for cataracts.
- For many people with cataracts, surgery is a real option. If the cataract is caught early enough, a doctor can remove the entire lens and replace it with a plastic one. The operation is not painful, and it has a high rate of success. As always, it's best to try to avoid invasive procedures by employing complementary healing strategies, but if you experience a significant loss of vision, surgery may be the only way to restore sight. Talk to your doctor about your options.