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 actu- ally 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 sce- nario, 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 dam- age 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.
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 addi- tion, 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 many eye disorders, an early diag- nosis can mean effective treatment. Nutritional therapy is important in the prevention and the treatment of cataracts.
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
• 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 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 zeax- anthin. 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.
People who consume small amounts of fruits and vegetables and those with low blood levels of antioxidants have been reported to be at high risk for cataracts.
Food to Avoid
Banish from your diet all fried foods, as well as those that contain sat- urated, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated fats or oils. Reﬁned and processed foods, including white ﬂour, are also out of the ques- tion. 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 inabil-
ity 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 antiox- idants 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.
The following tests help assess possible metabolic reasons for cataracts: Vitamin and mineral analysis—blood
Toxic (heavy) metal toxicity—urine or hair
Super Seven Prescriptions—Cataract
Super Prescription #1 High-potency multivitamin
This provides a base of nutrients that will neutralize free radicals.
Super Prescription #2 Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the main antioxidants that protects 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 func- tion. Take 250 mg or 0.5 to 1.0 ml with meals. Betaine HCL increases stomach acid
levels for improved absorption. Take 1 to 2 capsules with meals.
Super Prescription #4 Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
Take 160 mg two to three times daily of a 25 percent anthocyanosides extract. Phy- tochemicals in bilberry protect the lens from free radical damage.
Super Prescription #5 B complex
Take a 50 mg complex daily. Vitamins B2 and B3 have been shown to have a pro- tective effect against cataracts.
Super Prescription #6 Vitamin E
This potent antioxidant protects against free radical damage. Take 400 IU of a vita- min E complex with tocotrienols and tocopherols.
Super Prescription #7 Mixed carotenoid complex
Take 25,000 IU one to two times daily. It provides lutein, zeaxthanin, beta carotene, and other carotenoids that protect the lens.
Ginkgo biloba has a well-deserved reputation as a free-radical scavenger. It also offers general support and protection to the eyes. Choose an extract standardized to 24 per- cent ﬂavone glycosides, and take 120 mg twice a day.
Alpha lipoic acid is an important antioxidant. Take 100 mg twice daily.
N-acetylcysteine increases glutathione levels, an important antioxidant for the eyes. Take 500 mg twice daily.
Bioﬂavonoid complex provides additional protection for the lens. Take with your
Population studies show that people who take multivita- mins or supplements containing vitamins C or E for more than ten years have up to a 60 percent lower risk of forming cataracts.
vitamin C formula or separately at a dose of 500 mg twice daily. Note: A separate antioxidant formula can also be used to provide a broad base of antioxidants.
Grape seed or pine bark extract are both potent antioxidants that improve the micro- circulation of the eye. Take 50 mg three times daily.
Many homeopathic practitioners have reported good success in slowing cataract devel- opment. The following suggestions are meant to help you get started, but it is strongly advised that you see a professional for a constitutional treatment. For tem- porary treatment, choose the appropriate following remedy and take 6C two or three times a day for one month. If you see improvement, take a rest from the remedy for a week, and then keep taking it in a cycle of one month on, one month off.
If a doctor or an optometrist has told you that you have cataracts in the very early stages, take Calcarea. By the time you experience symptoms, you’ll need to move on to a different remedy.
Phosphorus is the remedy if you feel that there’s a veil over your eyes. If you have dimmed vision, with hot, red eyes, take Ruta Graveolens. At the very ﬁrst sign of impaired vision, take Silica (Silicea).
• To improve circulation to your head and to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your eyes, work Large Intestine 3 and 4.
Work the eye/ear region and the neck.
To encourage detoxiﬁcation, stimulate the liver, the kidneys, and the colon.
Although stress is not a direct cause of cataracts, unresolved tension and anxiety inhibit the body’s ability to neutralize and eliminate free radicals. Review the stress- reduction techniques in the Exercise and Stress Reduction chapter and ﬁnd one or two that you’d like to practice on a regular basis.
• 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 complemen- tary healing strategies, but if you experience signiﬁcant loss of vision, surgery may be the only way to restore sight. Talk to your doctor about your options