We don’t normally realize how precious our eyes are, until we get trouble. Short sight, far sight, those are easily dealt with. But what about cataracts, glaucoma, and the feared macular degeneration?
Every so often, another piece appears in the papers about how scientists have now invented a clever way to deal with one or another of these. But even so, and till some of these miracle cures have become mainstream, prevention is still best.
There are lots of things we can do for ourselves – good food being as always a very important one which also happens to improve our health in other respects.
To prevent yourself from getting eye problems, or to alleviate them once you’ve got trouble, it is important to include these in your diet.
Lutein and zeaxanthin – in eggs (free range), coloured fruit, leafy green, spinach, kale, collard greens, cos, broccoli, sweetcorn, peas, Brussels, pumpkins, orange peppers, pistachio nuts, grapes.
Carotenoids are plant pigments responsible for bright red, yellow, orange and dark green hues – in for instance carrots, spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, red capsicums and oranges.
Vitamin A/beta-carotene – liver, egg; fruits/veg (carrots, pumpkin, squashes, spinach, kale, tomatoes).
It is important to combine lutein, carotenoids and vitamin A with fat like butter or olive oil, so our bodies can absorb the benefits.
Zinc – oysters, shellfish in general, meat/poultry, beans/peas, nuts/seeds, egg yolks, whole grains, cheese. Veg(etari)ans: see .
Vitamin C – we all know where they are: in fruit and veg, especially when eaten raw.
Vitamin E – in seeds/(pea)nuts, dark leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, plant oils, (shell)fish, pumpkin, avocado.
B-vitamins – vitamin B2 deficiency can lead to dimmed vision and red, itchy, burning eyes. In meat, cheese, almonds, mushrooms, spinach, marmite/brewer’s yeast, eggs, milk. This vitamin is damaged by light.
Vitamin B6 can prevent macular degeneration when taken with vitamin B12. It also improves absorption of magnesium, which helps production of tears. In nuts/seeds, fish, poultry/meat, dried fruit, capsicum, spinach, broccoli, marmite/brewer’s yeast, whole grains, beans/peas, potatoes in their skins.
Vitamin B12 lessens our chance of getting macular degeneration, when taken with B6. It also prevents glaucoma. In (shell)fish, liver, beef/poultry, marmite/brewer’s yeast, milk/yoghurt and eggs.
Omega 3 – in oily fish (sardines, mackerel, herring), walnuts, flax seed/oil and egg yolks. Brussels, kale, spinach, pumpkin, broccoli and watercress also have some, but in a less useful form.
See also .
ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION doesn’t help our eyesight at all. It drains our stores of critical vitamins and nutrients, like the above mentioned vitamin A and zinc. It also depletes supplies of B-complex vitamins, which can harm the liver , which converts beta-carotene into this vitamin A. See . Drinking alcohol also increases the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration .
And a minor effect can be dry or red eyes .
MACULAR DEGENERATION develops when the part of the eye responsible for central vision is unable to function as effectively as it used to. Reading becomes difficult, colours appear less vibrant and faces are hard to recognise. It is the leading cause of severe, irreversible vision loss in people over age 60, which is why they often speak of AMD, age-related macular degeneration.
There are two forms, the wet and the dry, the latter being most common . There is no treatment for the dry form, but a lot can be done with the proper food and supplements . The wet form cannot be cured, only slowed down, mainly with injections.
Very important, and not commonly known, is the damage done by so-called blue light, light with wavelengths shorter than 480 nanometer. Confusingly, actually it does not show as blue, but as sharp white. It is harmful because it can penetrate all the way to the back of the eye, through the eye’s natural filters. Blue light is nothing new, but the amount of exposure we get through digital devices and energy-saving lights has grown enormously. Artificial sources of blue light include smart phones, tablets, computers, Mp3 players and TV’s; CFL’s, LEDs or halogen, the so-called energy-efficient lightbulbs. The effects of these are cumulative, and macular degeneration can be the result .
Fortunately we can protect ourselves by wearing so-called blue-blockers, glasses (often fit-over ones) which block the harmful rays .
See also .
PS It’s interesting to read what we are supposed to go through when one of those suppose eco-friendly bulbs breaks – see !
Risk factors for cataracts are: a history of the condition in the family; smoking; over-exposing eyes to UV rays; regularly drinking too much alcohol; diabetes; eye surgery; corticosteroid medication
and a high intake of refined sugar.
When in the first stages of cataract formation, it is relatively easy to slow or stop the process. You can of course wait till they get worse, but a cataract operation, though common, is still an operation. And while most patients get good results; a small percentage are left worse off. And did you know that up to 3% of those who have had cataract surgery will in future develop a detached retina?
If you decide to try and do something yourself to protect your eyesight, remember that this will benefit the rest of your body also.
So what can you do at this moment?
In the first place, follow the above advise about food. Lutein and zeaxanthin; vitamin B1, B2, C and vitamin E are excellent. Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful anti-oxidant – in organ meats and spinach, but you can have a supplement as well. Glutathione, another strong antioxidant, is produced in our body. Production is boosted by eating: asparagus, broccoli, avocado, spinach, garlic, grapefruit, squash, potatoes, courgettes, watermelon, strawberries, fish, meat, eggs, brazils, seafood, and sunflower seeds.
The herbs are bilberry and gingko also help. And see .
All sites seem to agree that regular mild exercise is important to prevent glaucoma, and so is diet, see above. Smoking, caffeine and white sugar are out again, I’m afraid. For details see .
And here are some suggestions of natural remedies you can try for minor complaints.
There are various types of eye infections you can get: blepharitis, styes, red eye/conjunctivitis, pink eye, dry eyes etc. For some useful sites, see .
Keep your eyes in constant movement. Roll your eyes upwards, downwards, sideways and in circular motions for a few minutes at regular intervals . And, apparently, the brain ignores floaters faster if you gaze at the moon for just five minutes every night. Easily said ….
DRY EYES – see .
PUFFY EYES – see .
YELLOW EYES – see .
RED/PINK EYES/CONJUNCTIVITIS – see .
UNDER EYE BAGS – see .
EYESTRAIN – see .
STYES – see .
COMPUTER VISION – see .
TWITCH see – .
And did you know rubbing your eyes is bad for them? Personally, when they itch, I massage the corners with saliva …. .
direct: beet, calabrese, carrots (though June sowings get less rootfly), french/runner beans, kohlrabi, lettuce, sweetcorn, swede, salsify/scorzonera, spring onions, spinach (beet), courgettes, marrows, pumpkins, (sugar) peas. If pea moth’s a problem, wait till mid May.
in seedbed to transplant: leeks, cabbage, cauli, sprouting broccoli (early May), kale.
in trays: beans, courgettes, cucumbers, melon, pumpkins, pepper, sweetcorn, tomatoes.
plant out: cauli; cucumbers, marrows, pumpkins, tomatoes, squashes late May.
Green manure: if you have space, do it now. See www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/soil_growgreenmanure1.shtml.
veg: spring greens, cabbage, spinach, chard, cauli, salad leaves/lettuce, radish, rocket, asparagus, sorrel, watercress, rhubarb, seakale.
herbs: chives, parsley, mint, lovage, summer savoury and chervil.
wild food: broom buds, chives, dandelions, fat hen, hogweed shoots, hop shoots, meadowsweet, sea spinach, sorrel, watercress, wild fennel, wild garlic, wild rocket, samphire.
game: wood pigeon, lamb, mutton, guinea fowl, rabbit, duck.
60g young nettles, weighed after stripping from the stalks, 1 large onion, 50g butter, 2 largeish potatoes, 1l water, 2 tblsp creme fraiche, seasoning, nutmeg.
Wash nettles. Melt butter and simmer chopped onion until golden. Add nettles and chopped potatoes, cook for 2-3 mins. Add water, simmer for 20 mins. Liquidize. Add seasoning plus grated nutmeg, serve with creme fraiche.
CREAMY MASHED POTATOES with GOAT’S CHEESE and FRESH SAGE
900g potatoes cut into 2cm cubes, 140g soft goat cheese, 60ml sour cream or whole milk, 2 tblsp butter, 4 tsp chopped sage, sage sprigs.
Cook potatoes in salted water until tender; drain. Add cheese, milk and butter; mash. Mix in sage; season. Garnish with fresh sage sprigs.
This can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm slowly, and thin with more milk, if it is too thick.
SPRING GREENS with ANCHOVIES, CREME FRAICHE, LEMON and PINE NUTS
Spring greens, anchovies, garlic, balsamic vinegar, creme fraiche, lemon juice, pine nuts, salt, pepper.
Dry toast pine nuts. Remove stems from the cabbage and chop. Chop garlic. Drop both into boiling salted water for 6 mins. Drain, save liquid for stock. Melt at least 4-5 anchovies in some of their oil and maybe a little bit more olive oil. Cook gently until they break down and soften. Add balsamic vinegar, some lemon juice and plenty of creme fraiche and freshly ground pepper. Tip greens into the mix and stir to warm and coat it. Put on mashed potatoes, pine nuts on top, serve immediately.
BUTTERY SPRING GREENS with CREME FRAICHE
500g spring greens, 200g peas (weighed after podding), 35g butter, 4 tbsp crème fraîche, ginger.
Put chopped cabbage in boiling salted water; 5 mins later, peas. After 5 more mins, drain. Add ginger. Saute drained veg in butter for ab. 5 mins, stir in crème fraîche, season, serve.
PASTA DIFFERENT for 1 to ???
Lots of shredded greens like cabbage, (frozen) peas, pasta, easy-to-cook meat like mince, sausage or bacon; basil, (cream cheese), spices, seasoning.
Prepare the vegetables, and heat slightly salted water. When it boils, throw in the pasta and veg, which should take roughly the same time to cook. If the peas are frozen, add them a bit later. If you use sausages or bacon, cut in ab. 1” pieces, then fry.
When the veg/pasta mix is done, pour off the water (good for soup!) and add the mix to the frying meat. Stir; season; add basil and spice it up, chilli is good. Also, or instead of the meat, mix in some cream cheese if you like, make sure it melts.
FISH CAKES, 4 patties
1 tin (ab 112g) mackerel, ab. 120ml. cold mashed potatoes, small minced onion, 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, 1 small egg, beaten, 1/8 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, flour, oil.
Sauté the onion till soft but not burned. Take out of the pan and mix with fish, mash, egg, lemon juice and seasoning. Shape into patties. Dredge in flour, fry about 10 minutes or until brown, turn once. Drain well.
SPAGHETTI alla PUTANESCA
Dried spaghetti for 4, 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle, 8 chopped anchovy fillets, 3 chopped garlic cloves, chilli flakes/powder, 1 tsp dried oregano, 400g can chopped tomatoes, large handful black olives, 1 tbsp roughly chopped capers, (large handful fresh basil).
Cook the pasta al dente. Heat the oil, throw in the anchovies and sizzle for 2 minutes until they’ve broken down. Add garlic, chilli and oregano and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tomatoes, increase the heat and bubble for 3-5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Stir in olives and capers. Drain the pasta, leaving a bit of water coating the strands, then tip into the sauce. Stir, add some olive oil and mix while heating it thoroughly. Serve straight away with fresh basil if you have any.
1-PAN VEGETARIAN CURRY, serves 3-4
For the flavour base:
3 tblsp cooking oil, 1 large diced onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tblsp curry powder, 1 tsp allspice powder, 1 tsp nutmeg powder/1/2 tsp freshly grated, 1 1/2 tsp paprika, 2 tsp dried thyme leaves/3 tsp fresh, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp black.
For the curry:
360ml potatoes cut in 1.2-centimeter cubes, 2×400-gram drained tins chickpeas (keep the water), 400-gram tin of diced tomatoes, 480ml (chickpea) water, 2 sliced shallots, chopped parsley, salt.
Heat the oil, add the first lot of ingredients and cook for 3 minutes until the onion is translucent. Then add the potatoes and cook for 2 more minutes. If the spices start to stick to the bottom, add a tiny splash of water. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, and water. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked, and the sauce has thickened. Adjust salt. Stir in the shallots and parsley. Serve with rice, or add just a little bit more potatoes for a full meal.
Next month: did you know?
 In 2007 I was diagnosed with dry macular degeneration – the form which is supposedly incurable. The optician told me it was good to eat kale, and …………… by that I did some more research. This is when I found that important nutrients to fight MD are lutein, vitamins C and E, beta carotene and zinc (and if you take lots of zinc you should take copper as well).
Lutein, as well as many other nutrients, is abundantly in kale. In general, dark leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables are excellent. Kale and marigold tea have been my standby ever since. I bought blublocker glasses and still use them when watching the computer, the tv and
in a car when faced with unpleasant headlights. Online you can get blueblockers to wrap around your prescription glasses from £40 at www.optimalowvision.co.uk. Click on anti-glare spectacles and make sure you choose one with blue-blocking filter. Or order ‘wraparound fitovers’ via Robert Frith (www.frithsopticians.co.uk) opticians in Devon or Somerset.
I managed to get rid of my macular degeneration entirely by these means, plus some acupuncture treatments. You might not be so lucky, but you certainly can do a lot yourself to prevent it getting worse.