Holistic Health Newsletter: Herbal Remedies to Help with Cataracts
This special herbal newsletter covers aging eyesight, and how to aid your eyesight when dealing with problems
Also learn about some positive press about Vitamin D while learning how to to improve your eyesight
What is a Cataract?
When cataracts are mentioned, people often think of a film that grows on their eyes causing
them to see double or blurred images. However, a cataract does not form on the eye, but rather within the
A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens, the part of the eye responsible for focusing light and
producing clear, sharp images. The lens is contained in a sealed bag or capsule. As old cells die they become
trapped within the capsule. Over time, the cells accumulate causing the lens to cloud, making images look
blurred or fuzzy. For most people, cataracts are a natural result of aging.
In fact, they are the leading cause of visual loss among adults 55 and older. Eye injuries, certain medications,
and diseases such as diabetes and alcoholism have also been known to cause cataracts.
I Only Have Eyes For You, Dear
Now that you have shared a few milestone anniversaries with the love of your life, are you still able to focus
clearly on your relationship? Meaning can you see your partner as well as when you first met or does your
vision seem to be diminishing?
Cataracts and age-related
macular degeneration (AMD) are the two leading causes of blindness and visual impairment for millions
of aging Americans, with 40 being the age when vision changes start to occur. In fact, cataracts and
age-related macular degeneration are both key quality of life issues as the aging process forges ahead.
More than 12 million Americans suffer from cataracts while approximately 10 million Americans suffer from
early signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Almost a half million people have significant visual
loss from late-stage AMD.
Cataract extractions are the most common surgical procedure performed in the United States, according to the
American Optometry Association (AOA), accounting for more than two million procedures a year. It has been
estimated that if the progression of cataracts could be delayed by 10 years, the number of cataract extraction
surgeries per year would be reduced by 45 percent.
Focus on Prevention
Both the severity and irreversibility of cataracts and AMD have generated interest in ways to either prevent
or delay their progression. Nutrition is one promising means of protecting the eyes from these diseases.
In fact, according to the AOA, many optometrists are now expanding their traditional role to include nutrition.
Promising studies have suggested that six nutrients, all antioxidants, are associated with maintaining eye
Antioxidants and Cataracts Research
Some recent studies, compiled by the American Optometry Association, compared dietary and supplemental intake
of antioxidant vitamins with development of cataracts. Many of these studies have shown that antioxidant
vitamins may decrease the development or progression of this disease. Following are some of the results:
The Nutrition and Vision Project found that higher intakes of vitamin C led to a reduced risk for cortical
and nuclear cataracts. Results also showed that people who used vitamin C and E supplements for more than
10 years had decreased progression of nuclear cataracts.
A recent analysis of results from a national dietary study (Second National Health and Nutrition Examination
Survey) found that higher levels of vitamin C in the diet were associated with lower risk of cataracts.
In the Nurses’ Health Study, the need for cataract surgery was lower among women who used vitamin C supplements
for 10 years or longer.
The Roche European American Cataract Trial found that an antioxidant supplement with vitamins C and E and
beta-carotene lead to a small decrease in the progression of cataracts in less than three years.
In the Longitudinal Study of Cataract, vitamin E supplement use for at least a year was associated with a
reduced risk of nuclear cataracts becoming more severe.
The five year follow-up to the Beaver Dam Eye Study showed a reduced risk for nuclear and cortical cataracts
among people using multivitamins or any supplement containing vitamins C and E.
Antioxidants and AMD Research
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study from the National Eye Institute (NEI) is the first large clinical trial
to test the effect of a high dose antioxidant vitamin combination plus zinc on preventing or delaying the
progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and its associated vision loss. The antioxidant vitamins
and zinc supplement reduced the risk of developing advanced AMD by about 25 percent in the study of subjects
who were at high risk for developing the advanced stage of this disease. In the same high-risk group, the
supplements also reduced vision loss by 19 percent. The doses tested were:
- 500 milligrams (mg) vitamin C
- 400 IU vitamin E
- 15 mg beta-carotene
- 80 mg zinc
- 2 mg copper (to prevent anemia from high dose zinc)
According to researchers, this supplement combination is the first effective treatment to slow the progression
The NEI concluded that persons older than 55, with signs of intermediate to late vision loss due to AMD,
should consider taking a supplement such as that used in this trial.
Effective treatment can delay progression
to advanced AMD in about 300,000 people who are at high risk.
Consider Supplements – Herb Remedy
Given the positive association between nutrition and cataracts and AMD, it seems prudent for people to increase
the amount of certain antioxidants in
the diet, says the American Optometry Association. Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day
as currently recommended by the National Cancer Institute and U.S. Department of Agriculture can provide
more than 100 mg vitamin C – that is if they are wise choices of fruits and vegetables. Eating two servings
of nuts and seeds can provide 8-14 mg vitamin E (11.9-20.8 IU).
However, the majority of people in the United States are not eating five servings of fruits and vegetables
and good food sources of vitamin E each day. In the studies referenced here, levels associated with a benefit
were considerably higher than the current average intake. If you find it difficult to increase the level
of these antioxidants in your diet, multivitamin/mineral and eye
health supplements containing these antioxidants are available.
Other Helpful Hints
Although it is best to consult information relative to each particular eye problem for condition-specific
suggestions, there are some overall steps people can take to enhance eye health, in addition to nutrition.
- Protect the eyes from overexposure to sunlight and wind to help keep eyes looking and feeling their best.
- Drink plenty of water to keep the eyes hydrated.
- Avoid tobacco smoke and other irritants.
- Avoid eye fatigue and strain, get plenty of rest and take frequent breaks when reading or working at
Many studies have been conducted in pursuit of surgical alternatives for cataracts and macular degeneration.
Here are some findings and suggestions as to why you may want to consider using them:
Acid Complex plus Glutathione are
powerful antioxidants that protect the lenses of the eyes.
Multivitamin and Mineral Complex with Selenium provides
all the nutrients necessary to keep the body and eyes in balance.
A is necessary for proper eye function.
Vitamin B Complex is needed for intercellular eye metabolism.
Vitamin C with bioflavonoids reduces
Bilberry extract improves daytime and nighttime vision.
Consider taking fish
oil or cod
liver oil regularly. A fat found in fish called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may help protect and promote
healthy retinal function (oil is suggested over fish because of toxic mercury levels often found in fish).
DHA is concentrated in the eye’s retina and has been found to be particularly useful in preventing macular
Add lutein-rich foods to your diet. Some excellent sources include kale, collard greens, spinach, broccoli,
brussel sprouts and egg yolks. It is important to note that lutein is an oil-soluble nutrient, and if you
consume vegetables without some oil or butter you can’t absorb the lutein.
Eat dark colored berries. They contain compounds that are good for your health. The European blueberry, bilberry,
specifically is known to prevent and perhaps even reverse macular degeneration. While bioflavonoids from
other dark-colored berries including blueberries and cranberries work by strengthening the capillaries that
carry nutrients to eye muscles and nerves. You can either eat berries whole or as supplements.
Avoid trans fat. Trans fat may interfere with omega
3 fats in your body, which are extremely important for eye health. Trans fat is found in many processed
foods and baked goods, including margarine; shortening; fried foods like french fries, fried chicken
and doughnuts; cookies; pastries and crackers.
bark, cayenne (capsicum), red
raspberry leaves and the herbal tincture, wolfberry,
are also believed to be beneficial.
by Patti Kantor
New Findings About Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been earning some positive press lately, thanks to recent studies that have shown it may be
beneficial in lowering the risk of multiple
sclerosis, as well as the risk of rheumatoid
arthritis and colon cancer.
This new found awareness about the benefits of vitamin D is, no doubt, good news to members of The Vitamin
D Council – a panel of national researchers whose mission is to “end needless death and disability from
vitamin D deficiency.”
Vitamin D: What is it?
D, calciferol, is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is found in food, but also can be made in the body after
exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. The major biologic function of vitamin D is to maintain normal
blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form
and maintain strong bones. It promotes bone mineralization in concert with a number of other vitamins,
minerals and hormones. Without vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, soft, or misshapen. Vitamin
D prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, which are skeletal diseases that result in
defects that weaken bones.
The Vitamin D Council has been very concerned about vitamin D deficiencies. In fact, council member and professor
Robert Heaney of Creighton University, Omaha, Neb., recently wrote, “The cost of vitamin D deficiency,
while yet to be fully reckoned, may well be massive.” The council has been trying to create awareness
and these new studies may just be the springboard they needed.
Vitamin D and MS
In the first study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass., assessed the relationship
between vitamin D intake in women and the risk of developing multiple
sclerosis (MS). Researchers found that women with the highest intake of vitamin D through supplement
use had a 40-percent lower risk of developing MS as compared to women who did not use supplements.
According to Harvard Medical School’s Consumer Health Information web site, while vitamin D deficiency in
children has become rare, it is becoming common in adults – especially older Caucasian women. Although vitamin
D can be derived from food sources it can also come from the sun. In fact, according to the Harvard researchers,
just spending 15 minutes daily in the sun can convert enough vitamin D in your skin to the active form to
help keep bones strong. However, women living in northern climates often become vitamin D deficient in the
winter (and those who avoid the sun for fear of skin cancer might run low all year long). Without adequate
vitamin D, calcium absorption suffers, leading to thinner bones.
This study found that vitamin D taken as a supplement was more important than sun exposure and dietary sources.
Other researchers, however, have indicated that getting vitamin D in food as well is also important. Good
dietary sources of vitamin D include cod
liver oil, which has 1360 IU of vitamin D per tablespoon; salmon, which has 425 IU per 3-ounce serving;
herring and sardines. It has been suggested that we heed the advice of both findings. By using food products
that have vitamin D added as well as supplements, one can be sure not to be deficient. A typical multivitamin
has 400 IU, while an 8-ounce glass of milk or fortified orange juice has about 100 international units (IU)
of vitamin D. For those not overly fond of milk, spice it up by adding chai,
better yet try chai
The recommended intake of adequate amounts of vitamin
D depends on a person’s age. Those between 19 to 50 should have at least 200 IU, those 51-69 should
consume 400 IU, while those over 70 should consume 600 IU a day.
Vitamin D and Arthritis
The latest research linking vitamin D to rheumatoid
arthritis drew on data from the Iowa Women’s Health Study, which followed almost 30,000 women, ages
55 to 69, for 11 years. Over the course of the study, which is reported in the January 2004 issue of
the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, the women were questioned about eating habits, use of nutritional
supplements, and other health-related issues. During the study, 152 of the women developed rheumatoid
Women whose diets were highest in vitamin D had the lowest incidence of rheumatoid arthritis. While women
who had less than 200 IU of vitamin D in their diets each day were 33 percent more likely to develop rheumatoid
arthritis than women who got more. The association remained significant even after researchers adjusted for
other suspected rheumatoid arthritis risk factors, like smoking. And even though many foods with vitamin
D are also high in calcium, the vitamin’s protective effect seemed to be independent of how much calcium
the women consumed.
The link between higher intake of vitamin D and lower incidences of multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis
raises the possibility that vitamin D may have some anti-inflammatory qualities. While this remains speculative,
it has been predicted that new studies will result from the association.
In the meantime, other recent studies have linked deficiencies of vitamin D to disorders such as certain cancers,
like colon cancer, heart
disease, diabetes and
even unexplained pain. While the studies are far from conclusive, researcher Michael Holick, MD, Boston (Mass.)
University, has been reported to say there is every reason to believe that the vitamin D supplement plays
a much bigger role in disease prevention than has been recognized.
by Patti Kantor – Find more information about Vitamin
D, along with information on all the forementioned ailments and natural herbal remedies and products