Some say that “the eyes are the windows to the soul”. Others say it’s to the world.
Like other organs the eyes need to be fed, so its important to know the good foods for the eyes.
Most people are born with excellent eyesight but find that as they age, their vision deteriorate. Once the eyesight begins to fail, it appears that the only solution is corrective lenses – for those who can afford them.
Few of us know how our eyes work. We are happy just knowing that we can see.
Whether near or far-sighted, the Ophthalmologist, optometrist and at times the Optician, soon become your professional friends. You give up care of your eyes to them and take their word for it when they make pronouncement on your visual health.
You prepare for darkness one day enveloping your world.
But does it have to be that way, or are there foods that can help maintain eye health?
Also, are there foods that can help you regain your sight?
Let’s first look at what contributes to the deterioration of your eyes and therefore your vision.
Anatomy of the eye
Your eye is a unique organ and one of if not the most delicate of the body.
It gathers information in a way that is not fully understood and that information is stored in the brain. Various components of the eye together make this possible.
Some knowledge of this very important organ may help you save your own eyesight and that of others.
Beginning at the front we can easily see the cornea, then there is the anterior chamber, iris, pupil, posterior chamber, lens, conjunctiva, ciliary body and muscle, vitreous body, retinal blood vessels, macula, retina and optical nerve.
There is also the sclera and choroid plus what is commonly known as the blind spot.
Here’s a brief outline of their function in no special order.
- The Cornea – that clear substance that covers the ball of the eye. It helps in the transmission and focusing of light into the eye.
- The anterior chamber – lies between the cornea and the iris. It is filled with a fluid called aqueous humor.
- The Iris – is that colored part of the eye that helps control how much light is allowed into the eye.
- The pupil – is that small dark circle in the center of the iris. It determines how much light enters the eye.
- The sclera – the white part of the eye. It gives the eyeball its shape.
- The posterior chamber – that narrow space between the iris and the lens. It is also filled with aqueous humor.
- The lens – lies behind the pupil and focuses the light entering the eye unto the retina.
- The retina – is the layer at the back of the eye that is covered with nerve endings. It senses the light focused on it and transmits it via electrical impulses to the optic nerve. The nerve takes it to the brain.
- The conjunctiva – is a clear, thin membrane that covers part of the front of the eye and extends to the inside of the eyelid. It keeps the eyes moist and protects it from dust and other foreign particles.
- The ciliary body and muscles – the ciliary body produces the aqueous humor for the eye while the muscles determines the shape of the eye depending on which is relaxed and which contracts. This is important to remember as we look at the different common eye problems that people face.
- The vitreous body – is that clear substance like jelly that fills the eye ball between the lens and the retina.
- The retinal blood vessels – these are the blood vessels that supply the eye/retina with oxygen and nourishment for its proper functioning.
- The macula – An area on the retina containing cells that highly sensitive to light. It allows us to observe finer details distinctly.
- The optical nerve – this is the nerve that carries all electrical impulses to the brain. Messages are received at the visual cortex of the brain.
Diseases of the eye
A survey was recently done with the main question being: If you had to lose all of your senses except one, which would you prefer to keep? Approximately 88% wanted to keep their eyesight.
It is estimated that there are 37 million blind people across the world. Of that amount, 17 million can be found in India. It is believed that about 75% of these can be avoided with the right treatment.
Medically, there are eye disorders and eye diseases. Here are some common ones.
The disorders are as follows:
- Vision impairment
- Macula degeneration
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Dry eye syndrome
These disorders/diseases affect the eye in different ways but all can lead to visual impairment and or blindness. So let’s take a brief, simplified look at each one.
Glucoma is caused by an increase in the pressure of the liquid (vitreous body) within the eye.
Visual impairment is the almost total loss of vision. You may have partial vision in one eye and none in the other or percentages of sight in each eye but not clear focused vision.
Cataract is the progressive deterioration of the lens of the eyes that results in your vision becoming blurred and if not attended to, ends in blindness.
Blindness is the total loss of vision in both eyes. You are unable to see even light.
Macula degeneration is the gradual destruction of the central part of the retina, called the macula. The cause is not fully understood but one identified cause is the clumping of cellular debris within the eye that may lead to death of cells in the retina.
Diabetic Retinopathy is the damage of the retina ( that part of the eye that is sensitive to the light reaching it via the lens). The damage occurs as a result of the degeneration of the blood vessels that supply blood to the retina due to diabetes.
Dry eye Syndrome is the result of a lack of enough lubrication on the eye’s surface. This may result in eye irritation and when you rub the eyes, inflammation may occur.
Retinopathy is the damage to the blood vessels of the retina. Unlike in the case of diabetic retinopathy, a person does not have to have diabetes to experience this damage. It may be brought on by high blood pressure instead.
How the eyes are treated
I am yet to hear someone say that they went to the doctor or ophthalmologist and was told what foods to eat to maintain or improve eye health.
The standard treatment for eye problems is eye glasses, medication and surgery; depending on the problem. Laser surgery is becoming more and more popular but is not guaranteed to restore 20-20 vision.
Some people and specialists are reporting that over time, you will still need a pair of spectacles. So basically it just delays what seems inevitable.
Let’s take a simplified view of how the issues we identified above are treated.
Glaucoma: is usually treated with either eye drops, tablets/pills, laser surgery or regular surgery. At times the ophthalmologist may use a combination of one or more method. The success of the chosen method depends on how early the problem is detected.
The drugs used can have side effects on you though, so you may be adding to your problems. This is whether you are using eye drops or pills.
Laser surgery is being touted to be the most accurate and successful method of treating glaucoma today. Even so, its use may not totally eliminate the need for pills or drops.
The next option is normal surgery which, if successful, still sees about 50% of patients needing to continue on medication. Don’t forget the side effects of the drugs.
Vision impairment: the treatment of this problem – as with all the others – would depend on your age, other physical problems, its cause and the degree of the impairment.
In some countries, you have to be certified as being visually impaired and if so – then there is some assistance given.
It may also mean the loss of your permit to drive a motor vehicle if you used to do so.
If your impairment is as a result of other physical problems affecting the eye, these problems are addressed. It may result in surgery, the use of glasses and or hand held magnifiers. Eye drops may also be prescribed, depending on the cause along with other drugs.
Cataract – if discovered early, may be treated with by prescribing you with eyeglasses if you have never had any, or new ones if you were already using them.
You may be encouraged to use improved lighting within your home or office and according to how it affects your eyes, your glasses may be fitted with anti-glare protection. Magnifying lens may also be an option.
If all these fail, surgery is the only other option presented, where the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one. This type of surgery is on the increase and is said to be about 90% successful.
Care must be taken after surgery that the eye do not become infected by using unwashed hands to touch the eyes when applying the eye drops. An infected eye may result in total loss of vision.
As with other treatment, drugs will be prescribed to aid in the healing process. They all have their side effects. Ask about them before you do any procedure.
Blindness: If someone you know is blind, then the mode of treatment chosen for him would depend on what caused his blindness. Accurate diagnosis here, is important. It may not result in the reversal of total blindness just by a change of diet. Medical intervention may be necessary as well.
Macula degeneration is most times age related and comes in two forms according to the ophthalmologists, wet and dry. The treatment used will be largely determined by the type of degeneration you are experiencing.
Though some schools say there is no cure, others are reporting that progress have been made that is seeing the reversal of the problem in some cases.
The treatment used is also drug related via injections into the eye or a combination of laser treatment to seal off the leaking blood vessels (wet degeneration) and injections to bring healing.
In 2010, the FDA approved a tiny device that can be implanted in the eye that, it is promised, will improve the vision of those who suffer from AMD and are approved for its use.
Diabetic retinopathy is treated based on what is revealed when examined by your doctor. Advice on controlling your diabetes may be given for this is a major player in this particular eye problem.
Medication may be used as one of the forms of treatment, depending on how far the problem has developed. This would involve the injecting of the drug the ophthalmologist thinks is most suited to reverse the problem.
If that does not halt or reverse the case, then laser surgery or – in more advanced stages – a vitrectomy is done. This involves the removal of blood and vitreous fluid from the back of the eye.
Dry eye syndrome treatment is based on the cause of the problem and how severe it is. One type of treatment may be chosen or a combination, depending on cause and severity.
These may vary from eye drops, to a medicated lubricant to the implanting of a small device that helps with preventing the draining of tears away for the eyes.
Of course there is the old way of using a warm compress on the eyes to stimulate the flow of lubricant to the eyes. This may be one of the safest way to achieve the moistening of the eyes.
Retinopathy may also result if you suffer from high blood pressure. In this case, the treatment would basically be similar to that of the person suffering with diabetic retinopathy except that emphasis would be placed on lowing your blood pressure.
Your medication then, would take into consideration that you are hypertensive instead of diabetic.
Foods that help the eyes
In spite of the failure of specialists to recommend foods for the healing, improvement and maintenance of eye health, there are foods that can be eaten to prevent loss of site.
Some may help target some of the degeneration of the eyesight while others help bring healing and restoration of it.
Besides oxygen, the eyes require just a few other nutrients in order to be able to carry out the complex function it performs as long as we live and open them.
These substances are: vitamin A, vitamin C and E and carotenoids.
In the cells of the retina can be found light sensitive pigments called rhodopsin. Vitamin A is responsible for the formation of rhodopsin. It also helps keep the conjunctiva moist.
This vitamin can be found in apricots, sweet potato, carrots, kale, collards, mangoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, papaya and pink or red grapefruit, to name a few.
Though it can also be found in animal products, I do not list them since they would be second hand and come with all the hazards that consuming meat brings.
Carotenoids are great antioxidants and in the case of the eyes, it helps prevent macula degeneration of the retina.
If you are a lover or user of oranges, then you are getting carotenoids there. Other foods that you can eat to get your supply are: carrots, pumpkin, winter squash, peaches, carambolas, sweet potatoes, mangoes and nectarines. This is not and exhaustive list.
It can be seen that some of the same food used for vitamin A will also give carotenoids.
When the eyes lack vitamin C and E, it results in cataracts and later loss of vision. These vitamins are also found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains.
Oranges are also a great source of vitamin C while vitamin E can be found in sunflower seeds. It is also contained in almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, mamey sepote, avocado and red sweet pepper when eaten raw.
Other sources of vitamin C are cauliflower, broccoli, green and red peppers, tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, sweet potato and brussels sprouts.
All these foods may be easily found in your neighborhood groceries and or supermarket. It’s abundant yet temperate use can help ensure that a visit to the optometrist/optician is a very pleasant one.
Just as taking of the right type of food can contribute to good eye health, so too there are foods that you need to stop using if you wish to prevent or reverse loss of your eyesight.
Using some of these foods may result is specific and direct damage to the eyes.
For example, it is believed that caffeine can contribute to the increase of the pressure in the eye that results in glaucoma. It is therefore recommended that coffee be removed from your diet.
Other foods to stay away from to reduce your risk of losing your eyesight due to glaucoma are, trans-fatty acids and excessive protein.
Dairy products have been fingered as possible contributors to cataracts. They should be reduced or better yet, totally avoided. Fat, butter and salt can also be added to that list.
So there you have it, foods that contribute to healthy eyes. Most of them are foods that you will or can enjoy eating. Those that should be avoided would prove beneficial to your overall health. You will not/ should not, miss them.
Unhealthful foods and drinks cause impure blood, and when the circulation carries impure blood to the eyes it weakens them. The all-important thing is to eat food that will give you a pure bloodstream. Kloss, J., Back to Eden.
Take care of your eyes
The old adage still holds, “prevention is better than cure”. Unless you were born blind or became so as a result of a traumatic experience, the treatment of your body determines even the health of your eyes.
Eating the right foods – and you will notice that though the eyes do not call for much, what it needs is specific – goes a long way in determining how long you continue to enjoy healthy 20/20 vision.
In all areas of life and a healthy lifestyle, balance is necessary. So too with the maintenance of vision. Thus, to eating right must be added exercise, water, sunlight, temperance, air, rest and trust in God, the one who so carefully designed this our window to both the world and the soul.
The alternative is having to use that which is artificial and that can never adequately replace the original. At the same time, many of the methods used, to restorative to an extent sometimes, leave at times, harmful side effects.
Since we eat every day, how about finding good food for the eyes and making them an important part of your diet. You will always see positive results from such a decision. Try it.