Wholefood as Medicine For Your Eyes, (and there’s more to cucumber than a day at the spa!)

Wholefood as Medicine For Your Eyes, (and there’s more to cucumber than a day at the spa!)

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Today’s article is an effort to aggregate a few pieces of information related to wholefood nutritional/medicinal care, maintenance and healing of your eyes.  Many articles out there and many papers talk about various nutrients that aid in general eye maintenance, or prevent various eye conditions, or slow the progression of eye conditions, but these articles often waffle between sharing only the nutrients, or only the foods, and don’t stay true to one or the other in their presentations.  One article I read claimed to share several nutrients, but their headings and discussions didn’t always share those nutrients, sharing herbs instead that were known to be beneficial, but for reasons not yet uncovered.  Many articles encourage the taking of supplements, only sharing the foods the nutrient can be found in as a kind of tack-on to the conversation.

My aggregation then, will attempt to share one or more foods that have been known to, or researched to either prevent, slow, treat or manage a wide range of eye conditions.

I will begin with sharing examples of foods that contain nutrients known to be highly beneficial to the eye in general, and then move on to the food versus condition list.  This section contains all the research links!

The two biggest categories of nutrient eye health, are foods containing carotenoids, and foods containing antioxidants.  I’ve run across various article authors who have labelled carotenoids as antioxidants instead, while other authors labelled them in reverse, so as I’d been building my database from papers, studies, and articles written by doctors, herbalists, and other naturopathic practices, I decided to research this further to be sure everyone had their terms straight!  As it turns out, while all carotenoids are antioxidants, many antioxidants are NOT carotenoids!  Those authors who don’t make that delineation give the wrong impression and can cause confusion for those who need proper term usage.

deepfreeze and pumpkinsLutein for example, is often mentioned as an antioxidant when in reality, it is a carotenoid with antioxidant properties, and those properties are highly beneficial to the eye.  Foods containing Lutein include: Apricots, Blueberries, Carrots, Cherries, Eggs, Pumpkin, Saffron, Spinach and Tomatoes.

Zeaxanthin, another carotenoid listed by herbal optometrists and scientists as being helpful for the eye, has a similar list of foods:  Blueberry, cherry, chokecherry, eggs, kale, pumpkin, saffron, and sweet pepper, to name a few.

Astaxanthin is another carotenoid necessary for eye health.  Astaxanthin is found in beets, cherries, salmon, trout, peppers, raspberries, saffron, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelon.

Saffron shows up in various lists due to its list of carotenoids that include:  Alpha-Carotene, Astazanthin, Lutein, Lycopene, and Zeaxanthin.  It was known in ancient times as the herb of choice to treat various eye conditions by the doctors of the day.  Due to how expensive this spice is, it is good to know the other sources from which these carotenoids can be utilized.

Lycopene for example, is also found in watermelon.

Incidentally, if you eat for the health of your eyes, you stand a good chance of staving off or even reversing various forms of dementia.  This may be due to the neuroprotective nature of many of the antioxidants as well as other nutrients in these foods.

Carotenoids, antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, and vitamins K and K2 alongside vitamin D, Vitamin B2, B3, and B9 (folate) are very important alongside zinc, which is best found in bio-available form in red meat.  Omega-3’s, particularly the EPA variant, have been studied to be of excellent benefit to the eyes and are best found in fish, or purslane.

Vitamin C in high doses has been known to successfully treat various conditions by doctors who used it on their patients. In this article, the list of successes includes glaucoma, and there are additional resources linked for further research.

On the need to boost rhodopsin in the retina, we have this excerpt from a paper published in Molecular Pharmacology, vol 99, Issue 1, January 1, 2021:

From the Abstract:

“Degeneration of photoreceptors caused by excessive illumination, inherited mutations, or aging is the principal pathology of blinding diseases. Pharmacological compounds that stabilize the visual receptor rhodopsin and modulate the cellular pathways triggering death of photoreceptors could avert this pathology. Interestingly, flavonoids can modulate the cellular processes, such as oxidative stress, inflammatory responses, and apoptosis, that are activated during retinal degeneration. As we found previously, flavonoids also bind directly to unliganded rhodopsin, enhancing its folding, stability, and regeneration. In addition, flavonoids stimulate rhodopsin gene expression. Thus, we evaluated the effect of two main dietary flavonoids, quercetin and myricetin”

An Eyecare clinic in Arizona wrote this list of their top 10 foods to prevent common eye health concerns.

A health and wellness company out of San Fransisco and New York, hires various writers for their articles, and one Registered Dietician wrote this article on her top 11 foods for maintaining your eyesight.

Mercola has written several articles on nutrients that benefit eye health as well, and included notes on eye health in other articles. Some of these include

“…some of ginkgo’s benefits are thought to be as follows:

– Decreases leg pain caused by narrowing of your arteries (intermittent claudication)
– Treats eye problems, such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic eye issues and glaucoma
– Supports the treatment of multiple sclerosis, sexual dysfunction and tinnitus, among other health conditions
– Ginkgo is believed to positively affect your body by increasing blood supply, reducing blood viscosity, boosting neurotransmitters and reducing harmful free radicals”
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“Vitamin A — An estimated 51% of adults are not consuming enough vitamin A, increasing their risk of degenerative diseases like macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. — and the third leading cause of blindness globally (after cataracts and glaucoma)”

“Vitamin E — Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that acts as a sink for the many reactive oxygen species in your body. Vitamin E is also neuroprotective, helping to protect your eyes from glaucoma, and needed by your body to boost immune function and widen blood vessels to keep blood from clotting.

But many Americans do not consume enough vitamin E-rich foods, putting them at risk of deficiency. You can find vitamin E in nuts and seeds, as well as spinach and broccoli. Remember that antioxidant supplements such as vitamin E are fat-soluble and best taken with a fatty meal”
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“Removing high fructose corn syrup from your diet — High blood pressure can damage the small blood vessels in your retina, obstructing blood flow, and a key strategy to normalize your blood pressure is to dramatically reduce your fructose intake.

High sugar intake is also a primary culprit of elevated blood sugar readings. High blood sugar not only obstructs blood flow by damaging blood vessels in your retina but also pulls fluid from the lens of your eye, which can affect your ability to focus. As a general guide, I recommend keeping your total daily fructose consumption below 25 grams a day, including fructose from fruit.

• Eating your veggies — Consuming high amounts of carotenoid-rich vegetables, especially ones rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, can encourage healthy vision.

• Boosting your omega-3 fat intake — Omega-3 fats protect healthy vision. Good sources include wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines and anchovies. If you use a supplement, I recommend krill oil, which also contains astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant.”

“Aside from lutein and zeaxanthin, astaxanthin is one of the best antioxidants for eye health. It’s been shown to protect against a number of eye-related problems, including age-related macular degeneration, which is the No. 1 cause of blindness in the elderly, glaucoma, cataracts, inflammatory eye diseases, cystoid macular edema, retinal arterial occlusion, diabetic retinopathy and venous occlusion.

Astaxanthin also helps maintain appropriate eye pressure, energy levels and visual acuity. Because the above list includes several of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S., this powerful antioxidant becomes increasingly important.”
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In January 2023, Mercola wrote an entire article on the various foods that can improve your vision: Top Foods to Improve Your Vision I highly recommend reading this article if you are concerned about your eyesight.

In his article on the unique health benefits of vitamin E, Mercola write:

“Vitamin E has also demonstrated neuroprotective properties, notably in a study of 30 patients with glaucoma whose progression slowed while taking oral alpha-tocopherol acetate and a 2014 paper that clarified the use of vitamin E in Alzheimer’s disease, finding it delayed the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A 2005 animal model demonstrated that alpha-tocotrienol acted on molecular checkpoints to protect against stroke-induced neurodegeneration”

In Mercola’s article asking the question: Is This One of the Best Nutrients for Your Eyes and Brain?, he writes extensively about the carotenoid: Lutein, mentioning some of the foods it is found in, and the ways it benefits and heals the eye. Again this article is a must-read!

Nutritional Medicinal Wholefood DatabaseThese are some of the sources that have informed the entries in my nutritional/medicinal wholefood database that is available for sale on my website. Other sources come from textbooks on my shelf, articles written by medical professionals selling supplements (I don’t push supplements so I don’t share those articles) and articles in print magazines that don’t have online counterparts. Some papers are SO technical, that just reading the abstract is mind-bending for some, so many of those don’t get shared either. The footnotes that accompany most of Mercola’s articles are also useful in digging further into the various topics he covers, often going to papers, journals, or writings of those he interviews. If you like to do your own research, those footnotes are very useful in providing jump-off points to get you started.

I encourage you to review the links above, and to engage in beneficial food adjustments for the benefit of your eye health.

All of these various nutrients are found in the various foods that will be listed next for over 30 different and related eye conditions.  To do up a food chart for this discussion would be quite large.  I began the task just for the condition list, and that was going to be long enough, let alone adding in the nutrients that explain why each food does what it does.  Therefore, what follows is a sampling only, of one or more foods that can aid in preventing, reducing, slowing, or healing the various conditions in the list below.

DandelionPeanuts are listed as beneficial in staving off age-related eye damage.  The most common age-related eye damage is Macular Degeneration.  Common foods that can help push off or prevent this condition are:  alfalfa, almonds, asparagus, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cherries, cucumbers, dandelion, hazelnuts, kale, butter, oats, quinoa, spinach, and wheat.  If you thought that resting with cucumbers over your eyes was just a spa or girly facial thing, think again.

Blindness is something that can develop, but is preventable using the following foods in your regular diet:  beans and legumes, buckwheat, licorice root, papaya, and strawberries.

Blood Sugar Levels affect how your eyes function, and can be beneficially managed with beans and legumes, garlic, kelp, mango, beef, rice and tomatoes.  If you go foraging, curly dock and hawthorn are also useful for this purpose.

Cataract risk, particularly if there are family members who have suffered from cataracts in the past, can be mitigated by a very long list of foods, examples of which include:  alfalfa, apples, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, blueberries, broccoli, cherries, cranberries, dandelion, garlic, kale, lemons, mustard, citrus fruits, pineapples, potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes.

Cataract sufferers can mitigate or sometimes even reverse their condition using diet, by including not only the above risk list, but also, almonds, butternut squash, cayenne, cucumbers, grapes, honey, rosemary, sunflower seeds, and yams.  Again, the list of foods that contain nutrients to manage or reverse this condition is much longer than this.  This list is just a sampling.

Older books sometimes mention foods good for clearing the eyes.  Chickweed and plantain (not the banana variant!) are often mentioned for this purpose.  Generally, these two foods are found in the wild.

Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition that can develop if diabetes has been allowed to go on too long unchecked.  Foods that can aid in dealing with this condition include fish and Gingko Biloba.  Other forms of retinopathy can benefit from foods such as artichokes, green or black tea, yarrow and the citrus family.

If you are like many out there who suffer from dry, red or itchy eyes, the following list may be useful for you because they help the eye lubricate and protect itself:  almonds, blueberries, catnip, cranberries, curly dock, fish, goldenrod, hawthorn, horseradish, mangos, peanuts, tomatoes and yams.

Various forms of Glaucoma benefit from the inclusion of asparagus, avocado, horseradish, kale, kiwi, spinach, and tomatoes.  Again, a longer list exists, but is divided between glaucoma in general, and exfoliating glaucoma, and there are different foods related to both discussions that are not in this sampling. Foods that reduce your risk of Glaucoma include beans and legumes, broccoli, catnip, curly dock, garlic, horseradish, yogurt, rice, spinach and yams.  If you have contracted glaucoma and wish to slow it’s progression, green tea can be of assistance.

Inflammation of the eye can occur for various reasons, from injury to aging to poor diet, to straining to see things, etc.  If left for too long, it can lead to optical nerve damage resulting in glaucoma.  Anti-inflammatory foods that benefit the eye include almonds, blueberries, cranberries, salmon, and hawthorn.

Eye irritation can occur due to dryness, dust or other external pollutants entering the eye, or by illness.  Green tea is known to relieve eye irritation, generally applied as a wash over the eyelids, but nutrients can also aid longer term through the drinking of the tea to get them into your system.

Light sensitivity is an issue these days, particularly with manufacturers putting LED lights into car headlamps, street lamp posts, store signage, and even your own home.  LED’s are harsh on the eyes.  When a headache arrives, or a concussion, the sufferer often wants to go to a dark place, lower the lights, or don sunglasses to get past others who won’t lower their lights.  Saffron has been known to alleviate light sensitivity, but if you can’t get saffron, rosemary and cherries often help as well.

Pin (Red) ChokecherriesNight vision is something that can accompany aging.  Speaking for myself, I used to see far better at night as a child than I can now as an adult.  Foods known to aid in maintaining or regaining your night vision include alfalfa, blueberries, broccoli, carrots, chokecherries, catnip, dandelion, eggs, cod, garlic, butter, mustard greens, parsley, pineapples, plantain, purslane, spinach, tomatoes, and yams.

Optical nerve Inflammation can be mitigated or calmed down by eating blueberries or drinking green tea.

Foods that are known to protect the eye in general, or the Meibomian glands particularly (those that help lubricate the eye), include blueberries, cherries, fish, kale, leeks, and sweet peppers.

Foods that are known to protect your retina, and the cornea’s collagen (one of the many reasons for dry eye diseases) include foods such as alfalfa, apples, beets, berries, broccoli, cabbage, cherries, chokecherries, cranberries, curly dock, dandelion, lemons, beef, chicken, mushrooms, oats, pineapples, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes.  Note that spinach is cautioned if you are trying to address potential retina issues.  Avoid margarine as well.

The rhodopsin pigment found in bilberries, huckleberries, cherries and chokecherries, is highly used by the eye in it’s general operation!

There are various ways to treat sore eyes, and two of them include topical washes using roses and any member of the avens family.  Avens also help with calming swollen eyes. Of course resting with cucumbers over your eyes is also recommended.  Ground ivy extract has been used to good effect in treating weary or sore eyes as wll. This is where you remember that using food as medicine doesn’t always mean eating that food, but using it topically for more direct feeding of the affected area.

It is noted in herbal discussions, that twisted stalk, usually only found in the wild, can assist in dealing with a stye if you contract one.

If you would describe your eyes as tender, canada thistle has been noted to assist in lending TLC to facilitate healing.

Biblical Natural Health Coaching

None of the foods listed here are to be construed as miracle cures!  The world of wholefood as medicine is intended first to be preventive, but when given in certain ways under certain conditions, can be used to help the body heal.  If you are unsure how a given food is used in this manner, reach out to a herbalist, a natural health practitioner trained in wholefood as medicine, or a naturopath trained in wholefood as medicine.  If you don’t have access to such a professional in your area, feel free to reach out to me and after filling out my client intake pdf document, we can go over your situation and explain how various foods can be of assistance in your situation.

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