Cataracts may be a common part of aging, but there are things you can and should do.
by Judith G. Cobb, MH, CI, NCP
This article is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. It is meant for educational purposes only. Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health, and Nature’s Sunshine Products accept no responsibility for results you get, whether good or bad, from using this information. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.
Note: More information about the products mentioned can be found at the end of the article.
I have always prided myself in taking excellent care of my health. I am frequently complimented on how youthful I look. I have believed for many years that aging can be slowed down and excellent health can be enjoyed well into advanced years.
Imagine my surprise when my optometrist informed me a few months ago that I have cataracts starting to form. As he said, “They are just in the very early stages. They could be ‘ripe’ in 10 years or it might take 20.” At that point in time we’d be looking at surgery to remove the cataracts and replace the lenses. When it comes to slicing and dicing, even for a ‘good’ reason, I am a super-chicken. I will do anything to avoid surgery – especially ones where I’m awake, as is the case with cataract surgery.
Many of you know I’m a fighter. A few years ago I slipped on the stairs and created multiple third-degree tears of the ligaments that stabilize the lateral side of the ankle. I was told it would take months to heal, and that there was a significant chance I would never run again. I had a half-marathon coming up 10 weeks after the injury. After 5 – 6 weeks of physio, lots of nutritional supplements, ionic footbaths, and topical essential oils I was running, pain-free, with the blessing of my physiotherapist, and did indeed do the half-marathon I had been training for. So, when the optometrist said cataracts, my response inside my head was ‘no way’.
What are cataracts?
Here’s what I’ve learned about cataracts.
Cataracts happen in the lens, which is a small pouch filled with a protein-dense gel substance. Light passes through the cornea (the clear covering over the front of the eye ball), through the chamber immediately behind the cornea (also fluid-filled), through the pupil, and through the lens. The lens inverts the image and focuses the upside-down image on the retina, where the nerve endings gather the information and send it to the brain via the optic nerve.
The gel in the lens can be compared to egg white. When the gel oxidizes (I’ll explain this later), the response is somewhat like frying an egg. The protein structure gets changed, causing the lens to become opaque and lumpy. Obviously, when the protein structure in the lens changes, it works less well as a focusing window and becomes more like a double-glazed window that has waxed paper between the layers of glass.
Causes of cataracts
There are several causes of cataracts. The most common one is ‘aging’. These ‘age-related’ cataracts can start developing as early as 40 years of age. They typically will start to affect vision somewhere in the 60s. This is actually not caused by getting older, but by not protecting the eye from free radicals.1,2 Free radicals damage molecules anywhere in the body through the process of oxidation. (just about anything.) When collagen is affected by free radicals, skin gets wrinklier. When arteries are damaged by free radicals, cholesterol levels go up to repair the damage, and arteries can get blocked. When free radicals attack the gel in the lens, the gel becomes lumpy and opaque. Some of the most significant sources of eye-altering free-radicals are bright light and UV rays, smoking, alcohol consumption, and radiation.
Cataracts can also be the result of surgery for other eye problems or can be side effects of other disease processes like diabetes or glaucoma. Trauma to the eye is thought to potentially result in cataracts – sometimes many years later. Add to this the possibility of congenital cataracts (yes, some babies are born with them, and some children develop them very early in life), and it would seem that no one is immune.
Symptoms of cataracts
You might suspect you have cataracts forming, even without a medical diagnosis, if your vision is getting gradually worse. Colors may seem faded and you might even have a brownish tint to everything you see. This tinting may make it harder to read or see, especially in dim light. It may also slightly alter your colour perception of blues and purples, making them seem black. (Your closest friends may question your colour combinations. Strangers won’t. They’ll just wonder who picks your clothes for you.) The glare from headlights, lamps, or sunlight might appear too bright, or you may see a halo around lights. You might also have double or triple vision, which, strangely enough, will often clear up as the cataract gets larger.3 Your optometrist, of course, can conduct several tests to detect the presence and severity of cataracts.
Medical recommendations and risks
What will your optometrist recommend for therapy? At the outset, if the cataract is not developed enough to remove, he or she may recommend new corrective lenses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, and magnifying lenses. When the cataract becomes big enough, surgery will probably be recommended to remove it and replace the lens with an artificial lens (also called an intraocular lens). For those who may not tolerate the artificial lens,4 high magnification corrective lenses or soft contact lenses may be recommended.
If both eyes need to have cataracts removed, the surgeries cannot be done at the same time. It is usually recommended that there be a four to eight week gap between surgeries to let the first one heal completely. Cataract surgery is effective for about 90% of the people who undergo it.
With all surgeries there are risks. The most common risks are infection and bleeding. Specifically with this type of eye surgery there is also an increased risk of retinal detachment, which is a medical emergency and which your doctor will warn you thoroughly about.
Cataract prevention and reversal
So this really doesn’t sound like great news to me. How could I have prevented this, and can it be stopped or reversed? Here’s what I found! Begin by protecting your eyes. UV light creates free radical reactions in the lens. Choose to wear sunglasses that filter 100% of the UV light and that wrap around to block as much light seepage as possible. Wearing a hat with a brim or a visor, particularly a visor that is dark on the underside, can reduce UV rays entering from above and being reflected from below. I often didn’t do either of these even when I’d be out in the yard or exercising outdoors for lengthy periods of time, but lately I’ve become a bit of a nag about this with my children and grandchildren.
The real base of nutritional protection is in antioxidants. Most of you know I am a real nag – ummm, I mean believer – when it comes to foods. Sadly, many of the antioxidant nutrients are oxygen-sensitive. What that means is by the time you get your veggies and fruits home from the market they have been off the vine long enough that the antioxidant levels are sagging sadly. I’m not saying ‘don’t eat fresh produce’; I’m saying ‘don’t count on it’ to do the complete antioxidant job. Be sure to eat at least a fist-sized serving of veggies for every 25 pounds of body weight, every day. That will give you a good base to build on. We’ll talk about antioxidants in a moment.
Cut out the junk food and anything that has an ‘ose’ ingredient (these are forms of sugar). Junk foods and sugar-laden foods (even natural sugars) cause rapid oxidation in the body in general. Drink lots of purified water – the rule of thumb is at least ½ ounce for every pound of body weight.
Deal with sinus congestion quickly; because of their close proximity, the sinuses can have an adverse effect on the eyes. There are excellent dietary and herbal ways to correct sinus issues.
Use antioxidant supplements that include vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. The concentration of vitamin C in the lens is the second highest of any organ in the body. Some sources5,6 report that vitamin C not only prevents cataracts but can also reverse them. Bioflavonoids, specifically quercetin and rutin, make vitamin C more potent. Nature’s Sunshine’s Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids has both of these bioflavonoids. Low levels of glutathione, an antioxidant that your body can make from the amino acids l-cysteine, l-glutamic acid, and glycine, have been found in most people with age-related cataracts. Other nutrients that support glutathione production are n-acetyl-cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, selenium, and zinc. (It’s important to remember that research rarely proves anything 100%. I often interpret this kind of data as an indication that the supplements will have a positive effect on many people, and fabulous results on some people.)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, age-related cataracts are disturbances in the wood (liver) and water (kidney) elements. Using TCM herbal blends like K-C (Chinese Kidney Activator) and BP-C (Chinese Blood Builder) together can clear the liver energy and strengthen the kidneys.
More recently n-acetylcarnosine (an amino acid) has come up as a possible supplement to actually reverse cataracts.7 Used as eye drops in a product like Can-C, some people found great benefit, while others reported no change at all and some got worse. The big question to consider here is “what else was each of these people doing to support their eye health?” as it is unlikely that the eye drops or any nutritional supplements would be strong enough to counteract smoking a pack a day or eating a diet replete with low-nutrient foods.
In short, cataracts may be a common part of aging, but there are things you can and should do that are just plain good for your health – and that may also protect your vision well into your advanced years.
If you have concerns about your health, or just don’t know where to begin making improvements, please contact me, Judith Cobb, to book an appointment. Skype, phone, webinar, and face-to-face appointments are available.
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Products referred to above:
|Nature’s Sunshine Products CANADA||Nature’s Sunshine Products USA||AOR brand, available from Cobblestone Health in Canada|
|vitamin A||Vitamin A & D||Vitamin A & D|
|beta-carotene||Perfect Eyes||Perfect Eyes|
|vitamin C||Vitamin C||Vitamin C Citrus Bioflavonoids|
|vitamin E||Vitamin E with Selenium||Vitamin E Complete with Selenium|
|l-glutamic acid (L-glutamine)||L-Glutamine Powder
|n-acetyl-cysteine or l-cysteine||N-Acetyl Cysteine|
|alpha-lipoic acid||Alpha Lipoic Acid||R-Alpha-Lipoic Acid (High Dose)|
|vitamin B2 - found in |
B complex formulations
|vitamin B6||Vitamin B6||Vitamin B6|
|selenium||Vitamin E with Selenium||Vitamin E Complete with Selenium|
|K-C||Kidney Activator TCM Concentrate|
|BP-C||Blood Stimulator Chinese|
Copyright © 2016 by Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health Ltd. All rights reserved. Please respect the time it takes to write and publish articles. If you will link to this article and give proper attribution, you are encouraged to quote sections (though not the entire article).