The macula is in the center of the retina, (the layer of tissue on the inside back wall of your eyeball) and is the portion of the retina that is responsible for fine vision. In macular degeneration, a hardening of the arteries that nourish the retina occurs, depriving the eyes of oxygen and nutrients. The macular tissue is also among the most active of tissues in our body, which necessitates a high rate of cellular metabolism and release of free radicals.
Two Types of Macular Degeneration :
1st Type Atrophic (dry)
Dry macular degeneration accounts for more than 90 percent of cases. Dry macular degeneration doesn’t cause total blindness, but it causes a blind spot in your central vision needed for reading, driving and recognizing faces.
2nd Type Exudative (wet)
Wet macular degeneration is characterized by swelling caused by leaky blood vessels in the back of the eye.
What are the Causes?
Free radical damage is an accepted theory for being a major cause. You need antioxidants to combat free radicals, which are in our environment and formed as a by-product of our metabolism. It is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States and Europe in people over fifty-five years old. Besides age, other factors that contribute to its progression include:
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Poor digestion
- Nutritional deficiencies (low anti-oxidant of lutein and zeaxanthin intake especially)
- Genetic disposition
- Being caucasian (more common)
- Being female (more common)
The Rotterdam Study performed in the Netherlands suggests that atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) may be involved in the etiology of age-related macular degeneration.1 In subjects younger than age 85 year old, plaques in the carotid bifurcation were associated with a 4.7 times increased risk of macular degeneration, and lower extremity arterial disease increased the risk by 2.5 times.
Eating a clean, organic diet with an emphasis on protein, small amounts of healthy fat and small amounts of carbohydrates (unlimited vegetables) every 3-4 hours is important for blood sugar control.
Avoid: Sugar, white flour and all refined carbohydrates, alcohol, cigarettes, wheat, cow dairy, all hydrogenated oils, canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil and sunflower oil.
Enjoy plenty of the following:
- Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids: Wild fish, pastured eggs, walnuts, flax seeds, grass-fed beef
- Foods rich in zinc: Oysters, herring, sesame seeds (buy sesame tahini and add it to shakes or make a salad dressing with it) pumpkin seeds, liver, lamb
- Foods rich in Lutein, Zeaxantin, Astaxanthin and other Carotenoids: Lutein and zeaxanthin can inhibit oxidation of cell membranes and may be protective against UV-induced eye damage. Studies have demonstrated that people in the highest quintile of intake of dietary carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations have significantly lower risk of macular degeneration. 2, 3 Blue-eyed adults have far less lutein and zeaxanthin in their retinas. Foods rich in the carotenoids include: Eggs, spinach, collard greens, bell peppers, squash, carrots, red grapes, mangos, melons, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens and wild salmon
- Foods rich in Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids: Citrus, sauerkraut, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes and plums
- Foods rich in Sulfur: Sulfur rich foods facilitate the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant for the lens of the eye. These foods include: broccoli, asparagus, garlic, onions, and eggs.
Protect your eyes with high quality sunglasses and exercise daily for at least 45 minutes to increase oxygen and nutrient transportation, and to help keep your arteries clean.
Macular Support contains bilberry, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, lycopene, n-acetyl-cysteine, vitamin C (100mg), reduced glutathione and grapeseed extract.
Bilberry’s flavonoids are known as potent antioxidants, scavenging free radicals and used for multiple age-related ocular disorders. One study found that 70% of rats given a controlled diet had cataracts and macular degeneration, while the group given bilberry extract completely prevented impairments in the lenses and retina.4
One study compared diets of 356 patients with macular degeneration with 520 patients with other eye diseases. The data revealed that beta carotene was not especially effective, but that lutein and zeaxanthin were.5 Another study found that the risk of macular degeneration was reduced 65 percent with high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin.6
The risk for mascular degeneration was found to be 77% lower when vitamin C supplements and a low-glycemic diet was used. Flavonoids provide extra support against inflammation. This product should be combined with Macular Support to provide 2,000-3000mg per day in two doses.
One study followed 3,600 people ages 55-80 years old for six years and found that those that took antioxidants plus zinc were less likely than those who took only antioxidants or only zinc to lose their vision.
Magnesium helps dilate and deliver oxygen, vitamins and lutein to the eye.
Studies show that people who consume more fish, which is rich in DHA-fish fat, are less likely to develop macular degeneration. Eating fish one to three times a week has been associated with a 40 to 75 percent reduction in macular degeneration. Cod liver oil contains DHA and vitamin A, which is concentrated in the retina of the eye.
- Johannes R. Vingerling et al. Age-related Macular Degeneration Is Associated with Atherosclerosis.The Rotterdam Study. Am. J. Epidemiol. (1995) 142 (4): 404-409.
- Taylor A, Jacques P, Epstein E. Relations among aging, antioxidant status, and cataract. Am J Clin Nutr 1995; 62 (suppl): 1439S-47S.
- Bendich A, Langseth L. The health effects of vitamin C supplement use and prevalence of early age-related lens opacities. Am J Clin Nutr 1997; 66:911-26
- Fursova AZh et al. Dietary supplementation with bilberry extract prevents macular degeneration and cataracts in senesce-accelerated OXYS rats. Adv Gerontol. 2005;16:76-9.
- Johanna M. Seddon Et al. Dietary Carotenoids, Vitamins A, C, and E, and Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration. JAMA. 1994;272(18):1413-1420. doi: 10.1001/jama.1994.03520180037032
- Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Penguin Group, 2010.
- James F. Balch, MD and Mark Stengler, ND. Bottom Line’s Prescription for Natural Cures. Balch Enterprises, 2004.