Medical herbalist Nicola Parker shares the best tips for eye health
Macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss and it is thought that one in every 10 people over 65 will suffer from it to some degree.
I feel truly blessed to work by the seaside, able to enjoy the incredible views across Morecambe Bay, letting the worries and to-do-lists melt away over my lunch break. I adore that view and it is one I intend to never take for granted.
Vision loss can be very distressing. Macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss and it is thought that one in every 10 people over 65 will suffer from it to some degree. The macular of the eye is a pigmented section of the retina that protects the underlying structures from damage. It acts like a shield, protecting our eyes from blue light energy, a type of light we are exposed to everyday.
As we get older the macular thins and, as this happens, its ability to protect our vision weakens.
For some, the degeneration may be a slow process, not affecting vision for many years. In others the disease may progress much faster, leading to vision loss in the affected eye or eyes.
As a child, my sister wore glasses but I don’t ever remember having any difficulty with my sight until much later. Worried about the expense of glasses, I put off going to the optician, always finding something more important.
I didn’t drive, so being short-sighted didn’t affect my life outside of the classroom and sitting at the front, squinting at lecture notes had become my norm. When I finally got my act together enough to prioritise my sight, I realised how stupid I’d been. Wearing glasses, the world around me was transformed. The view across the bay that I’d previously enjoyed was full of details I couldn’t have imagined.
So now, I pay attention to the health of my eyes and here I share the advice I give to anyone suffering with macular degeneration.
Nutrients which protect the macular are yellow in colour and this gives us a clue as to which foods we should eat. The macular is made up of carotenoids. The key carotenoids being yellow lutein and pink zeaxanthin. This is the same pink pigment that gives salmon and lobsters their colour.
Eating foods rich in these carotenoids will help to provide the thinning macular with the nutrients it needs to protect itself. The tale about carrots helping you see in the dark is not completely false. Brightly coloured veg like carrots are rich in carotenoids like lutein, especially dark green leafy veg.
Have you ever watched it turn yellow as it ages in your fridge? That yellow colour is the lutein showing through.
Lutein can be swallowed as a tablet and most opticians will recommend one if you are showing signs of macular degeneration, to boost your lutein intake.
We stock one called Lutein Eye Complex which contains other important carotenoids, including pink zeaxanthin and dark blue bilberry. Dark coloured berries, like bilberry, are be rich in protective nutrients and this is the reason that bilberries became know as a ‘superfood’.
Personally, I hold that all natural foods have an element of ‘super’ to them, but when it comes to eye health bilberry really stands out.
It protects the blood vessels which supply the eye. These tiny blood vessels act as supply roads for all the nutrients that feed the eye and they are commonly damaged in conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes – conditions that also become more common as we age.
These additional nutrients make Lutein Eye Complex and other similar formulas much better than lutein alone, in my humble opinion.
If you are worried about your sight, then please visit your optician as they will be able to determine the cause of any vision problems.
Don’t do what I did and just ignore it. Eat coloured veg, wear sunglasses that protect you from UV light and consider a supplement like Lutein Eye Complex, to ensure you are feeding your eyes with all the nutrients they need.
After living life in blur through most of my twenties, I now eat right for my eyesight and visit my optician on a regular basis.
For more information on herbs and natural remedies, contact Nicola at Health and Herbs on 01524 413733.