The training of our eye doctors in this country is very comprehensive there have been major advances in treatment of eye disease and even laser surgery to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism is available today. But it doesn’t really correct the underlying problem of why it is there to begin with. Eye care in this country is symptom oriented. In our training as eye doctors we’re taught that once something goes wrong with your eyes there is not much that can be done to help reverse the condition. Vision problems are multiplying at epidemic proportions in our society. The eye care industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Glasses, contact lenses, and eye surgery are the major tools of that industry and these enter the lives of virtually all of the citizens of the Western world. Aldous Huxley wrote in his book The Art of Seeing”, that if everyone who had deficient vision had broken legs, the streets would be full of cripples.”
Patients come in year after year, their eyesight getting worse. Conventional eye care professionals just give them stronger and stronger glasses. Something is wrong with this picture. Cataracts are present to some degree in nearly all adults over the age of 70 years old. These patients are told, “Let’s wait until the cataract “ripens”(gets worse), and then we can remove it surgically.” Something is wrong with this picture. Patients with macular degeneration and glaucoma are told, ” We’ll watch it and try to keep it under control.” The amount of children in our schools being labeled learning disabled and/or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is increasing every year. Where is the much needed prevention, education and rehabilitation? something is wrong with this picture as well.
People think that eye problems are just a natural course of life’s process, but people’s vision can improve. When people are given so called “corrective” lenses they are being sold a false bill of goods. “Corrective” lenses don’t really correct anything. Most of the time when people get their glasses it usually causes more dependency on them along with the eyes losing some of their natural flexibility. I’m interested in an aggressive prevention program so that many eye conditions can be prevented and corrected.
So what’s is wrong with the conventional treatment for certain eye conditions. Let’s look at nearsightedness and glaucoma.
For example, if you need glasses the eye doctor will prescribe them and you will thank them then pay them for the eye examination and glasses. In a couple of years or sooner the prescription may not be good enough for you to see clearly so you will come back get another examination and probably get stronger glasses and thank them and pay them again.
If you have glaucoma, a similar same thing happens. You come to the office and you may get eye drops to help stabilize the pressure and are told that you will probably be on these eye drops the rest of your life. Where is the prevention, and or rehabilitation?
We have to look at vision the same way that Chinese medicine looks at disease. We look at not if “X” causes “Y “but what is the relationship between “X” and “Y”. The eye is an extension of brain tissue and it reflects what your thinking and feeling. The eyes help us adapt to the world and they give us an indication of how we are adapting to the world. It is the primary way we take in information.
For instance, nearsightedness doesn’t just happen. Did you know that 90 percent of accountants are nearsighted, but less than 10 percent of farmers are? That’s because accountants spend a lot of time focused on up close tasks and farmers are usually looking out across the fields. The brain says “if you make me do close work all day, you will have to give up something” and that something is the ability to see at a distance, so obviously how we use and abuse our eyes affects what happens to them. This concept is not usually taken into consideration by most eye doctors. In nearsightedness, I use the analogy of training for a marathon. If your are going to graduate school, law school, medical school, etc. and there is an extremely large amount of reading that needs to be done, so we need to keep our eye muscles flexible in order to handle the amount of close work more easily. Also proper posture, lighting, taking vision and body breaks and proper nutrition all play a part in helping our eyes.
Now in glaucoma let’s say your 55 years old and you have borderline high intraocular pressure which is a possible early sign of glaucoma. The doctor will test your visual field to make sure your peripheral vision is not affected and if your visual field and optic nerve looks normal and the pressure is borderline. The doctor will usually just say come back in 3 to 6 months and we will watch it and if it gets to high we will give you medication. Again very rarely is there anything given preventively to help lower the pressure.
But many things can help, such as paying attention to the following:
1. Stress- in glaucoma as far back as 1818 researchers linked stress to glaucoma. One study showed that glaucoma patients tend to be perfectionists, nervous, anxiety ridden and/or hypersensitive. In Chinese medicine glaucoma is linked to the liver meridian. The emotion associated with the Liver anger/frustration. I may suggest to a patient with glaucoma, that instead of suppressing anger, feel it, but don’t fear it. I tell them to try meditation, tai chi and psychotherapy and remember to smile.
2. Smoking- avoid smoking, it more than doubles the incidence of cataracts , glaucoma, and macular degeneration, by stressing the nerve cells in the macula and reduces the quality of blood circulation
3. Physical Exercise- research has shown that glaucoma patients who take a brisk 40 minute walk 5 days a week for three months can reduce their eye pressure by approximately 2.5 mm.
4. Diet-fruits and vegetables, drink 8-10 glasses of water per day but not with food-30 minutes before a meal or 2 hours after a meal optimally, avoid sugars, fried foods, alcohol, caffeine.
5. Nutritional supplementation-alpha lipoic acid-200mg, vitamin C-3000 mg, Coenzyme Q10-100mg, essential fatty acids—omega 3’s-1500mg-black currant seed, flax see, cold water fish-salmon mackerel, magnesium- 500 mg-to help relax the smooth muscles that are what regulates the outflow of aqueous humor from the inner eye.
6. Body work-chiropractic, massage therapy, cranial-sacral etc
My philosophy is that people are more than an interesting set of symptoms that must be treated with the proper drug or glasses. We function on several levels; emotional, spiritual, and physical. It is important to take all of these levels into consideration when treating a patient, because merely treating the physical symptoms of the condition does not address how that condition impacts and emerges from all of those levels of your being. So in treating the eye all these factors must be taken into consideration.
Let’s start with nutrition, because more than 25 per cent of the nutrients we absorb from our food go to nourish the visual system. The diet plan I prescribe emphasizes a variety of whole foods, because the body does not use each vitamin or mineral in isolation.
The diet I recommend includes the following: 1) whole grains including brown rice, millet, spelt and buckwheat, 2) sea vegetables such as dulse, nori and hijiki because they are high in minerals, 3) fresh fruits and vegetables such as kale, collard greens and spinach. These greens are especially good for the eyes since they have amounts of lutein, which is a carotenoid that studies have proven helps protect the macula of the eye and the lens of the eye. This is particularly important for macula degeneration.
But no matter how wholesome and pure our food might be, there are factors that affect its nutrient content. How it is grown, how it is stored, and how it is cooked. Your age, health, activity level and stress also can affect what your body needs and how well it uses the nutrients from your diet. This is where supplements come in. I routinely recommend vitamin and mineral supplements to my patients
Besides relieving pain, acupressure can rebalance qi throughout the body. I’ve found acupressure to be very beneficial in the treatment of eye disease and I recommend it since a patient can do it themselves.
Both eye and physical exercise are extremely important in the treatment and prevention of eye conditions because it raises oxygen levels in the cells and increases lymph and blood circulation. From a Chinese standpoint, eye problems mean there is a stagnant energy and exercise helps get rid of the stagnation. This increased circulation revitalizes the organs and glands and speeds up detoxification of the body. I recommend that you gently build up to aerobic exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes per day, four days a week.
The following are some important tips to keep our eyes vibrant and alive.
Don’t keep your eyes focused in one place for a sustained period of time. Change your focus, look up and out a window if possible, just keep your eyes moving, sustained contraction of the eyes leads to contraction of the entire upper body. And don’t stare that also causes tension in the visual system.
Get at least 20 minutes of natural sunlight a day minimum. The eyes are light sensing organs so its important to get sunlight so that they can work optimally.
Quit smoking!!! This is probably the number on eye irritant. Somokers have a 50 to 100 per cent increased risk for every eye disease.
Avoid sugar; it depletes the body of the nutrients the eyes need. And avoid alcohol since it causes stress to the liver, which is where Vitamin A is processed.