Help! I'm Overwhelmed With Information!
If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you know that I am a firm believer in overall health being a major player in our eye health. I’m constantly researching vitamins and supplements and how our bodies respond to them.
Preserving our vision
In my spare time, I’m usually trying new recipes or searching for ‘eye-healthy foods’ that my kids might actually eat. I keep myself busy researching and reading articles in an attempt to understand my own body’s specific needs. I also try to exercise daily, even when I feel like doing anything but. This stuff may seem overwhelming or even menial in the present moment of each day, but it really can aid in the preservation of our vision. What could be more important than that?
Understanding our nutritional needs takes work
Besides writing articles about all the ins and outs of living with macular degeneration, I’m also blessed enough to be one of the moderators on our awesome Facebook page and website. I see A LOT of questions and comments about nutrition, vitamins, and supplements. Many people know they need to ‘take’ something or ‘do’ something, but they don’t know exactly what. And there’s good reason for that. It takes a little bit of ‘work’ to figure out our specific nutritional needs. Luckily for you, I’ve already done a lot of that ‘work’ for you! I promise there are relatively simple things you can do to take back control of your own health.
When I write articles about nutrition and supplements I make sure to add a disclaimer mentioning the importance of understanding that each of our bodies is unique in what we need (or don’t). Not to mention, we all react differently to treatments and supplements. What works for one person may not work for another. In fact, things that work for some, or even most, can be harmful to others. This statement is so important, but can also seem confusing.
Sometimes, when I write that disclaimer I chuckle to myself thinking, “These people probably think I’m crazy.” Like okay, lady, we get it. We don’t all need the same things buuuut how the heck are we supposed to know what we do and don’t need?!?!?! Easier said than done, right?
I promise you it isn’t as difficult as it may seem.
Easy peasy things to help care for your eyes
There are a few simple but very meaningful things you can do to help care for your eyes, mind, and body properly. I’m here today to hopefully clear a little bit of this up for you! Knowing your possible confusion and even frustration in my disclaimers, I’ve put together a list of a few things you can do to try to better understand your own health needs and what foods and/or supplements you should take (or maybe even more importantly, avoid).
1. Talk to the doc
First, please talk to your doctor. I know you hear this a lot, but friends, it is so important. Be sure you see a doctor that you trust and who takes the time to understand your medical needs. Some doctors can seem rushed or not as knowledgeable in the macular world as we need them to be. Make a list of questions you want answered when you get there, don’t just ‘wing it’. Don't forget to take notes and write down what they say. It’s easy to forget details, names and doses of supplements, and best practices.
2. To zinc or not to zinc?
Second, know if zinc is helpful or harmful to you. It’s very easy to go into your ophthalmologist or retinologist’s office and ask for a simple mouth swab to find out. This was seriously one of the best things I’ve ever done for my eye health AND for my mental health. About 15% of patients with macular degeneration are harming their eyes with the high levels of zinc in many of the vitamins prescribed to us.
Read that again.
A few years ago, I was genetically tested for this specific purpose. I just needed to know, and I’m so glad I found out. I was taking extremely high levels of zinc for years (which, for most people, aids in preserving their vision), but it was harming my eyes! This is one thing I was able to take control of. I was finally doing something that I knew was benefiting my vision. I cannot explain the relief I felt knowing this information.
3. Allergy testing
Third, get yourself allergy tested. This is a simple - send a few strands of hair in the mail - type of genetic testing that lets you know A LOT about your nutritional needs and deficits (what you should add into your diet) as well as sensitivities you may have (things you should avoid). You don't need to go into a doctor's office for this, you can pay online and follow instructions on obtaining a 'good' sample for testing. I do, however, encourage you to look into a few different companies to check out their ratings and what they offer with their results.
I just recently had this done for myself and my children and we learned so much. This specific test reported on food intolerances, non-food intolerances (bees, pollens…), nutritional deficiencies, metals toxicity, gut biome, and hormone imbalance.
Eliminating arugula and pumpkin seeds
For example, I found out that I have sensitivities to arugula and pumpkin seeds, which I did not know about. And I eat both of those items frequently for my eye health. Now I know to avoid those things and choose similar things to eat instead. And to be honest, I’m not even a little bit sad about eliminating arugula from my diet. Now, I don’t have to feel bad about not eating it! Pumpkin seeds, I will miss.
Blueberries, beef, and turmeric?
My youngest son was super excited to be sensitive to blueberries because he hates ‘eating those squishy things’. We were also really surprised to find out that our oldest son is 100% sensitive to beef. He's not allergic, but very sensitive in the way his body processes it. We had no idea! No more belly aches after cheeseburgers for him! Once you know what your nutritional sensitivities are, you can eliminate those items from your diet for a few weeks to see if you feel healthier, have less anxiety, and sleep better.
One recent question on our Facebook page was a community member asking whether or not she should take a Turmeric supplement. Turmeric shows up a lot in articles I read about eye health and nutrition, but it is rarely prescribed. It is said to be a great antioxidant, which could be beneficial for our eyes. However, taken in excessive amounts, it can be harmful. Turmeric can be used when spicing up our favorite recipes or can be ingested through a daily supplement. My oldest son had Turmeric flagged as a sensitivity for him. That was an interesting discovery for me.
Zinc red-flagged again
Zinc was also flagged for me as a metal I should avoid with my allergy testing (not surprising already knowing my zinc issue), and my gut biome was lacking acidophilus - even though I take a daily probiotic. I immediately added an acidophilus supplement to my daily regime because I know how important gut health is.
New Disclaimer: I’m not saying that allergy testing can tell you if you are sensitive to zinc or not, there is a specific genetic test for this, but it was interesting for me to see that it was flagged with this testing as well.
4. Work it out and get active
Last, but certainly not least, exercise. I know, I know. We are all busy and exercising isn’t always fun or at the top of the priority list. I promise you though, it is more than worth it. I’m not suggesting we all go out and start training for a marathon... unless that’s something you’d enjoy. If so, go do that! I’m just suggesting we all get out there and be as active as we can.
Even just walking for 30 minutes a day helps all sorts of functions in our bodies: weight loss (great to lessen pressure pulling on our fragile retinas), better sleep (sign me up for this!), allowing the nutrients we eat or supplement through vitamin intake to actually make it to our vital body systems (we need to release exercise hormones in order to do this, folks, and sitting around doesn’t quite cut it). This is just to name a few benefits of walking.
A starting point
I know how overwhelming it can feel when trying to understand what we can do to help ourselves and our eyes. I hope that this article at least gives you a starting point. Please reach out with any questions! I’d love to hear other things you’ve done to help narrow down your options when it comes to vitamins and supplements.
We've got this,
Have you visited our new sister site, ChronicDryEye.net?