Vitamins? Ok, Which Ones?
Nowadays, there is so much information in the macular degeneration world about vitamins. Sometimes it feels like a little too much information. Does anyone else feel me on this?
Knowledge and understanding
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for knowledge and understanding of something, especially when it comes to eye health. I’m an educator by trade and a huge advocate for healthy living, but I know that when I was first diagnosed with MD in 2008, I had no idea where to start. I was told to take PreserVision AREDS ‘just in case it could help’ and that was that.
Supplementing blindly (pun intended!)
I was 26 and didn’t know any better so I bought the vitamins and blindly took them...when I remembered. I honestly didn’t know that I could ask my doctor more questions. He was really busy and always in a hurry after all. I was just this young kid who he thought should ‘be thankful for what vision I had left’ because everyone else in the waiting room was much worse off than me and would ‘give all their limbs to have the sight I did.'
I was also about 50 years younger than the rest of the patients in the waiting room, was barely 8 weeks pregnant with my first child and was scared out of my mind. Needless to say, I have a new retina specialist now. My first retina specialist was a very knowledgeable doctor, but he was seriously lacking bedside manner and was overbooked.
In 2008, there wasn’t as much information out there as there is now...the last ten years have really been revolutionary in the ‘holy cow, a LOT of people are suffering from this disease we need to do more about it’ department. And now there seems to be so much information out there, it's still not very clear about what those of us suffering from degenerating maculas should do (or not). From what I see in my online communities, the majority of us are still wondering what to take or why we should even take anything at all.
What I should have asked
If I was diagnosed today, these are the questions I would ask (no matter how busy or rude my doctor was) along with possible answers. Maybe this list will in some way help you determine what vitamin supplements you may need...if you’re wondering:
What is the purpose of a vitamin?
Vitamins are generally used as supplementation of where your diet is lacking. Specific nutrients are found in specific vitamins and it’s important to know which ones each of us needs (or doesn’t). Some nutrients work best when consumed through our diet. If we aren’t consuming nutrients we need in the foods we eat, we supplement. Don’t like fish? You can take Omega-3 Fatty Acids in pill form like me. Phew!
Does everyone with this disease need the same supplemented nutrition?
No. Each of our needs is specific and unique and our bodies all react differently to the supplements we take. Some nutrients in vitamins can be really helpful for one person and harmful for another.
Could anything in this supplement harm me?
Yes. A few examples of this for people with macular degeneration are zinc and Vitamin A. Those reading this who have Stargardt's disease would want to stay away from Vitamin A and about 15% of people with MD shouldn’t take zinc.
Are there any other options?
Yes, there are many options out there now. I have researched what my specific supplemental needs are and I currently take Occuvite with Zeaxanthin and Lutein (without zinc because I’m in the 15% of people whose eyes are harmed by it).
Why I should have done my own research sooner
Sometimes I wonder what harm was done to my eyes during the 8 years I was taking high levels of zinc and shouldn’t have been. What my rushed doctor suggested I needed to take ‘just in case’ was definitely not what I needed. As the years went by and I started having more complications with my vision and eyes, I started doing my own research and I’m so glad I did.
Ask questions and do some research
It’s important to remember that each of us has a unique set of needs when it comes to nutrition, supplementation, and how our body reacts to it all. Our doctors should always be our go-to for questions, guidance, and professional opinions about vitamins and supplements, but we also have a personal responsibility to know what is best for ourselves.
PS...Never settle for a doctor that doesn’t make you feel safe or understood. There are so many options out there, find one that fits your personality and your specific needs.
Trust your gut,
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