Macular degeneration is frankly a frustrating and frightening diagnosis. It is a degeneration of the part of the eye that is needed for sight and while the condition seldom results in complete blindness the loss of significant parts of your vision can be debilitating. While there is no reversing the damage that has already been done macular degeneration self-care can make a difference. Lifestyle changes along with nutrition can slow or stop the progression of the disease preserving your remaining vision.

In the following excerpt from the book The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods by James A. Duke and Bill Gottlieb, CHC the authors discuss concrete macular degeneration self-care steps that can make a difference in preserving your vision and quality of life long term.

Macular Degeneration

The name of this disease tells you precisely what it is: the degeneration of the macula, the central and most sensitive part of the retina, the nerve-rich area at the back of the eye that’s needed for sight. If you develop macular degeneration, then you’ll have blurred areas right in the center of your vision—and without clear central vision, tasks such as driving a car or reading become extremely difficult because you can’t look where you want to see!

Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is the leading cause of vision loss for Americans over the age of 60, according to the National Academy of Medicine. There’s no pain associated with AMD, and once you develop the condition, treatment can slow the loss of vision but not restore vision already lost. Sometimes people developing AMD experience hallucinations of patterns or geometric shapes, a phenomenon called Charles Bonnet syndrome.

The causes of macular degeneration are varied, and contributing factors include age, gender (women develop AMD more frequently than men), race (AMD is more common among whites, especially after age 75), family history, smoking, obesity, exposure to sunlight, and low levels of nutrients. While you can’t do much about your age, race, gender, and family history, you can stop smoking, bring your weight down to healthy levels, and get more of the right nutrients.

Healing Foods for Macular Degeneration

Broccoli (and other cabbage relatives) and spinach (and other beet relatives). Multiple studies have shown that consumption of carotenoids—natural pigments that color vegetables yellow, orange, and red—are associated with a lower risk of developing AMD, and two carotenoids in particular stand out from the pack: lutein and zeaxanthin. These two carotenoids accumulate in the retina and other ocular tissues and are thought to prevent oxidative damage caused by free radicals. They might also aid in protecting the retina by filtering out blue light, which isn’t stopped by the cornea and may damage the retina over time.

The FDA hasn’t established Daily Values for lutein and zeaxanthin, but naturally-minded eye experts recommend taking 20 to 30 mg of lutein and 6 to 12 mg of zeaxanthin daily. (These carotenoids are listed together in the US Department of Agriculture database of nutrient data.) Broccoli and spinach are both decent suppliers, with 1.3 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin in a cup of broccoli and 3.6 milligrams in a cup of spinach. The only risk from an overdose of lutein is carotenoderma, yellow-orange discoloration of the skin. If you cut down on the foods that contain lutein, this unnatural coloring will vanish over time.

Kale, collard greens, and turnip greens (all cabbage relatives). What’s better than broccoli and spinach when you want to add more lutein and zeaxanthin to your diet? Kale, collard greens, and turnip greens, all leafy, dark-green vegetables that don’t get nearly enough press compared with the spinach loved by Popeye and the broccoli disliked by President Bush. A cup of kale has more than 26 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin, a cup of collard greens has 3.2 milligrams, and a cup of turnip greens (not the turnips themselves) has 7 milligrams.

Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna. This fishy line-up contains an oceanful of vitamin D, something that a study from French researchers showed had an inverse relationship with AMD—those with the lowest levels of vitamin D had twice the risk of developing severe AMD. And a study in the journal Nutrients revealed that people eating lots of fish reduced their risk of AMD by 24%. How much vitamin D do fish deliver? The Daily Value of vitamin D recommended by the FDA is 20 micrograms, or 800 IU. A 3.5 ounce serving of cooked mackerel has 345 IU of vitamin D, while 1.75 ounces of canned sardines has 250 IU, and 3 ounces of tuna fish has 200 IU.

The king of vitamin D is another seafood-related item, but despite its containing 1,360 IU per tablespoon, or 170 percent of the Daily Value, I find it hard to recommend cod liver oil to anyone who still has functioning taste buds.

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