Many of the supplements that I want you to take are called anti-oxidants. They counteract the damage done to your body by free radicals. All of this is explained in the next section. I want to emphasize that taking these supplements is critical if you hope to improve you eye disease. They will boost your overall health enormously in the process. One caveat is that you need to be able to assimilate them. Reread the section in the previous chapter about detoxifying your body.
Many people find that they are more motivated to take anti-oxidants once they know more about how free radicals are created. Body cells use oxygen to break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and convert them to forms of energy the cells can use for metabolic processes. This breaking down of oxygen produces free radicals. Free radicals are atoms with an extra electron in their cell. This
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makes them unstable and highly attracted to bonding with other molecules. However, some of the bonds they make may result in molecules that are destructive to cells and to the DNA in cells. The effects of this can be as minimal as wrinkles or as harmful as cancer. Anti-oxidants are like scavengers for free radicals. They nip them in the bud so to speak before they can do any damage. That is why they are also called ‘free radical scavengers.’ Because our metabolic processes are ongoing, every day, we need to replenish our free radical scavengers by consuming foods and supplements with anti-oxidant properties on a daily basis.
Now I am going to list each anti-oxidant vitamin and mineral that I want you to include in your supplementation plan. These will be in addition to eating foods with lutein and zeaxanthin and taking these as supplements as discussed in the previous chapter. I also want you to read the next chapter and learn about the herbs that I want you to include as supplements. This means that you will be taking a lot of supplements for a long time. It will cost you money out of pocket. But remember, you have a serious disease that threatens to interfere with your independence and mobility in a serious way. Further, that condition is probably only a sign that overall health status is compromised. There are no medical miracles for ARMD. If you do nothing, your vision will probably deteriorate. What have you got to lose?
Vitamins Vitamin A
This was the first vitamin discovered; hence its name. It is also called retinol because of its importance in vision, especially in night vision. It is also very important in the formation and maintenance of healthy skin, internal tissues, bone, and hair. Pre-formed Vitamin A is available in cod liver oil and in the livers of animals as well as dairy products. Vitamin A is fat soluble, and it is stored in the liver, kidneys, lungs, eyes, and fat tissue. It needs Vitamin E to expedite absorption and Zinc in order to release it for use in the body. Provitamin A as beta-carotene is available from orange, yellow, and green vegetables and fruits.
A great deal has been written warning people not to take too much Vitamin A. Indeed, because this nutrient is stored in the body, it is possible to develop Vitamin A toxicity characterized by dry skin, nausea, and loss of appetite. Pregnant women should not consume large doses of Vitamin A. Many people like to avoid the Vitamin A toxicity problem by taking all their Vitamin A as
beta-carotene, a substance that converts to Vitamin A on an as needed basis. This is a fine idea – as long as you have a normal thyroid. Some researchers think that a large number of people cannot convert beta carotene to Vitamin A because they have hypothyroidism, the term for an underactive thyroid. Still other scientists think that a large percentage of people with ARMD have hypothyroidism, regardless of whether it has shown up on tests or not. Additionally, zinc is needed to use Vitamin A and many prescription drugs deplete Zinc. Since night blindness is one of the first indications that ARMD or another serious eye condition is developing, I have come to regard Vitamin A deficiency as prime in creating the conditions for ARMD. Therefore, taking Vitamin A is essential in your program to reverse ARMD.
This nutrient, found abundantly in foods, is called a Vitamin A precursor. This means that it converts readily to Vitamin A in the body as the body’s requirement for Vitamin A demands it. It is water soluble, unlike Vitamin A which is stored in fat tissue.
In the previous chapter, you were introduced to specific foods that contain types of beta-carotene known to support the health of the macula. When you add these to your diet regularly, you are adding a good source of beta-carotene from food.
Vitamin C is perhaps the most accepted and well known of the supplements. So much has been learned about the protective benefits of supplementing the diet above the 60mg RDA that the federal government is in the process of revising the RDA upwards. As a balance to this, recent studies have shown that the mega doses of Vitamin C recommended over the past years by specialists in natural health are unwarranted. Dr. Andrew Weil, an author, and nutritional expert, who formerly recommended 1000 to 5000mg (1-5 grams) per day of Vitamin C has now revised his maintenance dose recommendation to 250-500mg per day.
Human beings are not able to create Vitamin C as are most other animals. It must be obtained on a daily basis from food and supplements. A small amount is stored in areas of high metabolism in the body, including the eyes. Vitamin C is easily absorbed and easily excreted. Whatever is taken in lasts only a few hours. Therefore, frequent snacking on citrus fruit as well as taking supplements in divided doses is recommended.
Vitamin C’s main function in the body is to strengthen collagen, the fibrous material in the skeleton and surrounding each cell. It also aids in the production of thyroid hormone and in lowering cholesterol. Because it strengthens the cell walls, it is an anti-oxidant par excellence since strong cell walls prevent damage from free radicals.
Vitamin C, as a supplement, comes in many forms including tablets, capsules, powders, effervescents, and chewable tablets. When combined with calcium and magnesium and/or potassium, it can be soothing to the stomach rather than irritating. Diarrhea is a result of excess Vitamin C consumption. It is easily handled by reducing your dosage.
The food sources of Vitamin E are the oils in all grains, seeds, and nuts. Wheat germ oil is an especially rich source. Vitamin E works to protect and enhance the cell membranes of the skin, eyes, and liver from free radical damage. It is a fat soluble vitamin, like Vitamin A, and is absorbed from the intestines and stored in the liver and fatty tissue, heart, and muscles. It is not as stable in the body as Vitamin A, and more is lost through excretion. When taken as a supplement, the best form of Vitamin E is mixed tocopherols. It was formerly believed that d-alpha tocopherol was the best form, but that view has been modified. Much less valuable is dl-alpha tocopherol. I do not recommend this synthetic form. Magnesium levels (see below) need to be adequate for the most efficient use of Vitamin E.
Although chromium is needed in minute quantity in the body, a deficiency may lead to serious metabolic disorders. Diabetics almost all show a deficiency of Chromium, and it plays an important role in blood vessel health. Our chronic deficiency is most likely due to depleted soil and over-processed food. Fortunately most multiple vitamin and mineral supplements contain the amount needed on a daily basis.
Selenium is another micro nutrient whose deficiency is associated with depleted soils. The amount of selenium in the soil and water of an area can vary greatly. However, conservative supplementation of the diet is not thought to produce any toxicity. The lenses of cataract patients have shown far lower levels of selenium than are present in healthy tissue. This produces a strong association between eye health and selenium levels. Selenium is found in a wide variety of foods, and a diet rich in natural foods from selenium-rich soil may provide adequate amounts. However, if you have a serious disease, I would venture a guess that your intake of Selenium is inadequate. Selenium needs Vitamin E to perform its anti-oxidant functions. I recommend that you take these two nutrients together. It can be inhibited by Vitamin C, which should be taken at a different time of the day.
Zinc is another mineral diminished due to poor soil. An added problem in obtaining adequate zinc is that meat and animal foods are the most abundant sources. We are recommending a diet high in produce and grains and lower in animal products. Yet Zinc is needed by virtually all the tissues in the body. When it is stored, the retina contains the second highest concentration (male sexual organs the highest).Zinc is also necessary to transport Vitamin A to the eye and to combat free radical damage.
As important as it is to obtain adequate amounts of zinc, by far the greater problem is how easily it is lost or depleted. It can be sweated away during exercise, burned up during stress, and this includes stress from surgery or injury or illness as well as emotional stress. For elders, a big problem is that zinc is depleted in metabolizing many commonly prescribed drugs for hypertension, high cholesterol, and many other conditions.
There are two other supplements that are very valuable anti-oxidants. The first is Gamma linolenic acid. Good sources for this are evening primrose, black currant seed, and black walnut oil. It is very important for people with low thyroid function to supplement with this nutrient. Its usefulness in wet ARMD is unparalleled since its main work in the body is to heal and support blood vessel walls. The other nutrient is Lecithin. Lecithin helps lower cholesterol levels and helps the eye to see, thereby revealing the relationship between the eye and the liver that is understood so well in Chinese medicine. Lecithin can be taken in capsule or granule form. Granules can be sprinkled on cereal.
And, finally, I need to mention taurine. Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid which is found naturally in egg whites and meat and fish proteins. It has a protective effect on the heart and blood vessels, but, most importantly, it is found in the retina. Adequate levels of zinc are needed to aid taurine in its role of cellular metabolism and nerve impulse generation. Daily supplementation at 500 mg of taurine is advised.