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‘Healthy’ Diets and the Eyes

Trendy  diets, which eliminate certain foods, are they healthy for the eyes?

Eating can be enjoyable, least we forget that eating provides us with the necessary vitamins, nutrients and minerals needed to maintain a healthy f body. Deprived of an adequate amount of these basic building blocks results in defects of function, premature aging, disease, and decreased energy reserves. What ever effects the body, has an impact on the eyes.

The three main food groups are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Proteins are the building blocks of body tissue, things like muscle, collagen, and epithelium. These tissues are constantly turning over and renewing themselves in a healthy body.  Carbohydrates fuel the body, not just for exercise, but also for maintaining cellular  function.  Excess carbohydrates are stored as fat.  Dietary fats are the oils and solid fats found in animal and vegetable sources.  They are necessary for nerve development, as a source of stored energy, and help with vitamin absorption.  The trendy, healthy diets tend to manipulate the proportions or types of these 3 food groups.  The concern is not only the reduction or elimination of one or more of these groups, but the vitamins and minerals that come along with the foods that we eat.

Each of the 3 diets listed here are in effect healthy diets.  In no way am I suggesting to avoid a diet that can improve your health.  Just be aware that eliminating certain foods from your diet can leave a gap in nutrition. The suggestion is to find alternative sources and/or supplement.  Consult your doctor as to the best alternatives.

The Paleo Diet

You can call this the Caveman diet.  It eliminates processed foods, that means no wheat, sugar, beans, dairy, or alcohol.  It is a diet high in proteins and fats, and lower in carbohydrates.  The only source of carbs should be fruits and vegetables.  The healthy aspect is high fiber, lots of anti-oxidants, and lower blood sugar levels.  A good choice for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

How a Paleo Diet might effect the Eyes

Since there is no dairy consumption there may be a decrease in vitamin D levels.  Vitamin D helps to maintain blood vessel integrity.  The central vision area , called the macula,  receives oxygen and nutrients from a blood vessels that are small and delicate. Impaired vascular health and blood vessel inflammation can increases the risk for macular degeneration.  Those on the Paleo diet should consider supplementing with Vitamin D.

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

The vegetarian/vegan diet s are actually a broad catagory of specialized diets. Vegetarians usually will not eat any animal flesh, but there are some who eat fish.  Within this category there are those who will not eat dairy and/or eggs.  Vegans are the strictest category that eliminates any animal products.  The benefit of vegetarian diets is lower body mass and cholesterol levels, meaning lower rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Both of these benefits are good for the eyes.

How a Vegetarian Diet may Effect the Eyes

Most vegetarians I have met are usually aware of the nutrition deficiencies of their dietary choice. There are many nutrients and vitamins found in animal products: protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, omega-3 and iodine.  Each one of these plays an important role in our general health, and therefore our eye health. Deficiencies can result in night blindness, vascular insufficiency, dry eyes, inflammation, and nerve damage.  Since this is the most restrictive of diets, a vegetarian must be informed and aware of their diet deficiencies.  They must be careful to maintain a balance of alternative food sources and add supplements to their diet.

Gluten-Free Diet

Taking on a gluten-free diet is not usually a choice.  Commonly individuals find that by eliminating gluten or wheat products from their diet, they enjoy feeling better.  There are actually 3 categories of individuals who have a negative response to gluten or wheat proteins: non-celiac gluten sensitivity, wheat allergies, and Celiac disease.  The symptoms associated with all three of these forms of gluten sensitivity are similar: bloating, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, generalized joint and muscle pain, and ‘brain fog.’  Celiac disease differs because it is an autoimmune disease (meaning it is genetic, not acquired) that can result in damage to  the gastrointestinal tract.  A damaged GI tract results in poor absorption of nutrients and vitamins. These deficiencies can result in weight loss and other diseases, like osteoporosis, skin disorders, and neurological disorders.

How a Gluten-free Diet can Affect the Eyes

Different from the other healthy diets, eliminating gluten is the only treatment for the signs and symptoms of gluten sensitivity. Those who have Celiac Disease and do not eliminate gluten are in for more health and eye related problems than those with non-Celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat sensitivity.  The mal-absorption of nutrients and the deficiency of anti-oxidants can result in cataracts, dry eyes, retinopathy, and night blindness for those with Celiac disease.

As a side note to those with gluten sensitivity and wheat allergies, some  lotions and makeup products have wheat in them, which can result in eye irritation and eczema when appplies to the skin and eye area. .