What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that are usually caused by elevated pressure inside the eye, known as IOP. Normal pressure is in the range of 12 to 18 mmHg, but once the pressure is above 20 your risk of developing this serious sight-threatening conditioning jump significantly.
The raised eye pressure permanently damages the optic nerve, resulting in loss of vision known as ‘Tunnel Vision’. Eye doctors primarily treat glaucoma by reducing the IOP, either through medications or surgical procedures.
The good news is that research now shows that consuming certain foods and dietary supplements coupled with lifestyle choices may help reduce your risks of raised eye pressure or prevent a deterioration in your eye health.
Be sure to always consult with your eye doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Here are 6 dietary tips for patients who have glaucoma or are at risk of developing it.
1. Increase Your Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids can lower internal eye pressure, making them an excellent nutrient for patients with glaucoma. These help by increasing blood flow to the optic nerve and have optic neuroprotective properties.
Omega-3s can be found in fatty fish, such as salmon, chia and other seeds, nuts, some plant oils and fortified foods.
2. Enjoy Your Morning Brew, But in Moderation
Limiting your caffeine intake may be wise if you struggle with high eye pressure, as caffeine raises IOP temporarily after ingestion. Drinking one cup of caffeinated coffee per day probably won’t cause any harm, but drinking several cups of coffee daily isn’t recommended.
Consider switching to decaf coffee if you enjoy multiple ‘cups of Joe’ on a daily basis.
3. Consider Nutritional Supplements
It can be hard to get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need from diet alone. That’s why a high-quality supplement may be worth adding to your diet.
Vitamin supplementation in addition to traditional glaucoma treatments may help slow glaucoma progression and even prevent or delay its onset.
Supplements that include Vitamins B1, B12, C, A, E, thiamine, magnesium and mirtogenol may be the most effective in fighting glaucoma. Herbal supplements that may have a positive effect on glaucoma include ginkgo biloba, bilberry and forskolin.
Speak with your [eye_doctor] about which options would best benefit your condition.
4. Eat Those Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables contain a host of essential vitamins and nutrients such as dietary nitrates, vitamins A, B, C, E, K, [fiber], folate, magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium.
In fact, a 2016 Harvard study found that both men and women who consumed the highest amounts of dark leafy greens had a 20%-30% lower risk of developing glaucoma.
In patients with early visual field loss, consuming nitrate-packed leafy greens lowered their risk of further damage to their vision by 40%-50%.
On your next trip down the produce aisle, stock up on foods like kale, spinach, watercress, chard, mustard greens, arugula, romaine lettuce and collard greens.
5. Up Your Antioxidants
Antioxidants are molecules that protect your body’s cells against harmful free radicals. In animal studies, antioxidants appeared to be helpful in the regulation of IOP, but large-scale human clinical trials are needed to confirm this.
You can find antioxidants in dark chocolate, berries, pecans, red cabbage, beets, beans, artichokes, and dark leafy greens.
6. Hydrate The Right Way
Maintaining proper hydration is important for all systems of the body, and the visual system is no exception. Most eye doctors recommend drinking around 2 liters of water per day.
However, it’s important to note that drinking a large amount of water in a short time span can actually increase inner eye pressure. Instead, it’s recommended to drink smaller amounts of water more frequently throughout the day.
Be sure to always consult with your primary care physician before making any changes to your diet.
Contact your local optometrist to discuss specific lifestyle and diet changes that can help prevent glaucoma onset or progression.