Marc Grossman, OD, LAc, is a leading holistic optometrist in practice since 1980. Internationally respected, he has taught many hundreds of practitioners and physicians in his methods. An influential pioneer, practitioner and teacher in natural and integrative eye care, Dr. Grossman is in the forefront of the holistic vision care movement and the mind-body connection. His respected Naturaleyecare.com website is the world’s largest holistic eye care website followed by many millions. Dr. Grossman has offices in Somers and New Paltz, NY.
Dr. Grossman is co-author of Natural Eye Care, Your Guide to Healthy Vision and Healing, an 800-page, landmark guide written to empower readers of every age to support and preserve healthy vision through the health of the whole body. Natural Eye Care includes in-depth holistic, dietary and lifestyle strategies and recommendations based on peer-reviewed studies and Dr. Grossman’s 40 years of research and experience. He is also author of the international bestseller Magic Eye Beyond 3D: Improve Your Vision and Greater Vision – A Comprehensive Program for Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Clarity.
Dr. Grossman lectures widely on topics such as natural vision improvement, vision and nutrition, as well as Chinese medicine and vision care. He has been interviewed by The New York Times and has appeared on local and national network television.
Q: What inspired you to write Natural Eye Care: Your Guide to Healthy Vision & Healing?
A: First of all, eye care in this country is symptom oriented. In our training as eye doctors, we are taught that once something goes wrong with your eyes, there is not much that can be done. We are taught hardly anything about prevention of problems.
People believe that eye problems are just a natural consequence of the aging process, but I have, along with many colleagues, had frequent success with patients in preventing their eyes from worsening, as well as success with improving the condition of patients’ eyes in such cases as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.
I’m interested in educating the public in an aggressive prevention program. Many studies, such as those out of Harvard University, have already shown the benefits of a nutritional-based prevention program for eye diseases, such as macular degeneration. I believe many eye diseases can be prevented with proper nutrition and lifestyle changes early on. This is what inspired me to write the book.
Q: Do you recommend dietary supplements? If so, which ones and why?
A: Antioxidants that have been shown to slow or even reverse the progress of macular degeneration are found in blueberries, artichokes and pecans. Important antioxidants include: the carotenoids, astaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as nutrients and enzymes that behave like or support antioxidant functioning—glutathione, superoxide dismutase, CoQ10 and alpha lipoic acid.
1. The carotenoids: Lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments found in fruits and vegetables, and in high concentration in the macula of the human eye, where they reduce the risk of light-induced oxidation damage that could lead to macular degeneration and glaucoma. Foods rich in these nutrients are green leafy vegetables, especially kale and spinach, collards and turnip greens.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce the risk of both dry eye and macular degeneration. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold water fish such as sardines, herring, salmon and tuna and to a lesser degree in dark green leafy vegetables, flax seeds, walnuts and flaxseed oil.
3. Vitamin A as an antioxidant plays an important role in immune function, helping the surface of the eye to be an effective barrier to bacteria and viruses. It may help or slow the progression of dry macular degeneration. Beta carotene (vitamin A) is found in carrots, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe.
4. Vitamin C helps the body form connective tissue, such as collagen, which is found in the cornea of the eye. Studies are showing that vitamin C may help prevent the formation of cataracts and vision loss from macular degeneration. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and many vegetables, such as bell peppers.
5. Zinc may help against macular degeneration and night blindness by helping to absorb vitamin A and helping enzymes fight free radicals. Zinc is found in oysters, seafood, eggs, black-eyed peas and wheat germ.
6. Magnesium helps relax the muscles that control circulation of vitreous gel in the eye; it is found in almonds, wheat germ and green leafy vegetables.
7. Taurine is found in high concentration in the retina photoreceptor rods, 10 times greater than any other part of the body. It plays an important role in night vision, is essential to photoreceptor integrity, acts as an antioxidant to protect cells, helps to move nutrients across cell membrane barriers, and helps remove debris and toxins from the retina.
8. Glutathione: Research studies link glutathione with the prevention of cataracts, glaucoma, retinal disease and diabetic blindness.
9. Bilberry helps improve the health of the eyes and protects against macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.
10. Astaxanthin: Research shows it to help for cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma and computer eye strain.
Q: How does the traditional Chinese medicine approach to vision health differ from the Western medicine approach?
A: The human body is a complex, organic unit. Its tissues and organs are interrelated and mutually dependent. Therefore, the health of the eyes, as the optical organ of the body, can influence and be influenced by any and every other organ in the body.
Acupuncture has been successful in treating a wide range of visual conditions including glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, optic neuritis and optic atrophy. The Western and Eastern medical approach varies in a fundamental way. Western medicine defines eye disease on the basis of the pathophysiological disease process (how “X” causes “Y”) and assigns a specific diagnosis to define the underlying pathology. Once this diagnosis is made, the treatment and medication are often the same for patients with similar diagnoses, regardless of differing symptoms. This approach can be very effective for acute conditions, but often falls short for ongoing chronic conditions where the cause or causes of the symptoms are elusive. In Chinese theory, every individual is viewed as unique. Chinese medicine looks for patterns of disharmony in a person to determine the relationship between “X” and “Y.” Healing does not depend on identifying how X causes Y, but on how Xs and Ys are interrelated. Practitioners of Chinese medicine do not put labels on disease, but rather determine treatment based on the pattern of symptoms the patient manifests.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), all diseases involving the eye are closely related to the liver. It is also understood that the eye is nourished by all of the internal organs in the body. The lens of the eye and the pupil basically belong to the kidney, the sclera to the lungs, the arteries and veins to the heart, the top eyelid to the spleen, the bottom eyelid to the stomach, and the cornea and iris to the liver. The spleen and stomach also control circulation in the eyes. Therefore, an imbalance in any of the internal organs may lead to eye disease.
Q: What are some self-care suggestions that you can offer? Why are they important?
A: Mind/Body medicine is based on the fact that our health and well-being depends on all the individual parts to work together effectively. So, it should come as no surprise that healthy eyesight is also dependent upon our total well-being, which is affected by our genetic makeup, the food we eat, our work environment and exposure to airborne toxins, as well as our general belief systems about ourselves and the world we live in.
Each of us is unique and literally takes the world in through our senses, primarily through our vision. Many believe the way we take in the world is, to some degree, a reflection of who we are and which symptoms we might manifest. The integrative approach evaluates the person’s lifestyle, habits, diet, exercise routine and stress management, along with the family history, in determining a therapeutic approach. It attempts to bring in the patient as an active partner in the program to improve or maintain eye health. Specific habits have been identified in studies to be very damaging to eye health, including smoking, excessive alcohol, coffee, excess sugar and refined foods, and hydrogenated oils (like margarines).
Here are some tips to take better care of your vision:
1. Looking up. Both children and adults need to look up and away from near tasks to distant objects regularly.
2. Lighting. The illumination on what you are doing should be three times brighter than the rest of the room. Don’t read under a single lamp in a dark room. Eliminating glare is especially important for close-up work.
3. Sitting straight. Have chest up, shoulders back and weight over the seat so both eyes are at the eye task level and at an equal distance from what is being seen.
4. Best distance. Reading, writing or close-up work is best done at an eye-to-activity distance equal to the length between middle knuckle and elbow (14 to 16 inches for adults).
5. Posture. Sit upright while reading or watching television in bed. Avoid lying on your back or stomach.
6. Writing. Hold your pencil or pen an inch or so from the tip so you can see and guide it without tilting your head or body to the side.
7. Television. Watch TV from a distance equal to seven times the width of the screen (about 8 to 10 feet) and sit upright. Have indirect lamps on in the room but placed to eliminate glare on the screen. Watching television involves and develops very few visual skills and should be limited to a few hours or less daily, especially for children.
8. Participating. Perform outdoor activities that require seeing at a distance. Become aware of what and where things are on all sides. When walking, keep your head up, eyes wide open and look toward objects, but avoid staring at them.
9. Nutrition. A good diet high in fruits and vegetables along with supplementation of lutein, zeaxanthin, bilberry and vitamin A are beneficial for keeping the eyes healthy. Additional nutrients may be required for specific eye conditions.
10. Exercise. Aerobic exercise not only benefits your heart—it’s good for your eyes too. Exercise is extremely important in the prevention of the eyes’ worsening. Exercise raises oxygen levels in the cells and increases lymph and blood circulation. This increased circulation is a prerequisite.
Q: Can you share your thoughts on blue light? What precautions should people be taking?
A: Research suggests that progressive destruction of light-detecting cells in the eyes due to prolonged exposure to blue light could therefore contribute to age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and computer eye strain. Blue light may affect our vision by damaging the eye’s lens and retina.
Some ways to protect yourself against blue light eye damage include:
1. Boost Your Macular Pigment: The primary blue-light absorbing tissue in the eye is the macular pigment. Use nutrients such as lutein, zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin and astaxanthin.
2. Rest Your Eyes: Place the palms of your hands over your eyes every 20 minutes for two minutes
3. Computer Glasses: Get lenses with a blue filter for computer use.
4. Get a screen filter to protect against blue light.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: The advances modern medicine has made are astounding, particularly in dealing with acute problems and emergencies. If I suddenly had a retinal detachment, I would want to be taken to a conventional hospital immediately. But conventional medicine has lost sight of the long-term picture, which is what can we do to nurture the body back to health. It is the body’s remarkable defense system and genetic knowledge that keep us healthy and alive. The body often gives us signals way ahead of time that a problem is emerging, and that we need to make some changes. We need to pay attention to these signals and listen to what our body is asking from us. Working on this plane is really the strength of what is referred to as integrative medicine. Ultimately, it will be the blending of traditional and holistic medicine that, in the long run, will provide the best treatment for health and healing.
I hope this information is helpful in having you keep your precious gift of sight for your lifetime.