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Can cataracts be treated naturopathically?

by Katherine Willow ND

This month’s column is about me, as I was just diagnosed with a small cataract, to my dismay, and want to try dissolving it naturally instead of having the surgery, which was predicted to be necessary in a year. However, take note: 90% of people over 85 will have cataracts!

I have never treated cataracts, but there is a wealth of information about how to do so. A naturopathic work-up with my new and very appreciated associate, Laura Stark ND, will match possible treatments to my individual condition; testing the large number of recommended supplements and remedies on our Biotron machine will determine which ones are best for me (and minimize the number I need to take).

Let’s start with an understanding: normal cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye with a build-up of protein. Symptoms include a gradual blurring of the vision, seeing double, halos around lights and up to a total loss of vision. Cataracts are responsible for a major part of blindness around the world. You can see why I’m motivated — treating my cataract naturally should prevent any further progression as well as avoiding the surgery. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Risk factors for cataracts are numerous, including tobacco (20% increase), free radicals, eye drops with steroids, untreated diabetes, dehydration (even acutely, as in a heat stroke), ultra violet light exposure (3X increase), galactose (sugar from milk products unless they are fermented), too many refined carbs—especially sugar (my special weakness!), long-term aspartame use, major tranquilizers, excess alcohol, glaucoma, extreme short-sightedness (that would be me too), German measles exposure in the womb, physical trauma such as a blow, cuts, radiation or intense hot/cold, a diet high in salt and excessive exposure to microwaves.

It follows from this that treatments for cataracts would include antioxidants such as vitamin C, (one study says 80mg vit C decreases cataracts by 50%); a diet high in fruits and vegetables (decreases cataracts by 39%); using sunglasses and avoiding the risk factors as much as possible, especially cutting out or severely limiting all sugars. Then one can choose from a host of herbal remedies (bilberry apparently can reverse cataracts in some cases), nutritional supplements (vitamins A, beta-carotene, E, B2/6; zinc, selenium; lutein, zeaxanthins), acupuncture/Chinese herbs and homeopathy which all claim to be able to stop or reverse cataracts.

One product which has attracted my interest is N-alpha-acetyl-carnosine or NAC, which supposedly penetrates and protects lipid tissues from light damage, free radicals and glycosylation (sugar damage). A clinical trial in China showed 100% success with senile (!) cataracts, sustaining those results 24 months later. It can be taken as drops and/or capsules. I will order this, try it out and let you know!

Other treatments which can help in the treatment of cataracts include palming (rubbing the palms together until warm and placing over the eyes for several minutes while relaxing); hot/cold water applications; eye exercises; avoiding TV in a dark room; Epsom salt baths; no make-up past the expiry date; computer breaks every 30-40 minutes (oops, need to stop for a minute!); and washing the eyes regularly with cold water after coming in from outdoors.

From a German New Medicine perspective, cataracts are the healing phase of a visual separation conflict, no longer having someone in sight. So at least there is nothing to resolve. . .

Fortunately, I have some fine practitioners supporting me in this project: my holistic optometrist Estelle Saunders (613-226-8446) and Dr Krasimir Vajarov (613-564-0009), an eye doctor from Europe who practices in Ottawa as a naturotherapist and treats me with acupuncture once a week. However, if I don’t succeed for some reason, the one hour surgery has an excellent prognosis!

Dr. Katherine Willow, ND, is a fourth generation registered naturopathic doctor with over three decades of experience. She is founder and director of Carp Ridge EcoWellness Centre (www.ecowellness.com) and has a specific interest in German New Medicine and how emotions relate to disease, about which she is currently writing an introductory book.