Although there are treatments for eye disease, prevention is preferable.
The topic is one stressed by Dr. Edward Fries at his practice with Decatur Eye Center, where he emphasizes the link between good nutrition and healthy eyes. Fries is an applied clinical nutritionist and is certified in addressing the growing data that relates nutrition to eye health, particularly related to diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.
“High blood sugar levels affects the eyes quite a bit because it affects the blood vessels,” he said, and eyes are the most vascular organ.
Fries recommends eating a low-carb diet, focusing on natural food.
“High-carb diets are definitely linked to a host of diseases and going right along with that is processed foods,” said Fries. “A lot of high-carb eating will also deplete you of the necessary vitamins that keep your eyes working well.”
Fries said he has been stressing good nutrition as a key to prevention the last three or four years, and he continues to learn more about it through nutritional studies.
“I definitely believe there are things you need to be careful of,” he said. “They shouldn’t be eaten in huge amounts.
“My biggest thing in the eye examination is… people know about cookies and candy and stuff and that they shouldn’t eat it. The thing they don’t realize is that breads, potatoes and rice are just as bad or worse,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize you are putting yourself at risk for more disease with the eyes.”
Bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, and even beans, he said, should be consumed in moderation.
“You need to stick to leafy vegetables – stem and leaf veggies,” he said.
Fries explained that vegetables should be juiced, cooked or steamed to take advantage of their maximum nutrient value.
He also recommends eating “wholesome” foods or those that are unprocessed or unrefined. He said a good source for those types of foods are local farmers markets, but foods labeled “organic” at grocery stores are also a good choice.
He suggests using supplements only if your body is “really depleted” of nutrients.
“Even with supplements, look for those that are whole food-based,” he said. “A lot of the negative studies with vitamins have to do with synthetics,” which are more difficult for the body to break down.
Although nutritional information can be overwhelming, Fries has an easy reminder: “If it comes in a package or box with an ingredient list, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.”
Fries has been practicing in Decatur for almost 10 years.