Tips to Fight Optic Neuritis

By: Esther Vasa

Optic Neuritis
Simply put, Optic Neuritis (ON) is the inflammation of the optic nerve, that connects eye and the brain and could result in a partial or complete loss of vision. This condition mostly develops due to an autoimmune disorder like Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or an underlying cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Many get diagnosed with MS following an optic neuritis flare-up. See your doctor at the first signs of ON, like blurred vision, eye pain or flash in the eye.

These general tips are for informational purposes only. Before embarking on a new dietary path or before starting any new supplements, consult your doctor to see how it would affect your MS, ON or any other conditions you may have.

It is important to protect our cells from damage or damage causing substances like toxins, heavy metals, preservatives and carcinogens. Increase intake of high-pigment natural antioxidants. Fruits, fruit skins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, dark grapes, cherries, goji berries, acai berries and watermelons. Vegetables like kale, spinach, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli florets, and red bell peppers have similar protective antiaging benefits. Consider taking supplements like resveratrol, bilberry extract, if obtaining fresh produce is difficult.

EFAs, like Omega 3 fatty acid found in walnuts, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, evening primrose oil and oily fish are essential to fight inflammatory conditions like ON. Our entire central nervous system and especially our brain consists largely of structural fats. Every nerve fiber is coated with a fatty layer called "myelin sheath", which acts like the insulation around electrical wires. However, avoid trans fat and consume foods with high EFAs to improve nerve health.

Supplements like vitamin B-12, thiamine, folic acid, proteins with sulfur-containing amino acids are essential. Or consume foods like green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale. Beans and nuts (if you aren't allergic) also contain parts of the vitamin B complex like thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine and niacin.

Get six to eight hours of sleep every night. If you have insomnia, please check Elna's "Natural treatments for INSOMNIA".

Avoid sugar and sugar substitutes. If you really need a sweetener, I recommend using raw honey (sparingly), organic unsulphured dates or dried fruits, organic berries and some fruit.

Gluten is a substance that contains many different proteins. It is found in cereal grains like wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, bulgur wheat, triticale, oats etc., Oats by default are gluten-free but conventional oats may have traces of gluten as they are mostly processed in a wheat facility. If you want to use oats, please get gluten-free oats.

In general, you should absolutely avoid known "neurotoxins" (poisons that kill neurons) such as smoking, intoxicating alcohol, and "excitotoxins" (MSG, aspartame, NutraSweet, Equal and other sugar substitutes). Heavy metals like lead and mercury (Eg: in fish, metal tooth fillings) are known to kill neurons.

As a rule of thumb, know your allergens and avoid them. For example, I know that am allergic to dairy and seafood and try to stay away from them as best as I can.

Genetically Modified (GM) Foods have many known and unknown health hazards. If you can afford, stick to organic, non-GM foods. For instance, introducing a gene into a plant may create a new allergen or cause an allergic reaction in susceptible people. Mostly foods like soy and corn are genetically modified foods.

Some may experience an ON flare when the body gets heated up. To get your dose of sunlight in the summer months, step out either in the morning or after 5PM. Get a cooling vest and use it when you head out or use it while exercising. Hydrate to cool down.

TIPS FOR EYE HEALTH by Elna Botes van Schalkwyk
Salmon, garlic, dark chocolate, leafy greens (you already know the importance of eating your greens each day, but all that spinach, broccoli and kale will provide essential vitamins and minerals for good eye health. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, spinach in particular contains high levels of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are essential for protecting the eyes from degeneration), billberries, apricots and eggs. (Egg yolks contain several essential nutrients and protein that can keep you healthy; in addition to lutein and essential fatty acids, eggs contain B-vitamins and zinc that are essential for overall eye health).

Besides the nutrients and ocular nutrition foods to have and avoid, described above, the following nutrients are associated with vision and eye health:
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid – ALA improves the performance of other antioxidants in the body.
  • L-Taurine – helps protect the eyes from UV light and helps strengthen the retinal cells.
  • Lycopene – a strong antioxidant found in tomatoes
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine – helps protect the eyes from damage by UV light and strengthens the immune system.
  • Quercetin – a strong antioxidant that helps maintain lens transparency; exists in small amounts in red wine.
  • Vitamin C – helps the body resist damage by oxidation (damage from long-term exposure to oxygen and light).
  • Zinc – helps support macula and retina health; levels of zinc and eye health are definitely related.