Acupuncture, TCM and Cataracts

TCM and Acupuncture for Eye Health in South Florida - Margate, Coconut Creek and Coral SpringsBy Susan Tretakis – Who knew? This seems to be my favorite phrase lately, but especially this past week. I’ve just come back from my annual vision exam where my eye doctor checked my vision, and noticed a “slight decrease in my distance vision due to cataracts in both eyes.”

Having cataracts was not a surprise to me; however, since my vision has stayed the same for the past two years, I really never gave them a thought. The decrease in my distance vision was too much of a concern; it was fractional in nature, requiring new glasses “only if I felt I needed them.”

What was a surprise was when he went to explain that “the cataracts were not large, but would probably need to be dealt with next year – or perhaps in five years. One never knows.”

Apparently, cataracts grow at their own speed, within your own vision environment.

I wondered if I could help nurture a healthy eye environment.  And, yes, I am well aware of the advances made in cataract surgery, but I will always be a card carrying member of the “Avoid Surgery Whenever Possible / For As Long As Possible” Society.

WebMD gives one tips for hindering cataract growth. They include “seeing your eye doctor regularly, eating a diet rich in beneficial nutrients, not smoking, limiting alcohol, protecting one your eyes from direct sunlight, keeping diabetes under control, and avoiding corticosteroid medications for any length of time.”

In fact, “Your Sight Matters” is very clear, saying that while “Cataract surgery is a routine procedure that is safe and effective, there are other ways to slow down the development of cataracts as well.”

In fact, they specify:

  • Change your diet. The same diet that is good for your body is good for your eyes.  Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, particularly those rich in antioxidants.  Also include nuts, whole grains and cold water fish in your diet.
  • Protect your eyes from extensive exposure to the sun. Wearing sunglasses or a brimmed hat is good for your eyes and your skin.
  • Stop Smoking. The leading source of cadmium comes from cigarette smoke.

So perhaps it is worth the time to research what TCM has to say about cataracts, and eye health in total. The Natural Eye Care Blog details that…

“Chinese Medicine attributes the onset of cataracts to deficiencies in the kidney and liver meridians. The resulting reduction of the energy and blood flow to the eyes leads to poor eye nutrition and eventually can cause the lens to become opaque. Additionally, the spleen meridian plays a role in the nourishment of the eyes. Just as how a blockage in the liver and kidney meridians can increase the growth of cataracts, so can a blockage in the spleen meridian.”

“Acupuncture has been successful in treating a wide variety of visual conditions, including cataracts. 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 X’s and Y’s are interrelated. Practitioners of TCM do not put labels on disease, but rather determine treatment based on the pattern of symptoms the patient manifest.” 

Even more personally, I love how my acupuncturist has taught me to select the foods necessary to strengthen my liver, kidneys and spleen. His diet recommendations are mirror images to the foods suggested by Marc Grossman, O.D, L.AC in his book “The Vision Diet”:

“In general, a diet high in beta carotene, vitamin C and E and sulfur bearing amino acids is recommended. Foods containing these nutrients include garlic, onions, beans, spinach, celery, turnips, yellow and orange vegetables, green leafy vegetables, seaweed, apples, oranges and tomatoes. Individuals should drink plenty of water, avoid carbonated, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages as these can dehydrate the eyes. Managing ones’ stress and daily exercise is recommended.”

I’ll agree to be the ping pong ball on the game table between my Western and Eastern doctors on this; I’ll continue to have my vision checked regularly and I will follow the dietary suggestions and regularly take the herbs suggested by my TCM doctor. But just between us – I’m aiming for the 5 year plan!

So here’s my game plan: I’m grateful that I live to in a society where cataract surgery is available and that part of the surgery is covered by my insurance. I’m also thankful that I have knowledgeable and informed TCM doctors available to me with their treatments, Chinese herbs and suggestions.

Facts are facts: Cataracts are quite common in people over the age of 50. And, yes, I am way over the age of 50. But on a personal note, I like that Traditional Chinese Medicine “works primarily to limit the causal factors of the developments of cataracts. TCM believes that visual health is a dynamic process, including such considerations as the work we do, our lifestyle habits, our adaptation to stress, excessive computer use, what we eat as how well we absorb nutrients, other health conditions, medications and genetics.”

Related – Learn about TCM and Dry Eyes

While I was not looking forward to presenting my acupuncturist with yet ANOTHER ailment, I have to admit that the literature speaks – loudly and often – to the very same three organs he treats and provides herbs for each month.

Steve Goodman, L. AC, writes,” “It has been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. In TCM the eyes are more accurately described as the window to the inner workings of the body, for in TCM the eyes are connected to all of the internal organs.”

All three of these Western suggestions are positive lifestyle changes. All three of them are remarkably similar to the basic beliefs of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Interested in learning more about holistic medicine? Schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled South Florida acupuncturists by calling (954) 586-2273