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Volume III
July 15, 2011

Weekly Home / No More Blood Sugar Blues

Blood Sugar DOES Affect Eyesight

By Alice Osborne

I worry about my vision. My grandma Alice had diabetes and it took her eyesight. My grandma Anne had diabetes as well and she also started to lose her vision. We know these tendencies are familial, so my worry is fairly justified.

Optometrists and ophthalmologists will all tell us that a person’s blood sugar definitely can affect our vision. And one issue they hear about often it blurry vision after overdoing processed carbohydrates. It’s quite common, and it IS a sign of insulin resistance. We’re not talking a one-time binge here, but rather the on-going, craving-related carbo binges many of us are way too familiar with. The point is that degeneration of the eyes is concomitant with diabetes. And even if we happen to be young and lean, we don’t want to fool ourselves that insulin resistance and all it leads to cannot happen.

Diabetes nutritionists tell us that if we’re having trouble with cravings, we should try at first to replace these foods with fruits and nuts, and then eventually phase out the fruits in favor of starchy tubers. There is evidence, however, that leaving anything sweet in the diet is going to undermine our ability to free ourselves completely. That being said though, binging on blueberries isn’t really going to be all that bad, compared to binging on Krispy Kremes!

But specifically, diabetes can affect our eyes in a few ways. A diabetic can develop cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy. It’s important to note here, that these three eye diseases can be developed by anyone—you do not have to have diabetes. However, diabetics have a much higher risk of developing eye problems including blindness.

Factor in the complication of high blood pressure - which is common in folks with blood sugar issues—which causes swelling in the eye, and we have an even higher chance of experiencing eye problems.

Let’s look first at cataracts. With this issue, the lens of eye(s) becomes cloudy, which makes vision blurry and causes sensitivity to light. Thank goodness surgery can remove them.

Then there’s glaucoma. Glaucoma is caused by pressure in the eye that does not allow the fluid to drain correctly. It can cause watery eyes, eye pain, and impaired vision. Surgery is an option as is laser procedures and prescription eye drops.

Finally, retinopathy. Retinopathy is caused by damage done to the blood vessels in the optic nerve in the eye. It can lead to permanent blindness and the best treatment is preventive measure to avoid the condition all together. The best advice is to have an eye examination at least once a year and maintain vigilant control over our diabetes. If we notice any symptoms such as blurred vision, black dots, a “hole” in our vision, or flashes of light, we need to see the eye doctor immediately.

NOW, how about some advice on specific foods to include, not just to avoid? Researchers have found that while we need to stay away from fats (especially transfats), some fatty foods are terrific vision protectors. NUTS and SEEDS tops the list. Not only are they tasty snacks, they are also excellent sources of vitamin E and minerals such as zinc that help keep our eyes healthy.

This said, however, we need to know that nature has set it up so that the nut, grain and seed may survive until proper growing conditions are present. In other words, nature’s defense mechanism includes nutritional enzyme inhibitors and toxic substances (phytates—phytic acid, polyphenols—tannins, and goitrogens)—they protect the nut, grain, and seed, but they reduce our ability to absorb the minerals in these mineral-rich foods.

The good news is that these substances can be removed naturally when there is enough precipitation to sustain a new plant after the nut, grain or seed germinates. When it rains the nut, grain or seed gets wet and can then germinate to produce a plant. So we are mimicking nature when we soak our nuts, grains and seeds—the inhibitors are removed in the soaking.

There are many references to soaking nuts, grains, and seeds in water, salt water, or a warm water mixture with something acidic like yogurt, whey or lemon juice. It seems within 7 to 24 hours the enzyme inhibitors are neutralized and the anti-nutrients are broken down regardless of the method used. There is evidence that the process works when we see sprouting begin.

But what do we do after they are soaked? I’ve eaten moist almonds and they’re great. One thing I learned the hard way, though, is that it’s best to do my soaking in little batches. Soaked nuts, seeds, and grains need refrigeration or they spoil.

But my favorite technique, especially for soaking LOTS of nuts and seeds, is to dry them in a dehydrator or oven on the lowest possible setting for 24 – 48 hours to remove all moisture. The LOW temperature protects their enzymes and the slow drying allows for a toasty crispness to develop. Talk about terrific, healthy, eye-protecting snacks!

(NOTE: One caution—cashews turn slimy if soaked any longer than 4 hours, so be sure to time yourself if this is a nut you’re using.)

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