Does the supplement industry have our good health in mind more so than the pharmaceutical industry?
Are we better off eating nutritious foods to get maximum nutrition, and skipping supplements altogether?
Or is there a reason we need supplementation?
Are there other factors leading to poor health?
Table of Contents
My Take on Supplements in General
First, I want to be clear that I’m skeptical about supplements. I believe that the human body is capable of transforming chemicals in surprising ways into many things it needs, and that nutritionists don’t understand everything.
The good thing is when you experiment with taking the wrong supplements, as long as you keep the doses reasonable and stay aware of signs you’re taking too much, it’s usually easier on your body than taking medication.
I’ve accumulated two drawers full of supplements that I might never use. It’s hard to tell what’s useful. I’ve taken every vitamin we know of, and many other things. It’s probably mostly nonsense. I almost never feel any different. They might be useless and go right through me.
The fact is that nutritionists can’t see what’s going on inside your body. The best they can do is note symptoms.
Blood tests are not always useful! Much of it is wizardry, relying on typical ranges, impressive looking data sheets, and important-sounding testing labs.
A blood test tells what they find in your blood. That’s not very helpful. Maybe your blood has low levels of a nutrient because your body is doing really well in some way such that it isn’t needed. Maybe your blood has high levels of the nutrient because your body recently stole a high amount of it from your body’s cells, which desperately needed it also, to put in the blood for some more urgent reason.
Guaranteed that when there’s some kind of study or report that a certain substance is good for treating some condition, the supplement companies will be all over it, making bottles of it, promoting it as a treatment, giving away bottles to Amazon customers for positive reviews, sponsoring articles by “unbiased” bloggers to promote it, and so on. It’s all marketing, and there doesn’t have to be any substance behind it.
Magnesium for Vision
I heard about Carolyn Dean, a medical and naturopathic doctor who highly recommends magnesium supplementation. She describes an impressive number of conditions that her patients have used magnesium for with success.
Among the symptoms of low magnesium are eye twitches, muscle tension, and headaches. Sound familiar? With vision problems you might experience these symptoms frequently. These aren’t necessarily from low magnesium, but those symptoms stood out to me.
Some forms of magnesium are not very bioavailable, meaning they are not absorbed by your body and instead act as a laxative (causing diarrhea). This is the case for magnesium sulfate (epsom salt), magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide.
Magnesium glycinate has a high bioavailability, and it’s meant to help muscle relaxation and mental calm. Spot on for our purposes. You can take a ton of it without any laxative effects.
I was getting muscle cramps and had trouble sleeping, so I’ve been taking the Doctor’s Best brand of magnesium glycinate for the last month. Any brand might be fine. I picked it based on the price per milligram, and the form of magnesium.
After a month of taking 800mg per day, the upper limit that Dr. Dean recommends, I have noticed no laxative effects or other negative effects. I’m not a small guy, so I always expect to move up to the max dose.
I don’t recommend you do a dose that high. Keep in mind that I’m the type of person that doesn’t easily get an upset stomach from supplements or strange food. I don’t feel any effects at all from most supplements. In a rare emergency with an injury, I have to exceed the maximum dosage of pain pills to feel relief. If that doesn’t sound like you, keep your dose lower.
As far as positive effects, the first thing was I started sleeping better. I believe it’s because of the magnesium. I have also noticed less joint popping in my ankles, and I’m a little bit more flexible without having to stretch as much. I’m not totally convinced that this is from the magnesium, but it’s the only other thing I noticed. Still getting muscle cramps in my back though!
I didn’t need the magnesium for my vision, and it hasn’t hurt my vision. So I can’t speak much to that.
I’m a coffee addict, and the large doses of caffeine could be counteracting a lot of effects I might be getting.
Dr. Dean has a supplement called ReMag, a liquid magnesium chloride, which is another form of magnesium that has high bioavailability. That might be worth a try for you if you don’t mind paying a little more, because I tend to think of liquid supplements for anything as having better absorption than tablets.
Carrots and Bilberries
During World War II, the German planes kept doing nighttime bombing runs on England. The British responded by doing mass blackouts at night so that the Germans couldn’t find the targets.
The British Royal Air Force started spotting and shooting down the German bombers before they could come across the English Channel.
While they did so, the British also put out a bunch of advertisements that eating carrots would greatly help night vision, specifically during blackouts, and depicting British soldiers on the ads.
The theory goes that this was British propaganda meant to reach the Germans, concealing the fact that the British were testing new radar technology that would spot the German planes that were approaching. This would buy the British some time while the Germans obsessively consumed carrots to try to even the odds. Funny.
I’ve also heard this same story but with bilberry instead of carrots. However, there are many saved copies of ads like the above, and nothing for bilberry.
Bilberries are the exact same berries that we call huckleberries in the US. I ate tons of naturally growing huckleberries as a kid. However, there are no stories out there about huckleberries and vision, while you can find hundreds of articles online about bilberries and vision. It’s because it’s a bunch of nonsense that gets repeated. Bilberries sound more exotic to Americans.
This claim about carrots helping night vision was never later confirmed by the British government, and you don’t see pilots everywhere, or anyone else who does night work, eating huckleberries, carrots, or supplements thereof.
I don’t believe an innocuous berry is going to have that kind of effect on night vision. If the berry were psychoactive, at least that would be something. This is just another normal edible berry. Berries are packed full of nutrients, but still.
Like other berries, huckleberries have antioxidants, which are supposed to be good for many problems in the body associated with inflammation. I don’t doubt that people taking huckleberries for eye or vision problems have seen improvements. The placebo effect is very powerful, and it’s hard to sort out whether the huckleberries itself had any effect. Reportedly there is evidence that it has helped with retinal inflammation. Has anyone compared that to taking, say, blueberries or strawberries? I don’t know. The takeaway might be that berries in general are good.
Blood Sugar and Vision
High blood sugar – they say – causes fluid to leak into the lens area of your eye, causing the lens to swell, throwing off its focus and making you myopic (or more so). This goes away when your blood sugar goes back down.
It also can cause the retina to swell, which is diabetic retinopathy.
On the other hand, one thing we know that the medical establishment does not is the eyes’ focus frequently changes over the short term without blood sugar issues, particularly when someone with a refractive error does not wear glasses or is working on improving his vision. So don’t get the idea that you must have diabetes just because your vision goes in and out.
Of course, too high blood sugar is not a good thing. It causes chaos everywhere, and that probably includes the eyes.
Eating processed sugar or too much starch can lead to blood sugar spikes for many people.
Eye Diseases and Conditions
The medical establishment’s position is that supplements for macular degeneration won’t reverse it but might reduce the risk of developing it somewhat. That’s pretty much their position on everything: You’re doomed.
Try Googling “macular degeneration supplements” or a similar query, and they give you results from medical establishment sites like WebMD and others. If you search on another engine like Bing or DuckDuckGo, your results are very different; lots more interesting content that is outside the mainstream. Google made this change in 2018, demoting all alternative health sites in favor of mainstream medical establishment sites. Yep, they demoted iblindness.org pretty hard too. We’re pretty far outside the mainstream.
Nancy has a post about what you can try for dry eyes. Studies showed that people with myopia have more evidence of dry eyes, and that Saudis with myopia had dry eyes more often than those without myopia.
Dry eye, myopia, and other conditions are often all related.
What to Do?
So how do you tell what foods or supplements are best? Is there a good test?
Yes! Pay attention to how you feel. Take notes.
If you pay close enough attention, you will be able to note a change. If your energy level increases, it’s probably the right food or supplement for you. You can follow the best diet theories, but if you don’t feel right after giving a diet a good try, it’s probably not for you. Low energy is always going to be bad for your vision.
On the other hand, if you go on a fast or a low-calorie restricted diet and you notice positive changes in your vision, the issue is probably something you were eating that your body can’t handle more so than a lack of nutrition.
Factory farming and modern food processing has depleted soils of vitamins and minerals that we used to get more of. That’s the main reason why supplementation is supposed to be necessary, or at least it’s the marketing gimmick the supplement companies use. I can’t give you a definite answer about things like this. I just don’t know. The more I read about nutrition, the more it all seems like nonsense.
In college I had a roommate who wore -6.00D contacts for myopia. She told me about how back in Japan her vision had improved when she went on a vegetable diet, but after a month she went back to her heavily rice-based diet and her vision reverted back. I don’t know why she went back to it, but I’m guessing her rice diet felt more comfortable, or her myopia was severe enough that some vision improvement wasn’t enough to have any effect on her need to wear contacts.
Nutrition, or avoiding foods that are causing problems, might help your vision somewhat, but it isn’t going to be the answer you’re looking for. Like my former roommate, you aren’t looking for partial improvement. You’re looking to get away from glasses entirely, right?
The fact is that people with myopia have more problems with their eyes than those without. It has to do with the strain you’re putting your eyes and whole visual system under when you use them in the wrong way.
The Bates method and other related approaches to vision improvement that this site promotes are all about learning to use your eyes in a more relaxed, natural way that leads to good vision. Tons of problems can manifest when you’re straining your eyes. The visual system is a delicate system that handles lots of data and makes lots of adjustments. It can only do this well when you don’t have habits that try to force it into working in a way that it isn’t designed for.
I founded iblindness.org in 2002 as I began reading books on the Bates Method and became interested in vision improvement. I believe that everyone who is motivated can identify the roots of their vision problems and apply behavioral changes to solve them.