Natural Strategies for Keeping Your Vision: Cataracts

By Jonathan V. Wright, MD

I’ve written about an effective, well-researched cataract treatment previously:
N-acetylcarnosine eyedrops. Another option for treating cataracts is a combination of Chinese botanicals called “Hachimi-jio-gan,” or Ba-wei-wan. This treatment has been used for centuries in China to treat cataracts, and even has a bit of clinical evidence to support it. In a human study of early cataracts conducted in Japan, Hachimi-jio-gan was associated with lessening of cataracts in 60 percent of the volunteers. In the USA, Hachimi-jio-gan is available as a (much easier to pronounce) formula called “Clinical Nutrients for the Eyes”, which is available from natural food stores, compounding pharmacies, and the Tahoma Clinic Dispensary (

Rounding out the natural treatment options for cataracts is a single, simple nutrient: Vitamin A. Decades ago, an honest ophthalmologist with a sense of humor wrote a letter to the editor of a medical journal “complaining” that his income from cataract surgery had gone down by over 2/3 since he started recommending vitamin A to all his patients with any degree of cataract at all. I recommend 30,000 IU of vitamin A (not beta-carotene) for anyone who wants to prevent or treat cataracts. In fact, the only people who shouldn’t use this amount are very small children (who don’t get cataracts anyway) and pregnant women.

And while we’re on the topic of cataract prevention, one of the most important things you can do is to eliminate all sources of sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet! Researchers have found that part of the cause of cataracts is the lens of the eye trying to “help” the body lower high blood sugar by “packing it away” within the lens, which gradually obscures the vision, which explains why individuals with type 2 diabetes have a much greater incidence of cataracts than people with normal blood sugar levels. So even though not eating sugar and refined carbohydrates is better for everyone’s health, it’s especially important for cataract prevention if you have diabetes—type 2 or type 1—in your family. Eliminating all sources of the milk sugar lactose (milk, ice cream, cottage cheese, and many soft cheeses) will reduce your risk of cataract, too.

In addition to eliminating refined sugar and carbohydrates, you may also want to consider incorporating some cataract-preventing nutrients (other than just vitamin A) into your daily supplement regimen. Riboflavin, vitamin C, quercitin, zinc, and carotenoids have all been associated with cataract risk reduction. And one study found that people with higher serum vitamin E levels had 50 percent less risk of developing cataracts than people with lower levels. (When you’re supplementing with vitamin E, remember to use mixed tocopherols, not just alpha-tocopherol.)

As a side note, patent-medicine “cortisone” preparations that are prescribed to suppress symptoms of asthma, severe allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and other more severe inflammatory conditions always increase cataract risk. So if you’re using prescription patent-medicine “cortisone,” check with a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine for effective alternatives.

Thanks for reading!

Source: Integrative Health Network: Jonathan Wright, MD

Natural Strategies for Keeping your Mental Capacity

By Jonathan V. Wright, MD

Your guide for beating cognitive decline (a.k.a “keeping your marbles”)

According to health authorities, Alzheimer’s disease is slated to become the next epidemic. In fact, current estimates state that nearly half of people over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s, whether it’s obvious or not. There are non-Alzheimer’s forms of dementia, too, most notably “multi-infarct” dementia, which is thought to be caused by a series of small strokes, and mild cognitive decline, which likely has many causes that have yet to be identified.

The best way to combat any and all of these cognitive problems is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. You keep reading about it over and over again, but an excellent diet is truly the most important aspect of preventing most—if not all—health problems, including cognitive decline. In fact, more and more research is being reported linking blood sugar problems (such as diabetes) and potential blood sugar problems (such as metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance) with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. So here we go: Eliminate the sugar and refined carbohydrates! Make sure to eat several non-starchy vegetables and a wide array of colorful vegetables every day, too. (You want a varied palette on your plate because each color signals a different and necessary-to-good-health group of nutrients.)

It’s also a good idea to “eat organic” as much as possible, since organically raised foods have significantly more minerals and vitamins than “commercially” grown varieties, not to mention a much lower risk of being contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and miscellaneous non-food chemical additives.

When you can, I encourage you to even go beyond organic produce and also opt for organic, free-range meat and poultry as well. The essential fatty acid ratio in free-range protein is anti-inflammatory, while the essential fatty acid ratio found in grain-fed animal protein actually promotes inflammation, and inflammation is also being implicated more and more as raising the risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive malfunction.

Along these same lines, one of the best “brain foods” you can eat is fish. (Low-mercury fish, that is.) Not only are the omega-3 fatty acids in fish anti-inflammatory, but they’re also essential components of the membranes of every brain cell we have. And since our bodies can’t make them on their own, it’s critical to get enough omega-3s and other essential fatty acids from supplements (like cod liver oil) and foods (like free-range meat and fish).

Phospholipids are another key component of brain cells. While our bodies can make them, as with many other things (co-enzyme Q10 and glutathione are two prominent examples) our bodies make less and less with age. Eggs—specifically the yolks—are excellent sources of phospholipids, as is the lecithin found in soy. Supplemental lecithin—another good source of phospholipids—is available in any natural food store and is an excellent idea for anyone over 40.

Boost your brain—and your sex life

I can’t tell you how many men I’ve seen at the Tahoma Clinic who have the idea that testosterone is mostly for sexual function. I always let them know that its most important job is maintaining cognitive function. The sex part is important, no doubt, but who cares about sex if you can’t remember who you’re with or what you’re doing with her?

Unfortunately, thanks to this misunderstanding word hasn’t gotten around that—just like estrogen replacement for women—bio-identical testosterone replacement for men is extremely important for significantly reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. I’ll just mention a few of the highlights:

  • Higher serum estrogen levels in women in their 60s are directly correlated with lower incidence of Alzheimer’s in those same women decades later. (And the reverse is true too: Lower estrogens equal higher incidence of Alzheimer’s in later years.)
  • The 15-year Princeton men’s study determined that men who had higher serum free testosterone in 1983 had less risk of Alzheimer’s disease in 1998. (Once again, the reverse was also true: Lower serum free testosterone corresponded with higher risk of Alzheimer’s.)
  • Researchers observing neurons found substantially less accumulation of beta-amyloid, neurofibrillary tangle, tau protein, and other “neuronal garbage” associated with Alzheimer’s when those neurons were exposed to “physiologic quantities” of either estrogen or testosterone (depending on whether the neuron was from a woman or a man).
  • In numerous controlled experiments, elderly men without Alzheimer’s disease do better on tests of cognitive function when given testosterone than men given placebo.
  • Testosterone for men and estrogen (that’s real, bio-identical estrogen—not horse estrogen) for women is very protective for the entire cardiovascular system, including the blood supply to the brain. (Remember that cognitive decline due to repeated small strokes?)

The bottom line is, if you want to “keep your marbles” for as long as you live, consider bio-identical hormone replacement when it’s appropriate for you. Just make sure to be working with a physician who is skilled and knowledgeable in all aspects of this therapy. If you’re not sure if your doctor is, one way to find out is to ask the physician’s office whether they do routine monitoring of therapy with the 24-hour urine steroid determination. This test is the very best way to check not only the levels of the bio-identical hormones being replaced but also their metabolization (the natural transformation of the starting hormones into pro- and anti-carcinogenic metabolites). Blood and/or saliva testing just doesn’t cut it when it comes to bio-identical HRT. See other posts for detailed discussion of bio-identical hormone replacement (and, rest assured, if safety monitoring does indicate that there’s an imbalance in the “wrong” direction, it’s almost always correctable with nutrients or botanicals).

Small dose, big protection

No matter what neurotoxin your brain is exposed to, lithium protects against it.

Not only that, but lithium actually promotes the growth of new brain cells, even in individuals past age 50. So far, no other nutrient has been found to do that.

Yes, high-dose prescription lithium can be toxic, but low quantities like the ones used for boosting cognitive function and protecting brain cells (20 milligrams daily and under) are not associated with toxicity. In over 30 years, I’ve only encountered two or three individuals who reported a possible reaction to low-dose lithium: These people thought that it might have given them a slight tremor (which went away when the lithium was discontinued). But on the flip side of that same coin, I’ve also encountered dozens of individuals who reported improvement in benign tremors with the use of low dose lithium.

Even though risk of toxicity from low-dose lithium is very small, I always recommend you work with a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine if you decide to supplement with lithium. And to be on the extra-cautious side, I always recommend using supplemental essential fatty acids when using even low-quantity lithium supplements. Essential fatty acids are the primary treatment for toxicity caused by high-dose prescription lithium, so using them in conjunction with low-dose treatment helps avoid that possibility altogether.

Spicing up your brain-boosting regimen

There are many, many more supplemental items that can help you maintain cognitive function. Although no one is entirely sure how it works, the research on curcumin’s ability to protect against Alzheimer’s (as well as its many other beneficial effects) has been more than a little exciting. Areas of the world in which the spice turmeric (which has a high concentration of curcumin) is routinely used have very little—if any—Alzheimer’s compared with areas that don’t. Perhaps the best aspect of curcumin is that you don’t need to take yet another pill to get its brain-boosting benefits. Just use turmeric in your cooking, perhaps an average of 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoonful daily. (For those of us who just can’t stand the taste of turmeric, it is available in capsules, too. If you’re using it for long-term cognitive maintenance, consider taking two 200-milligram capsules a day.)

Ginkgo has been used for the brain for thousands of years, and (like lithium) has been found to be neuroprotective. More and more natural substances are coming on the scene with promising effects—these are just a few of the ones that currently come to mind! I’ll continue to write more about this in the future—stay tuned!

-Jonathan V. Wright, MD

Source: Integrative Health Network: Jonathan Wright, MD

Natural Strategies for Keeping your Hearing

By Jonathan V. Wright, MD

“Eh? What’s that you say? Louder, please. No, don’t bother writing it down, can’t see very well, either! Oh, never mind…I probably won’t remember it, anyway!”

If you chuckled when you read that, it’s probably because it sounds familiar—whether it’s something you remember your parents or grandparents saying, or whether you’ve uttered similar things yourself. And while it sounds funny on the surface, the unfortunate truth underlying phrases like these is that varying degrees of failing hearing, vision, and mental function are still considered to be “normal” with advancing age.

But they need not be “normal” for you! You’ve read before about prevention and treatment of “age-related” hearing, vision, and cognitive function problems. This time, we’ll review them all in one place, while you—and I—can still remember to how to lower your chances of going deaf, blind, or losing your mind!

The hormone deficiency that could be destroying your hearing Dennis Trune, Ph.D., of Oregon Health Sciences University, pioneered the research showing that the naturally occurring adrenal steroid hormone aldosterone can often reverse hearing loss in animals.

Based on Dr. Trune’s work, I’ve had aldosterone levels tested in many individuals with hearing loss (most of them “older”), and a significant number turned out to have low or “low normal” measurements. But after taking bio-identical aldosterone in “physiologic” quantities—amounts that would normally be present in adult human bodies—more than half of these individuals have regained a significant proportion of their “lost” hearing.

I’ve been surprised by two aspects of bio-identical aldosterone treatment for hearing loss. First, when it works, it works relatively rapidly, restoring a significant degree of hearing within the first two months. In fact, a few of the people I’ve worked with have literally heard improvement within just two to three weeks.

The other thing that surprised me about aldosterone therapy is that it’s capable of restoring a significant degree of hearing even years after the hearing loss initially occurred. So far, the longest interval I’ve witnessed was in an 87-year-old man who’d lost his hearing 13 years prior to regaining a significant degree of it using aldosterone.

None of the people I’ve worked with have had any adverse effects from aldosterone therapy, likely because the use of bio-identical, physiologic-dose aldosterone restores levels to those that would be found in the body anyway.

I’ve focused this treatment on individuals with hearing loss and low or low-normal aldosterone levels, but I do know of one individual—an M.D.—who decided to try this approach for his hearing loss even though his aldosterone levels were quite normal. His hearing did improve, but unless you too are an M.D., D.O., or N.D. who can prescribe bio-identical aldosterone and order lab tests for sodium and potassium (sodium and potassium regulation are two of aldosterone’s major responsibilities), please don’t take aldosterone, bio-identical or not, if your measured levels are perfectly normal!

That’s all for now!

-Jonathan V. Wright, M.D.

Source: Integrative Health Network: Jonathan Wright, MD