( By Dr. H.K.Bakhru )
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Cataract is one of the most common eye diseases. The word literally means a waterfall. It refers to an opacity in the lens of the eye which obscures the vision. Blindness ensues when no light rays can enter the eye through the capacity of the lens.
The first sign of cataract is blurred vision. The patient finds it difficult to see things in focus. As the cataract progresses, the patient may get double vision or spots or both. There is gradual increase in blindness. At first, vision in twilight may be better than in full daylight since light is admitted round the more widely-dilated pupil in the dark. In the advance stage, objects and persons may appear merely blobs of light. In the final stage, there is a grayish-white discoloration in the pupil.
Cataract is often found in association with other defects of the eye. There are four factors which contribute to the loss of transparency of the lens. These are, stagnation of the fluid current in the lens resulting from bad blood condition ; deterioration in the nutrition of the lens which diminishes the vitality and resistance of the delicate lens fibres ; acid and salt deposits between the lens fibres which have an irritating effect on the lens tissues and exert an increasing pressure on its delicate fibres, gradually destroying them ; and disintegration of the lens fibres, clouding the whole lens in the absence of appropriate measures.
As in case of most diseases, poisons in the blood stream due to dietetic errors and faulty style of living is the real cause of cataract. Thetoxic matter in the blood stream spreads throughout the body to find shelter in any available weak spot. It strikes the lens if that part has become weak through strain, excessive use of the eyes or local irritation. The condition becomes worse with the passage of time and then a cataract starts developing. Other causes of cataract are stress and strain, excessive intake of alcoholic drinks, sugar, salt, smoking, certain physical ailments such as gastro-intestinal or gall-bladder disturbances, diabetes, vitamins deficiencies, especially of vitamin C, fatty acid intolerances, ageing, radiation and side-effects of drugs prescribed for other diseases.
Some specialists believe that the most important cause of many cataracts is poor nutrition. This may be true even in case of type of cataract commonly called senile or ageing cataract. The cause may be a lifetime of malnutrition. Dr. Morgan Raifod, opthalmologist who has studied cataracts for many years, considers faulty nutrition to be a basic factor in cataract. He has found by experience that prevention of cataract is initiated by improving nutrition.
Cataract is a most stubborn condition to deal with. If it has become deep-seated, nothing short of a surgical operation will help in overcoming the trouble. If, however, the cataract is in the early stages, there are good chances of getting over the ailment by natural means. Even advanced cases can be prevented from becoming worse.
A thorough course of cleansing the system of the toxic matter is essential. To start with, it will be beneficial to undergo a fast for three to four days on orange juice and water. A warm water enema may be taken during this period. After this initial fast, a diet of a very restricted nature should be followed for two weeks. In this regimen, breakfast may consist of oranges or grapes or any other juicy fruit in season. Raw vegetable salads in season, with olive oil and lemon juice dressing, and soaked raising, figs or dates should be taken during lunch. Evening meals may consist of vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot or turnips steamed in their own juices, and a few nuts or some fruits, such as apple, pears and grapes. Potatoes should not be taken. No bread or any other article of food should be added to this list.
After two weeks on this diet, the cataract patient may start on a fuller diet on the following lines :
Breakfast : Any fresh fruits in season, except bananas.
Lunch : Large mixed raw vegetable salad with wholemeal bread or chappatis and butter.
Dinner : Two or three steamed vegetables, other than potatoes, with nuts and fresh fruits.
The short fast followed by a restricted diet should be repeated after three months of the commencement of the treatment and again three months later, if necessary. The bowels should be cleansed daily with a warm water enema during the fast, and afterwards as necessary.
The patient should avoid white bread, sugar, cream, refined cereals, rice, boiled potatoes, puddings, and pies, strong tea or coffee, alcoholic beverages, condiments, pickles, sauces, or other so-called aids to digestion.
There is increasing evidence to show that in several cases cataracts have actually been reversed by proper nutritional treatment. However, the time needed for such treatment may extend from six months to three years. Adelle Davis, one of America’s best-known nutritionists, has pointed out that animals develop cataracts if deprived of pantothenic acid and amino acid, tryptophane and vitamin B6 needed for tryptophane assimilation. She states that the diet of the cataract patient should be high in B2, B6, as well as whole B complex, pantothenic acid, vitamin C, D, E and other nutrients.
Along with the dietary treatment, the patient should adopt various methods of relaxing and strengthening the eyes. These include moving the eyes gently up and down, from side to side and in a circle, clock-wise and anti-clockwise; rotating the neck in circles and semi-circles and briskly moving the shoulders clock-wise and anti-clockwise.
Palming is highly beneficial in removing strain and relaxing the eyes and its surrounding tissues. The procedures is as follows : sit in a comfortable position and relax with your eyes closed. Cover the eyes with the palms, right palm over the right eye and the left over the left eye. Do not press on the eyes themselves. Then allow your elbow to drop to your knees, which should be fairly close together. Try to imagine blackness, which grows blacker and blacker.
Fresh air and gentle outdoor exercise, such as walking, are other essentials to the treatment.