Hello there and welcome to Nourishing Eyes. I am Emma and I want to give you valuable insights into the world of natural ophthalmology and how it works.
The key definitions as I see it are -
Natural Ophthalmology: using any natural therapy (no pharmaceutical or surgical) from nutrition and herbs to massage, breathing and mindfulness.
Modern Allopathic Ophthalmology: using pharmaceutical eye drops, medicines and surgeries to affect control treatment or cure of eye disease.
I want to be the leading practitioner of Natural Ophthalmology in New Zealand and to contribute to that arena in the world of Ophthalmology, bringing this additional tool, as an adjunct, into mainstream clinical Ophthalmology, thus empowering and broadening patient knowledge and choice.
I am a Medical Doctor, Fellow of the Royal College of Ophthalmologist of England, a Naturopath and Medical Herbalist.
My passion is to nourish eyes, both directly and by fundamentally improving general health. I bring nutrition, herbs and other natural modalities into academic and scientific ophthalmology and into their applications in clinical practice.
My key roles are:-
- to improve patient outcomes, by adding this knowledge to their ophthalmic care, to educate, serve and empower patients with a gamut of eye conditions
- to further scientific research in the arena of Natural Ophthalmology
- to elucidate the power of nutrition and herbs to my ophthalmic colleagues, leading to integration of Natural and conventional Ophthalmology as the standard practice
- to continue my personal and professional growth leading a life of authenticity, service and love
If you'd like to find out more please feel free to contact me for your consultation.
I believe that natural health should be available and affordable for all, not just a privileged choice available to just the wealthier minority of our community. We have anthropological evidence of plants being used as medicines and in ceremony, e.g. the Shanidar Cave, Iraq, dating back 60,000 years. If you think back to the very beginnings of herbal and natural health medicine it was indeed available to all. As long as you knew which herbs to use, for what complaint, where to find them, how to harvest them and how to use them (a tea, a poultice, a salve etc), then the tools of healing yourself were at your fingertips. Our communities held the people who had studied or apprenticed in this knowledge in high regard. They were our Tohunga, our wise women, our midwives.
The word drug is from the old French word ‘drogue’ meaning to dry referring originally to dried herbs (Bone & Mills, 2013). 80% of allopathic drugs have resulted from research of herbal medicines and even though they can be synthesised some are still extracted from the plant e.g. quinine, ergot, digitalis, vincristine (Chaudhury,1991). This in itself should give us confidence in our understanding of the efficacy of herbal medicine.
It is also fascinating to me that so many of our modern diseases are directly caused by the foods we eat. The ancients understood this too. Jesus advised a man suffering from epilepsy to fast (Mark, n.d.). The Ketogenic Diet mimics fasting. Hippocrate's only tools were diet and herbs and yet he was the first scientific doctor and is widely hailed as the father of modern medicine. Dr. Geyelin reported his results using KD in epileptic children to the American Medical Association in 1921 (Carl E. & Rho, 2004) (Wheless, 2004). Johns Hopkins Ketogenic Center has been administering the diet since the 1920’s (The John’s Hopkins university, n.d.). Finally, before the advent of the mass production of insulin, diabetes was treated by a low carbohydrate diet and the ketogenic diet.
Why have we locked all this knowledge in a box and left it unused by modern medicine? Surely we should be taking Hippocrate's advise and building upon successive generations of knowledge (Tsiompanou & Marketos, 2013) rather than reinventing the wheel and getting a rigid square. Because I can tell you modern medicine without the partnership of ancient knowledge gives a bumpy ride!! (Goldacre, 2012). Together in partnership you know that you can successfully cherry pick!
My dearest wish is that we reclaim our health and power of self-determination for ourselves and precious children (born perfect). The body knows how to heal if only given the tools and relieved of the hinderances to do so. The knowledge that I have acquired through my medical and ophthalmology and naturopathic training is at your disposal. I seek to add to the treatments and options given to you by your lead ophthalmologist, physician, surgeon or GP, to speed you to a brighter future and give you the best possibility of reaching the best potential that you can. I hope that the understanding and confidence that you gain will have farther reaching effects than just your own health. I hope that you will be ‘the proof in the pudding’ to others, that you in turn heal your family with good food, love and the knowledge that you have the power to heal your life.
Hence my moto is Nourishing Eyes by Nourishing Life.
Through my training in London, I met the fabulous Professor Peter Shah who uses tumeric and Ginkgo biloba for some of his selected glaucoma patients. We talked about the mineral mixture in bone broth and the best sources of magnesium. I listened closely to our own excellent ophthalmologists here in New Zealand touch on nutrients and their role in certain diseases e.g. selenium in thyroid eye disease.
During my time as a research registrar at St. Thomas’ Hospital, London, I met patients from the Caribbean who were using Cannabis eye drops, Canasol. These were researched and brought onto the market in the 1980’s by the efforts of pharmacologist Professor Manley West and ophthalmologist, Dr. Albert Lockhart who developed this eye drop specifically to treat glaucoma.
However I still couldn’t find anyone with a systematic practice of Natural Ophthalmology. Then I happened upon ‘The Eye Care Revolution: Prevent And Reverse Common Vision Problems by an American Ophthalmologist, Dr. Robert Abel, (Abel, 2014) and I knew I’d found my new hero! Now there are other laudable and fabulous scientists who are dedicating their lives to investigating everything from specific nutrients, specific foods, all the way up the chain of complexity to dietary patterns (e.g Mediterranean, Low Carb High Fat and Ketogenic Diets). But there are fewer clinicians specialising in this additive approach. Ophthalmology can boast Dr. Rob Abel and Dr. Joanna Seddon amongst others admirable people.
I wanted to take this a step further. I wanted to work towards having a framework from which to begin for all patients i.e. a healthy diet and lifestyle. I’m not talking about the current dietary guidelines which in the light of enormous amounts of still accumulating evidence is NOT conducive to health and longevity. In fact quite the opposite! It’s an unmitigated disaster! After all, our first dietary guidelines in the West were published in Sweden as an antidote to post war starvation.
Anna-Britt Agnsäter https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_pyramid_(nutrition)
In 1992 a food pyramid was released by the United States Department of Agriculture (Neuman, 2011), and even at the time arguments and accusations of undue influence by food lobby were rife (Nestle, 1993). The USDA nutritional guidelines favour the heavily subsidised crops of wheat, soy, and corn (Shilhavy, 2018). Notice who released these guidelines; not the Health Department but the Department of Agriculture!
Many scientists are baying for its overhaul but that requires government incentive and leadership as exemplified in the special meeting hosted by the British Medical Journal and Swiss Re Institute where nutritional scientists and clinicians from around the world got together to try to divine the way forward by consolidating this evidence for us and create a consensus on the new truth (“Food for thought: The science and politics of nutrition,” 2018).
Secondly I wanted to find or help to create an ‘Eye Herbal’, a compendium of common eye diseases and herbs that are of use either from folklore or indicated in scientific or clinical research. I failed to find one so I’m combining this research myself with my own clinical experiences to create one.
My hope is that all ophthalmologists will begin to understand the great need to treat our population with food, lifestyle and herbs, “Natural Ophthalmology” alongside the drops, drugs and surgeries ‘modern medical ophthalmology’ offer. We haven’t got the public health resources to treat everyone in need and as more conditions become treatable due to further research the less people we’ll be able to treat. Prevention is not only better than cure but 90% of a problem is generally amenable to natural interventions.
My job is to individualise dietary and lifestyle treatment plans with some supplements usually only needed short term and medicinal herbs.
My Celebrations of and Contributions to Natural Ophthalmology
I am always curious about what ancient folk medicine in the form of herbs, oils, tinctures and teas can offer us in the modern world of science and technology.
However, it is always interesting looking at an old remedy in a new light. In 2017 I decided to investigate how we might treat blepharitis; a very common lid disease, with a natural product. Other criteria were that it should be cheap and accessible to all. I undertook a three month research extravaganza to investigate a remedy so old that it appears in the Eber Papyrus of the ancient Egyptian physicians. I found enormous amounts of supporting scientific evidence including safety data. I was invited to present this as a research project for Associate Professor Jennifer Craig of the National Eye Centre of New Zealand. Jennifer took the project on and several of her optometry students conducted the patient selection, examinations and data collection. It was presented in June of this year by the optometry students at an international conference. The results are to be published later this year (2019) in a scientific journal.
I am always eager to precipitate or participate in any research expanding our understanding of nutritional and herbal treatments for eye diseases. I am at my happiest at the coal face with a patient and my next love is literature review based research. This is how you come to understand the knowledge as it stands and therefore what questions to ask for the future. It points the way to building robust clinical and lab based research.
I was invited to speak at the Ocular Therapeutics Conference of 2018, where I talked about “Nutrition and Supplements for Posterior Segment Disease” i.e. food and supplements for diseases of the retina. I talked about retinitis pigmentosa (RP), Epiretinal Membranes (ERM), diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy (DR), diabetic maculopathy. I also talked about the consequences of arteriosclerosis including Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO), Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO), Central Retinal Artery Occlusion (CRAO) and Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion (BRAO) and Age related Macula Degeneration (AMD).
The charity Retina NZ have invited me talk at several AGMs and public meetings. They also collaborated in the organisation and hosting of the Save Sight Symposium held at the Polytechnic in Dunedin in 2018. I spoke on the theme of how we can decrease our risk of getting these diseases and help to alleviate them if we do get them.
I write articles for the Retina NZ magazine on a regular basis.
I have also been privileged to be asked to talk to other patient groups and chapters of the Blind Foundation in my local area of Tauranga.
Abel, R. (2014). The Eye Care Revolution: Prevent And Reverse Common Vision Problems (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Kensington.
Carl E., S., & Rho, J. M. (Eds.). (2004). Epilepsy and the ketogenic diet. Totowa, NJ.
Food for thought: The science and politics of nutrition. (2018). British Medical Journal, 361(June supplement).
Goldacre, B. (2012). Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients. London, England: Harper Collins 4th Estate.
Mark. (n.d.). Bible (New king J). Carmel, NY: Guideposts.
Nestle, M. (1993). Food lobbies, the food pyramid, and the U.S. nutrition policy. International Journal of Health Science, 23(3), 483-96. https://doi.org/10.2190/32F2-2PFB-MEG7-8HPU
Neuman, W. (2011, June 2). Nutrition plate unveiled, replacing food pyramid. New Nork Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/03/business/03plate.html
Shilhavy, B. (2018). Sweden Becomes First Western Nation to Reject Low-fat Diet Dogma in Favor of Low-carb High-fat Nutrition. Retrieved from https://healthimpactnews.com/2013/sweden-becomes-first-western-nation-to-reject-low-fat-diet-dogma-in-favor-of-low-carb-high-fat-nutrition/
The John’s Hopkins university. (n.d.). Ketogenic diet center. Retrieved from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/epilepsy/pediatric_epilepsy/ketogenic_diet.html
Tsiompanou, E., & Marketos, S. G. (2013). Hippocrates: timeless still. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 106(7), 288–292. https://doi.org/10.1177/0141076813492945
Wheless, J. W. (2004). History and origin of the ketogenic diet. In C. E. Stafstrom & J. M. Rho (Eds.), Epilepsy and the ketogenic diet. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press.